Browsing History and Archaeology by Subjects
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Care in the countryside: the theory and practice of therapeutic landscapes in the early twentieth-centuryIn 1945 Jane Whitney, when writing her biography of Geraldine Cadbury visited the Cropwood Open-Air School in Blackwell and described how ‘the sleep-time garden might be the envy of princes, with its fountain in the midst of a green lawn, so that the children took their naps amid the soothing, somnolent plash of falling water’. This evocative description of a princely garden gives an indication of the attention and importance given to gardens associated with such institutions in the early decades of the twentieth-century (Figure 8.1). Cropwood (opened in 1922) was just one of a number of open-air schools and hospitals operating at this time in Blackwell, near Bromsgrove, in the West Midlands. The open-air approach to treating chronic diseases such as tuberculosis became popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century in Britain. It encouraged inmates to spend as much time as possible in the fresh air and sunshine, as both were considered to have curative properties. The 1937 Ordnance Survey (OS) Map depicts a cluster of such institutions - along with Cropwood these were: Hunters Hill Open-Air School (opened 1933), The Uplands (Children’s Convalescent Home, opened 1923), Burcot Grange (annexe to Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital, opened 1936) and the Birmingham and Midland Counties Sanatorium, which became known as the Blackwell Convalescent Home (opened on this site in 1873) (Figure 8.2, 8.3). This chapter will explore this cluster but focus in detail on the gardens associated with Cropwood and the Blackwell Convalescent Home. In particular it will aim to unpick the design and use of these gardens in relation to contemporary medical and social ideas. In so doing, it will illuminate the connections between garden history and histories of health care, which is a growing research area. Historians that have explored this connection in relation to designed green spaces include myself and Sarah Rutherford. Medical historians, particularly Andrew Scull and Linda Bryder, have discussed the hospital landscape in relation to issues such as economics and national efficiency. Similarly, cultural geographers have taken an interest in the concept of ‘therapeutic landscapes’, including the work of Chris Philo on asylums, Hester Parr on mental health and space, and Wil Gesler, who originally coined the term.