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Harewood House Shortlisted for Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award

Terrace Garden. Harewood House,Yorkshire, UK. Early Autumn, September 2015.


The beautiful and diverse gardens of Harewood House have been shortlisted for the prestigious Garden of the Year Award from Historic Houses, sponsored by world-famous auction house Christie’s.””


Decided by a public vote, the Award recognises the importance of some of the country’s most spectacular gardens with outstanding horticultural and public appeal. The 100 acres of gardens at Harewood include the formal, intricately designed Italian parterre on the Terrace; the Himalayan Garden that takes visitors to mountains on the other side of the world; the naturalistic planting of the lakeside woodlands; and the inviting Walled Garden, used now to grow produce and for innovative, immersive exhibitions.

Ben Cowell, Historic Houses Director General, comments:

“We are a nation of garden lovers. The experience of lockdown has only made us appreciate the wonders of the garden even more. This is true whether we are lucky enough to tend a garden of our own, or simply enjoy visiting professionally maintained gardens to appreciate the work of talented gardening teams.

“Every year, we hold a vote in a competition to find the UK’s greatest garden. The eight gardens in our shortlist represent the very finest gardens open to the public across the country.

We are proud to have run the Garden of the Year award annually since 1984 with the support of Christie’s. Every year the race to the title is hard-fought, and this year’s shortlist is no exception. Please do cast your vote, and show your support for these wonderful gardens and the talented gardeners who brought them to life.”

In 2020 Harewood’s gardens became even more important, providing a vital source of respite for local communities during the coronavirus restrictions.

Jane Marriott, Harewood House Trust Director comments:

“Visitors enthusiastically returned when the gardens were re-opened in July 2020, with the wide open spaces allowing families and friends to meet safely, and the beauty of the surroundings promoting peace and wellbeing for all. It brought a lot of joy for us at Harewood, to be able to provide a space for people to come together during such difficult times. We do hope that our wonderful gardens brought some relief, and that visitors will vote for us for Garden of the Year.”

“Harewood’s gardens nod to the past whilst looking to the future. The Archery Border takes inspiration from the Victorian obsession with exotic planting, since it lies beneath the Terrace built by Sir Charles Barry in the 1840s. The Himalayan Garden grew around Princess Mary’s 1930s rock garden, with planting informed by her correspondence with the Royal Botanic Gardens; and the Walled Garden, once a kitchen garden to support the House’s role as a hospital during the First World War, now again has fruits and vegetables planted in neat allotments. However, the methods for growing are changing with Harewood’s environmental concerns.”

Head Gardener Trevor Nicholson, who has been at Harewood for over 25 years, comments:

“Our vegetable plots have been converted to a ‘no-dig’ cultivation system to conserve soil ecology, save water and reduce the carbon footprint. Plants for pollinators are interspersed among organically-grown crops, to enrich the biodiversity of the garden, and plant material is recycled into compost, used throughout the gardens as mulch and soil conditioner.”

Anyone who appreciates and values the stunning Harewood House gardens can vote for Harewood to win the Garden of the Year Award here.

Voting closes on Thursday 30 September and the winner will be announced in November.

Chris Day: White Wash

Whitewash Wall

A guest blog commissioned by Harewood from Chris Day, to mark UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Have British black artists found their voice in today’s art world when it comes to equality and race?

Are British black artists visible in today’s art world or have the historical entrenched imbalance of equality towards black artists still an issue.

Throughout history, the legacy of the 1800s’ transatlantic slave trade and colonial rule has been depicted in one form or another in art, and not always in a positive manner. The painting by François Biard (Proclamation de la liberté des Noirs aux Colonies [Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies]) was criticised by another painter of the time, Nicolas Auguste Galimard, who remarked that, ‘Negroes will always show up badly as principal figures in a picture’.

With racial and dehumanising images, black people have had to endure an assault on their identity, equality and social status. Whilst visually portraying them as inferior to the rest of society, other artists like J M W Turner (The Slave Ship) and Richard Ansdell (The Hunted Slaves) captured barbaric acts of the transatlantic slave trade and the suffering of Africans and somehow tried to instil in the audience a sense of pity and injustice, or even, perhaps, tried to make a political statement with art.

This points to one of the reasons why western art of the early 1800s mainly shows black people in subservient and inferior roles and, with no television or internet these paintings were the window onto social life of the time. In the years following, both black and white people have been shown images that portray black people as inferior.

Such issues continue to haunt black communities and the rise of an intolerance to anything that is foreign is only fuelling the fire of inequality.

Black culture and identity did not begin with the transatlantic slave trade and yet, in school history lessons, slavery is amongst the first thing you are taught about black people and how famous white men protested to free the enslaved. Thus, even at an early stage of education, the seed of black people being inferior is planted.

Black history and culture are rich and colourful and should be celebrated. This sense of worth has influenced a multitude of black artists to take up arms to depict not only the transatlantic slave trade but also promote black culture and history in a positive light.

Researching social, civil and racial differences that occurred in the 1960s and 1980s helped me to develop and understand the racial barriers that artists in this era had to face and how they dealt with it. Black British artists in the 1980s like Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce, Chila Burman and many more have had to fight to be recognised as equal in the art world; unfortunately many have not had the same exposure or recognition as their white counterparts.

Errol Lloyd, a founder-member of CAM (The Caribbean Artist Movement), had his first exhibition shut down by white controllers due to his black images – images that confronted social indifferences of the time the hostile approach in the 1960s to black people was not only in the streets of Britain but managed to infiltrate all establishments.

21st century artists like Kara Walker depict racism with provocative imagery that shouts out the brutal acts that happened in black people in history to the view. Today, galleries have embraced her art work instead of the opposition that Errol Lloyd had to face, although there is still an inherited imbalance of mainly white males who dominate not only the art scene but the galleries, museums and art schools that decide what and when it is suitable for artists’ material to be seen.

Have positive steps been taken to allow Black artists to gain more of an equal stance or has the committed work by collective groups – such as BAM (Black Arts Movement) and artists like Eddie Chambers, Keith Piper and Lubaina Himid – been eradicated? Who is promoting today’s black British artists and how are these artists addressing racial and equality difference in their art?

The development of people into the arts in recent times has had to start at a grass roots level. Workshops in the community have taken the lead in educating people in different areas of artistic expression and culture (due to the decreasing funding schools receive) and a change to the curriculum has forced a number of small workshops and galleries to set up to promote art and support black artists. Link at Brixton Hill and The Alexandra Gallery represent a few that embrace the development of British black art.

Has the perceived lack of black artists in the art sector made it a mainly white establishment by percentage? Visiting many of the galleries in Britain it is hard to find black artists’ work on the walls and in the cabinets.

If so, what are the reasons behind the lack of black faces in the arts and what is being done to address the matter? Examining the education system, social impacts, careers and role models I see how this has affected the way young black people perceive the arts.

Is this a sign of remorse from the art world or are they getting on the band wagon to make a quick buck? The state of play at this time seems to be in favour of all things black and as a result vast amounts of money are being invested into film, art and other media to promote these arrears.

Just like the transatlantic slave trade, we have rich white men investing their money to gain wealth at the cost of the black society. Let’s hope this time the money gained will find its way down to educate and empower and not keep the black race at a subservient level as history likes to depict issues that black artists have to face in today’s art world. Even the work done by fellow black art movements has not made it easier for black artists to be seen. The education system seems to be inherently flawed in its approach to how and what is taught, so even at this root level inequality already has a foothold.

Aspects of equality are apparently being implemented in all areas of social life including the arts. Unfortunately, with the rise of intolerance against ethnic groups in Britain and around the world, race and equality are still an issue and instead of disappearing into history they have re-emerged for the new generation of black artists to confront.

Chris Day is a glass and mixed media artist, who uses his art to engage audiences on issues that are hard to confront, helping to overcome some of the traumas that haunt society’s collective past. His current exhibition at Harewood House, Chris Day: Craft Spotlight, runs until Sunday 31 October 2021.

Previous posts marking International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & its Abolition

Joe Williams: Memorialise those who sacrificed everything

Olivia Wyatt: Power. Whiteness. Resistance. Challenging the ‘facts’ of the archive

Elaine Mitchener: Sweet Tooth

The Lascelles Slavery Archive


Bailey, A. D, Baucom, I. and Boyce, S. (2005) Shades of Black Assembling the 1980s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Chambers, E. (2014) Black Artists in British Art a history since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
Chambers, E. (1988) The Arts Council Artpack. A history of black Artists in Britain. London: Haringey
Godfrey, M. and Whitley, Z. (2017) Souls of a Nation Art in the Age of Black Power. London: Tate Publishing Ltd.
Honour, H. (1989) The image of the Black in Western Art. London: Harvard University Press.
Ansdell, R. (1861) The Hunted Slaves [Oil on canvas]. International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.
Biard, F. (1849) Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies [Oil on canvas]. Palace of Versailles, France.
Turner, W. (1840) The Slave Ship [Oil on canvas]. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Roots (1977) ABC, 23 January
Black Panther (2018) Directed by R. Coogle [Film] Paramount Pictures.
12 years a Slave (2013) Directed by S. Queen [DVD] Fox Searchlight.
Tate (2017) Soul of a Nation. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/…/exhibition/soul-nation-art-age-black-power (Accessed:8 October 2018).

“Looking at the beautiful things around – trees, nature… it can all help to calm and ground you.” Graphic Artist Anthony Burrill on his latest installation Together We Are.

Anthony Burrill raising a flag on the roof of Harewood House

Photo credit Tom Arber

Anthony Burrill studied Graphic Design at Leeds Polytechnic and has since worked on a number of different projects and installations at Harewood and in Leeds. In our latest blog, he talks us through TOGETHER WE ARE, a new flag installation which creates a series of pausing points along a newly created circular walk at Harewood House, prompting moments of reflection and positivity, whilst marking the breath-taking views across the Harewood landscape.



When we first started talking about the installation, I started to think about my daily walks. I live in the countryside and every morning I head out with the dog for a walk and that feeling of being outside, surrounded by nature; I just find it all a calming influence, really. Looking at the beautiful things around – trees, nature… it can all help to calm and ground you. I’ve always enjoyed being outside and feel a real sense of peace, even more during the past year.

The idea for this installation formed really quickly. The brief was to create something for the outside, something that was going to be immersed in nature. And so, this idea of marking out a route around the grounds of the estate – picking out vantage points which look back towards the house itself as well as around it and marking these specific points with a flag, it just grew out of a simple conversation. Creating these flags with the text pieces are simply there to connect with, something to latch on to and something that hopefully puts an idea into your head which you can then reflect on when you’re on the walk. It’s almost like having a silent companion with you, planting these seeds of thoughts in your head, really. There’s also something incredibly calming about the movement of a flag in a breeze – it’s like the flicker of a candle or a sunset; all the natural stuff that we respond to in a real, primal way.



This installation is a guided walk around the estate which surrounds Harewood and the flags are positioned in such a way to mark particular views. They are positions which we thought would aid the enjoyment of the landscape, whilst creating these moments of reflection or stillness which, in turn, hopefully engenders some kind of feeling of wellness, reassurance or recovery. Each and every flag all connect to the main flag raised on the house which says “JOY”; it feels very relevant and real. At the moment, there’s so many feelings about getting back into the real world, some which have been tucked away during lockdown so this is a sign of reassurance and pointing to a hopeful future.


People have had ups and downs, people have endured traumatic events and this idea to make a walk which is intended to be calming and reassuring will hopefully help others in the process as we come out of lockdown.


Throughout the conversations which we had about the project, we were all keen to make a piece of work which spoke about our feelings. There’s been a huge pause in our lives due to the pandemic and we’ve had 12 months to reflect. People have had ups and downs, people have endured traumatic events and this idea to make a walk which is intended to be calming and reassuring will hopefully help others in the process as we come out of lockdown. I think it would be fair to say we had quite high ambitions to do something meaningful, as well as relatable and this walk could mark the beginning of a new moment – of the start of life after lockdown.


The words may prompt a nice memory or a nice association which just lightens their mood or simply gives them a lovely moment of reflection.


I’d like to think the installation will serve as an accompaniment to the rest of their experience at Harewood, really. It’s almost like the work is just there, doing it’s job in the background and enhancing the walk. The words may prompt a nice memory or a nice association which just lightens their mood or simply gives them a lovely moment of reflection. It’s about connecting with people through the simplicity of the words; something relatable to everyone but each and every one will have their own interpretation. It’s something that just feels human. It’s not there to challenge, just an occasional moment of reflection which connects with lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds. Everyone can enjoy their own journey.


A Change in Planting Schemes on the Terrace

The Terrace at Harewood - hedges and planted lavender

In the latest blog, Head Gardener Trevor Nicholson explains new planting schemes on the Terrace and how they tie in to Harewood’s Sustainability & Biodiversity Agenda.

Committing to our Sustainability & Biodiversity Agenda has meant we’ve had to make some pretty bold decisions lately. We are implementing a reduced tillage (‘no-dig’) policy in the Walled Garden, reviving our green waste composting system and moving towards becoming a completely ‘peat free’ garden as well as making many more other adjustments, such as weed control using cardboard re-purposed as a mulch etc.

Every year for the past 25 years we have planted two schemes, a spring-flowering scheme in autumn and a summer-flowering scheme in late spring.

All this has come with a lot of hard work and there is much work still to do as we continue to experiment and adjust to new ways of working. In the gardens, the most visible change made for environmental reasons is the U-turn away from the planting of annual bedding plants in the parterre. Every year for the past 25 years we have planted two schemes, a spring-flowering scheme in autumn and a summer-flowering scheme in late spring.

As well as costing thousands of pounds every year, planting the twice-annual bedding schemes were incredibly demanding on our small team as well as on some of our natural resources, especially water in the summer months. Our carbon footprint was also a consideration as consignments of bulbs were being shipped from Holland each year and 15,000 bedding plants packed onto trolleys were being transported from a nursery outside York. And with all of this came the twice-yearly mountain of plastic plant pots and plastic trays.

There were also questions: how were all the plants and bulbs we were buying in each year being grown? Sustainably? Organically? Peat free? And what does the carbon footprint actually look like all the way along the supply chain? The growers we have used for decades to supply the plants and bulbs for our bedding schemes are good growers who care for the environment and who have their own environmental policies. And of course, we want to support growers, especially local businesses. However, we needed a circuit-break, some ‘time out’ to review our own environmental policy and plan for the future.

Lockdown : An opportunity for gardening reflection

The opportunity to pause came during the first lockdown when we had to decide whether to spend thousands of pounds on summer bedding plants that possibly no-one would see or whether we should take the plunge and leave the parterre fallow for a season. Given the situation regarding the pandemic at that time, the fact that we were without our volunteers and with garden staff on furlough leave, we couldn’t risk the former, so we took the tough decision to cancel our order of summer bedding plants for 2020.

Over the past year we have been thinking about alternatives to using spring and summer bedding in the parterre. For ecological, environmental and biodiversity reasons we decided to ‘go perennial’. In the end we opted for lavender as the main planting, accompanied by a flash of variegated sage. This was for a variety of reasons: Lavender not only originates from the Mediterranean regions and is therefore perfectly adapted to the aspect and conditions on the terrace, it was an obvious choice as a garden plant for an Italian-style garden such as the parterre – sun-loving, drought resistant and tough, whilst also being an evergreen, highly-scented, popular, useful and beautiful herb. On top of all that, lavender ticks another important ‘eco’ box: Biodiversity. Lavender is a magnet to bees and one of the best plants for pollinators, providing a rich source of nectar both to bumblebees and honey bees, as well as butterflies at an important time in the foraging season.


With the lavender and sage all now planted, we will be keenly observing what a difference the planting of these evergreens will make. How long before they grow woody and leggy? How long will it take to clip all the lavender each year? Can we use the dried lavender flowers and clippings for essential oils or in pillows? It’s a new venture for Harewood and there are a few unknowns. It sees the first use of perennial planting on the parterre since the Arts & Crafts era of the early 20th century, when the parterre looked very different to what it does today. Both the lavender and the sage will require less water, and when fully grown will provide the structural infill to the box scrolls that will give the Terrace a real Italianate feel, standing up to the terrace stonework and the imposing south façade of the House.

Even in these early days, it feels like the right fit for Harewood today. As our aspirations in the gardens and grounds around sustainability and biodiversity begin to gain momentum, we see long grass regimes around our veteran trees becoming more established, allowing grassland soil micro-organisms to flourish. Alongside new policies for preserving deadwood habitats, the preservation and care of our soil ecosystem, as in the Walled Garden, is an inherent objective. For the first time in a generation the soil in the parterre can rest undisturbed for a while to enable roots, mycorrhizae and soil invertebrates to thrive and coexist symbiotically. And who knows what benefits this will bring to the health and wellbeing of the garden.

Open History at Harewood

As we prepare to launch our inaugural Craft Spotlight this Saturday 26 June 2021, Hannah Obee, Director of Collections, Programming and Learning, takes us through why Craft Spotlight was created,  our Open History programme and Harewood’s commitment to being open and honest about its past.

Black Lives Matter. We knew this, we agreed and we felt we were addressing this, promoting diversity and inclusion through our exhibition and learning programmes. Then on 25 May 2020, George Floyd was murdered on a street in Minneapolis. Suddenly the lens we looked at the world through fractured with a brutal reminder of the vast spectrum of challenges faced by Black people.

While Harewood has repeatedly been committed to addressing its past, opening debate into our roots in the Atlantic Slave Trade, culminating in a year-long programme of events to mark the Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007 and giving emerging artists a platform, by commissioning artists of diverse heritage, from Sonia Boyce to Rommi Smith; the momentum of the BLM movement last May stopped us in our tracks and made us reassess our contribution.

Artist Chris Day in his workshop

Craft Spotlight : Chris Day

During our 2019 Harewood Craft Biennial, I read a report that 96% of professional, full-time crafts people identified as White British. We had already decided this lack of diversity would be a key subject for discussion in the next Harewood Biennial. What we needed though was a consistent response to this lack of racial equality in the Craft world, so we developed Craft Spotlight. This provides funding and a platform for an emerging maker of diverse ethnicity to showcase their work, promoting Craft to people of diverse heritage and ensuring their voices are represented at Harewood. The inaugural display opens 26 June 2021 in All Saints Church at Harewood and features the work of emerging glassblower, Chris Day. His research into Black history and his personal experience made him want to create work that started challenging conversations around Black history including the Transatlantic Slave Trade. His aim is to inspire more Black glassblowers through his own work. Craft Spotlight will continue to be staged in the years between the Biennial.

Photograph of George Bertie Robinson

George ‘Bertie’ Robinson

This year we also begin an annual series that will celebrate and share the often-untold stories of people of African descent with Yorkshire connections throughout history. For 2021, we have teamed up with Leeds-based DSRG (the Diasporian Stories Research Group) to bring to life Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent (17 May – 31 October).  George ‘Bertie’ Robinson travelled with the 5th Earl and Countess from the West Indies to Leeds in 1893 aged 13. Harewood’s first black member of staff, his personal story is extraordinary and compelling. Yet it also lays bare the impact of colonialism in the West Indies post-slavery and attitudes to race in Britain in the early 20th century. These led to him losing his job after nearly 30 years of working for the Lascelles family. New discoveries made while researching the exhibition are included in the display on the State Floor. Our Assistant Curator and Archivist, Rebecca Burton, uncovered letters from his mother Amelia Robinson to the 5th Countess of Harewood while an email to DSRG answered some long-asked questions of what happened after Bertie was sacked. We are very grateful to the Wray family for allowing us to share their story.


Two actors in victorian costume reading and looking at books in a library

A Storm at Harewood with Heritage Corner

Finally for 2021, Heritage Corner brings its unique brand of insightful Black History Walks to Harewood in A Storm at Harewood on selected dates between 12 June and 14 August. Following the success of their regular events in Leeds City Centre, Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd take Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal performance at Harewood in 1847 as a jumping off point to explore African and West Indian connections to Harewood in an imaginative, fun and family-friendly guided walk of the House and Grounds.  Exploring 2,000 years of African presence in Yorkshire, the walk will provide a greater understanding of Africa’s rich history and contribution to the region.