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Getting Dressed: Penelope Hobhouse, the grande dame of gardening

Regulars | By Brigid Keenan | July 2017

'I had to get out of my corduroy trousers and gumboots' by Brigid Keenan

It is only by a quirk of fate that I can write about Penelope Hobhouse as our grande dame of gardening, for when she left Cambridge in 1951, the career adviser suggested she became a policewoman. ‘I would have been a good policewoman but I thought of going into dark alleys on the beat and was afraid,’ she says.  Born into the Anglo-Irish Chichester-Clark family and raised in their stately home in Derry (‘Mainly by the Presbyterian staff who taught us that if you enjoy yourself you will pay for it later’), she did what girls from aristocratic families did then: married into another one. In her case, this was the Hobhouse family of Hadspen House in Somerset. The first decade of her marriage was taken up with looking after three children in a house in Scotland, but when her husband inherited the family home she suddenly found herself mistress...

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