News Story

Verey Head Gardener Chris Sharples documents the local and celebrity connections to a very special grave in the cemetery at Watts Chapel.

It has recently been announced by the National Trust that the Godalming home of Gertrude Jekyll, the famous horticulturist, garden designer and exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement, Munstead Wood, has been acquired for the nation.

The house was designed in 1896 by the then-unknown architect Edwin Lutyens, and became one of his most influential buildings, conceived at the beginning of a professional partnership with Jekyll that would define the look of many Lutyens country houses.

Interestingly, the cemetery at Watts Chapel holds a gravestone that links both Jekyll and Lutyens. Solidly built and elegant, the Portland stone grave, holds a long inscription that goes as follows:

‘To the dear memory of Ellen Brown, born March 28th 1855, buried March 28th 1938 on her 85th birthday.

Dearly loved nanny of Francis, Barbara and Pamela, children of Herbert and Agnes Jekyll.’

Herbert was the brother of Gertrude Jekyll, who himself worked with Lutyens in 1900 on the design of the British Pavilion for the Paris Exposition. His daughters Barbara and Pamela were featured in photographs in many of Gertrude’s horticultural books.

We know that Ellen Brown lived at The Limes on The Street in Compton. She retired there and was looked after by her employer the Jekyll family, who generously rented the detached home for her. She lived there for about 30 years until her death in 1938.

To further add to this wealth of association, through doing this research, and being in touch with a descendant of Pamela Jekyll, we were told that the gravestone was actually designed by Edwin Lutyens as he was a good family friend of the Jekyll’s. So, we have this great connection between Gertrude Jekyll and her family and Edwin Lutyens.

Additionally, there is a really lovely touch on the grave that is quite special. The standard description has been put on the front, but then very unusually there is also a smaller description on the back, which reads:

‘Look for me in the nurseries of heaven.’

A lovely message for a retired nanny who has gone upstairs, so to speak.

Gertrude Jekyll photographed with her household and family, Ellen Brown stands directly behind the seated Jekyll.