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Bracknell's Landscape

Posted in Articles on 01 Jun 2023

Sheila Haywood, gardens and Bracknell New Town

In this blog, we highlight the work of landscape architect, Sheila Haywood, ARIBA, FILA. Haywood was possibly one of the most eminent Landscape Architects of the twentieth century. We featured Haywood in an earlier post about Women in the Bracknell Development Corporation and we’ve since uncovered more about her work in Bracknell as cataloguing of the Corporation’s collection has continued.

Landscaping Bracknell New Town

Haywood’s work for the Corporation is largely unknown, with many unaware of how long and extensively she worked with them. From October 1950 until her retirement in 1974, Sheila Haywood was retained as the Consultant Landscape Architect to the Bracknell Development Corporation. She advised the Corporation about how Bracknell’s landscape should be designed, submitted plans for the landscaping of roads and neighbourhoods the Corporation was constructing, and worked alongside the Corporation’s Estates department and Architects department. Haywood’s role was so important to the Corporation, that she was one of their earliest hires alongside the Chief Officers.

Haywood devised some of the landscaping of Bullbrook, Priestwood, Harmans Water and Easthampstead neighbourhoods, as well as many other roads. Landscaping was important to the Development Corporation as they wanted to create a town which was attractive to residents and businesses.

This beautiful hand-painted plan by Haywood of proposed landscaping for housing close to Harmans Water Neighbourhood Centre, shows that each tree and flower was carefully chosen.

Plan showing landscape gardens for housing in Bracknell. ref. NT/B/G4/130/3

The schedule on the lower half of the plan lists each plant by quantity, its name in Latin and when it was to be planted. Plants included Prunus Sargenti, known as cherry blossom, Rhus Cotinus Folius Purpureus, and Santolina Incana.

Some of Haywood’s plans are hand coloured. The plan for Easthampstead 4B shows existing planting, proposed planting and where hedges as well as green spaces were to be implemented.

Plan showing landscape gardens in Easthampstead ref. NT B G4 72 8

Haywood suggested birch, beech, acacia, flowering cherries, crab apples and ornamental thorn trees would be suitable for Easthampstead 4B. If you look closely, you can see some trees are coloured pink and others yellow and green.

Haywood preferred to plant semi-mature and mature trees and plants rather than saplings. This was a modern technique at the time, which was popular in England. She used this same technique when designing the ground of Churchill College, Cambridge and in other gardens.

Around town

Sheila Haywood was ‘often in the town’ and residents would see her taking notes about trees and flowers across Bracknell. Her role was important to the Corporation as seen by their near 25-year long relationship. The Corporation proudly boasted to its staff and to Bracknell residents that "Mrs Haywood knows every square foot of space which can be used" in Bracknell.

Text from the Town and Country February 1973, Bracknell Development Corporation and Easthampstead Rural District Council ref. DC/Bacc11113.1The Bracknell Development Corporation wanted to provide sufficient green spaces and places for leisure and recreation for its residents. Their slogan ‘Home: Industry: Leisure’ and coat of arms, which includes a field of green representing Bracknell’s green spaces, illustrates this.

Bracknell coat of arms ref NTB G1 5 3 BDC

Records show the Corporation understood the benefits of green spaces even in the 1950s. Something we are very familiar with today as we understand the wellbeing and health benefits of plants and green spaces.

Sheila Haywood worked extensively as an Architect and Landscape Architect. Before working in Bracknell, she was an Assistant to Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, President, and Founder of the Landscape Institute, of which she became an associate of. Interestingly, Jellicoe designed the landscaping for another New Town, Hemel Hempstead. Haywood served on the institute’s council for many years and on the council’s Education Committee. She was influential in how trainee Landscape Architects were trained and examined.

To find out more about Sheila Haywood and her work, please see the Museum of English Rural Life library collection, the Royal Institute of British Architects Library collection and plans at the Churchill College, Cambridge as well as an article about her by the Churchill College Cambridge Archive.

Accessing the collections

You can look at the Bracknell Development Corporation New Town catalogue on our online catalogue under the reference NT/B.

For records under Bracknell Forest Borough Council, formed in 1974, see the DC/B catalogue.

Please bear in mind that work to catalogue uncatalogued material as part of the New Jerusalems (New Towns) project  is ongoing. Not everything is available to view, but it is hoped that the final catalogues will be available in December 2023.