Recording & research volunteering

This is taken partly from Parks and Gardens UK excellent guide for volunteers.

History of a historic park or garden

Initial investigation

  • Brief notes on the history of the park or garden and the main existing components
  • A note of any key sources of information about the place, its history and owners
  • Copies of plans, photographs or illustrations, both current and historical, relating to the garden’s development

Gathering information

Documentary material that you might consult can include:

  • Maps and plans
  • Paintings, prints, engravings, photographs and drawings
  • Aerial photographs
  • Estate papers and sales particulars
  • Family and personal papers
  • Contemporary articles, books and guidebooks
  • Visitors’ accounts
  • Other records, such as deeds and wills, or bank, parish or manorial records

A chronological sequence of maps is particularly helpful in showing how a garden and its boundaries have changed over time. The Ordnance Survey, which began in the mid-19th century, is probably the most important.

Writing the report

This should include:

  • A chronological history of the park and garden and its development up to the present day
  • Notes on the key people connected with the garden (owners, family dynasties, designers, gardeners and others)
  • Maps and plans showing the development of the site and boundary changes up to the present day
  • Historical photographs and illustrations as well as current photographs
  • Notes on the surviving historic features of the park and garden
  • A bibliography of both the published and unpublished sources of information that you have consulted

Making a site survey

Designers’ plans were rarely carried out exactly and a survey can provide more reliable information about what actually happened than archive material alone.

  • Walk over the site with copies of old maps, plans and illustrations and identify changes in the landscape and any surviving features
  • Locate the principal building and the main component areas of the site, such as a walled kitchen garden, noting their current use
  • Look for ‘lumps and bumps’ on the ground, which may be the remains of former features (drives, paths, buildings or water features)
  • Identify and record what features and structures survive of the historic park and garden (water features, garden architecture and ornaments, trees and the remains of planting schemes)
  • Make a photographic record
  • Identify important views within or beyond the garden that may now be hidden by younger planting

Statement of Significance

This is a brief document that highlights the significance of the site as part of the wider heritage of the area. See examples from the sites recorded as part of the Selby District project.

Registered charity No.1060697
Company registration No.03256311
President: The Countess of Harewood
Registered Office: UHY Calvert Smith,
Heritage House, Murton Way,
Osbaldwick, York, YO19 5UW

secretary [at]

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