Gertrude Jekyll

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Gertrude Jekyll

Birthplace: 2 Grafton St, Mayfair, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death: December 08, 1932 (89)
Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Busbridge, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Captain Edward Joseph Hill Jekyll and Julia Jekyll
Sister of Caroline Eden; Captain Edward Joseph Jekyll; Lieutenant Arthur Jekyll; Frederick Jekyll; Sir Herbert Jekyll, KCMG and 1 other

Occupation: Gardener and garden designer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gertrude Jekyll

"Undoubtedly the most famous gardener England has ever produced" - lived at Bramley House, Godalming - south of Guildford (near Farnham), Surrey.

Gertrude Jekyll was born in 1843, the fourth (and second daughter) of six surviving children, into an affluent, artistic family. Her mother was a good musician, and Mendelssohn was a constant visitor at her London home. Leighton, Watts, and Poynter, among many others, gave help and encouragement to the young artist.

As a young girl her parents allowed her to take the unusual step of attending Henry Coles's School of Art at South Kensington in London. Here she made the first of the many friends in the world of arts and crafts, which was later to be extended into the world of horticulture and architecture. About 1861 she began to study in the art schools in South Kensington, and in 1866 she worked in Paris. Later the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Louvre, the Brera, and the galleries of Venice and Rome offered her invaluable opportunity and experience.

Gertrude Jekyll was an intelligent, witty and popular woman but she was large and a little plain. In the nineteenth century the role of the spinster daughter was usually to look after ageing parents, but both Gertrude and her family were enlightened enough to accept that she would make a career in art, writing and garden design.

House decoration and furnishing, of which her most extensive work was done at Eaton Hall in 1882, had already for some years occupied and interested her, but these activities waned as her horticultural knowledge and taste developed. Also, as her eyesight grew weaker with age, Jekyll was advised by doctors to give up close, demanding work such as painting and the many other applied arts she had mastered.

She concentrated her talents on gardening. When she was 46 she met the aspiring young architect Edwin Lutyens who was then, in 1889, only 20. There developed between them a respect for each other's work and a profound friendship that was to last for the rest of her life.

She died at the age of 89 in 1932 having left the world of horticulture several books, hundreds of articles and albums of photographs.


Gertrude's brother, Rev. Walter Jekyll, was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who asked if he could borrow their surname for his new book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). Gertrude's family had always pronounced their name "Jeekyll", with a long "e", as do her garden enthusiast followers, so the link to the novel is not usually made.

The family historian, Sir Herbert Jekyll (1846-1932), was Gertrude's younger brother. He was a military engineer and civil servant, a man of great talent over a wide area, ranging from founding the Bach Choir in London and laying telegraph lines in Africa to designing the road network from London and master-minding the British Pavilion, with Sir Edwin Lutyens, at the Paris Exhibition of 1900.

Gertrude Jekyll created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and America; her influence on garden design has been pervasive to this day. She spent most of her life in Surrey, England, latterly at Munstead Wood, Godalming. She ran a garden centre there and bred many new plants. Some of her gardens have been faithfully restored, wholly or partly, and can be visited. Godalming Museum has many of her notebooks and copies of all her garden drawings, (compiled and sorted by members of the Surrey Gardens Trust); the original drawings are in the University of California.

Her own books about gardening are widely read in modern editions; much has been written about her by others. She contributed over 1,000 articles to Country Life, The Garden and other magazines. A talented painter, photographer, designer and craftswoman; she was much influenced by Arts & Crafts principles.

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Gertrude Jekyll's Timeline

November 29, 1843
2 Grafton St, Mayfair, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
December 8, 1932
Age 89
Surrey, England, United Kingdom
December 12, 1932
Age 89
Saint John's, Busbridge, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
South Kensington School of Art