Dr Clare Hickman

Lecturer in History


BSc (University College London), MSc (Imperial College London) PhD (Bristol)


My research focuses on the intersection between medical ideas and practice, and the designed landscape. My current Wellcome Fellowship, The Garden as a Laboratory, merges the history of medicine, health and science, with that of the landscape and environment. Other areas of expertise include the design and use of nineteenth and twentieth-century English hospital gardens, cold bathing as a healthy activity in the eighteenth-century landscape garden and the role of medical practitioners in the Victorian parks movement. By examining the creation and use of green and blue spaces in relation to changing medical concepts, my research crosses the disciplinary boundaries of medical history, landscape history and history of science in innovative ways.

Before arriving at Chester in 2015, I was a Wellcome Fellow in Medical History & Humanities at King’s College London (2013-15) and a Research Fellow on the Leverhulme funded Historic Parks & Gardens of England project at the University of Bristol (2007-2012). I have also worked as a museum assistant, writer and editor for Usborne publishing and as a Research Facilitator for Oxford University.


The Garden as a Laboratory project focuses on the domestic and institutional gardens and farms used by medical practitioners for scientific, botanic and agricultural experimentation between 1770 and 1820. Sites under investigation include the rural retreat of Dr John Coakley Lettsom at Grove Hill where he combined agricultural interests, particularly the cultivation of the mangle-wurzel root vegetable, with an ornamental landscape, and the private gardens of eminent physicians, John Hunter and Edward Jenner.  Such private gardens were part of a wider network of botanical and agricultural landscapes, which included the seats of the landed gentry as well as more public botanic gardens. By investigating broad range of such spaces I hope to explore aspects of botanical networks, the role of the garden as scientific space, and the function of gardens for knowledge production and dissemination.

I am also very enthusiastic about public engagement and knowledge exchange. Recent projects include working with a garden designer, Rebecca Smith, to create a pop-up garden based on patient accounts of psychiatric institution gardens for the 2015 Chelsea Fringe Festival, funded by a Wellcome People Award, and the ongoing ‘Experiencing Arcadia’ project with garden history practitioner Linden Groves, funded by the Finnis-Scott Foundation. ‘Experiencing Arcadia‘ aims to encourage heritage professionals to think more broadly about interpretation strategies in relation to historic gardens and consider more immersive and sensory possibilities. As part of this we are using primary source accounts of garden visiting from the eighteenth-century to bring the experience alive via a booklet and an interactive digital map.

Published work


  • Therapeutic Landscapes: A History of English Hospital Gardens since 1800 (Manchester University Press, 2013)
  • Timothy Mowl and Clare Hickman, The Historic Gardens of England: Northamptonshire (Stroud: Tempus, 2008)


Selected Articles/Chapters

  • Under contract with Hertfordshire University Press (2016), ‘Care in the Countryside: the theory and practice of therapeutic landscapes in the early twentieth-century’, in Landscape and Green Spaces: Gardens and Garden History in the West Midlands eds Malcolm Dick and Elaine Mitchell
  •  ‘Cheerfulness and tranquillity: gardens in the Victorian asylum’, Lancet Psychiatry 1:7 (December 2014), 506-507
  • ‘The Garden as a Laboratory: The role of domestic gardens as places of scientific exploration’. Post-Mediaeval Archaeology 48: 1 (June 2014), 229-247
  • ‘An exploration of the National Health Society and its influence on the movement for urban green spaces in late-nineteenth century London’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 118 (2013), 112-119
  • ‘Taking the Plunge: Eighteenth-century bath houses and plunge pools’, Historic Gardens, (Cathedral Communications, 2010), 37-40
  • ‘Cheerful Prospects and Tranquil Restoration: The Visual Experience of Landscape as part of the Therapeutic Regime of the British Asylum, 1800-1860’, in History of Psychiatry, 20:4 (2009), 425-441
  • ‘The ‘Picturesque’ at Brislington House, Bristol: The Role of Landscape in Relation to the Treatment of Mental Illness in the Early Nineteenth-Century Asylum’ in Garden History, 33:1 (2005), 47-60