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About Dr Clare Hickman

I am an environmental and medical historian focusing on post 1750 Britain. My recent Wellcome Fellowship, The Garden as a Laboratory, merged 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 and asylum 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.


I am currently writing up my Wellcome Fellowship research as a monograph for Yale University Press (expected publication date of 2020). This will explore the garden as a place of scientific, agricultural and botanic exploration as well as a place of pleasure and leisure. Focusing on the use and experience of gardens by medical practitioners, it also aims to offer new approaches for historic landscape interpretation that will to bridge the gap between research and practice.

I am also developing new sensory history approaches to thinking about landscape, memory and concepts of health and wellbeing. In 2018 I was a Co-I on the AHRC/EPSRC 'Immersive Experiences' project 'A Sense of Place: Exploring nature & wellbeing through the non-visual senses' led by Victoria Bates and the University of Bristol as well as collaborating with her team on the ‘Better By Design: Towards a Sensory History of the Modern Hospital’ project, also at Bristol.

I am very enthusiastic about public engagement and knowledge exchange. Recent projects include a 2017 workshop on public parks and health with a range of practitioners, academics and policy makers, and the ‘Sensing the Past’ series of events as part of the 2017 Being Human Festival co-organised with Dr Rebecca Andrew. I have also worked with garden designer and horticultural therapist, 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 2017 ‘Experiencing Arcadia’ project with garden history practitioner Linden Groves, funded by the Finnis-Scott Foundation. ‘Experiencing Arcadia‘ aimed to encourage heritage professionals to think more broadly about interpretation strategies in relation to historic gardens and consider more immersive and sensory possibilities. 

Published Work

  • The Doctor’s Garden (working title). Under contract with Yale University Press, expected 2020
  • 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

  • Curiosity and Instruction: British and Irish botanic gardens and their audiences, 1760-1800’ Environment and History 24: 1 (February 2018) 59-80
  • ‘Care in the Countryside: the theory and practice of therapeutic landscapes in the early twentieth-century’, in Malcolm Dick and Elaine Mitchell (eds.) Landscape and Green Spaces: Gardens and Garden History in the West Midlands (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2018) 
  • ‘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


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