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Mark Laird for Drayton Hall Distinguished Speaker Series on April 16, 2019: More than a lecture

Distinguished Speakers Series, Eric Becker, Landscape

Mark Laird, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture and historic landscape consultant, will present:  Allées and Theatrical Arrangements in English Gardens, 1740-1840: Painshill, Strawberry Hill, and Wrest Park on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 6pm at the Gibbes Museum.

April 2019 Charleston sc events

Mark is the author of several works, most recently, A Natural History of English Gardening 1650-1800 (2015) and an earlier work, The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds 1720-1800 (1999).  It was this earlier work that I discovered, while researching historic landscape and horticulture endeavors at Drayton Hall, that I purchased his book and began to pour over its 446 pages.

 Quickly it became apparent that several things Mr. Laird had researched, described, and illustrated in his book, bore some resemblances to items I had researched at Drayton Hall, for nearly 10 years.  Aside from many physical landscape features extant on the landscape of Drayton Hall, there are also held within the Institution’s collections, a daily diary by Charles Drayton from 1784-1820, some of his letters, and even his travel journal from 1806.  Additionally, visitor’s writings and illustrations, providing descriptions and details about Drayton Hall’s landscape during, or even before, this same period add supporting elements when attempting to piece it all together, to open windows on the past, in this case Drayton Hall’s landscape.

Last year, Mr. Laird was invited to be one of several lecturers as part of the Decorative Arts Trust symposium originally scheduled for October of 2018.  With the threat of one of our unpredictable hurricanes, Mr. Laird was forced to cancel and was unable to reschedule for December 2018 when the symposium was finally held at Drayton Hall.

When the opportunity was presented to possibly re-engage Mr. Laird as part of Drayton Hall’s distinguished speaker series, I suggested we invite him back, but also make use of this second chance to have him engage in reviewing of some of our collection documents associated with the landscape and horticulture, in addition to an in-person site survey, and summary of his findings.  After committing to his availability and having viewed some of our documents, maps, and transcripts, as well as a focused conversation; Mr. Laird was stimulated enough to scrap his initial prepared lecture.  He initiated the creation of an entirely new one, which might better complement his past landscape consulting work at Painshill and Strawberry Hill, as well as his current work at Wrest Park, all in the United Kingdom; Drayton Hall will likely too merit some inclusion, as all these places share origins in Georgian era.

While Mr. Lairds visit and summary of Drayton Hall’s past landscape will not be completed until after the lecture, it will none the less be and enlightening opportunity, through his words and images, to better understand how close landscape and horticulture trends during this period transcended across the Atlantic.

Mark Laird’s lecture will be held on April 16 at 6 pm at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. This event is free to all through a grant by South Carolina Humanities, please join us, you may register here.