Film ID: YFA 2659 Video of YFA_2659 In My Garden (c.1953) IN MY GARDEN c.1953 Visitor TabsDescription This amateur film was made by a Sheffield filmmaker, Kenneth Tofield. It features his wife and son in their back garden during their leisure time at home. Title - In My Garden With John and Mummy (and sometimes Daddy). The film opens with John, a young boy, playing on a little red pedal bike. A small red truck sits in the middle of the garden. There are close up shots of the flowers in the garden. Facing the house, Dad and John walk out carrying tools and flower boxes. They dig the soil together and plant some flowers. Mother sits at a table in the garden while John sits in a highchair. She feeds him boiled eggs and strawberries. John then plays on his red bike, riding up to his mum who is now laid out on a deckchair. He pulls the shade over her head and laughs to the camera. Sitting on a blanket on the grass, John plays with his toy buses. Back in the back garden, John helps his mum cut the grass by running along side her. Later, there is a close up shot of him pretending to cut the grass with his very small toy lawn mower. John and his mum stand at the front gate, and two boys walk towards the camera. They are invited in and the boys play in the garden. A Terry's Milk Chocolate box sits on the grass, and John gives one each to his friends. John and his mum pick and eat apples. At night small garden fireworks go off. John and his mum set off some sparklers and make patterns in the dark Context This lovely film is from a large collection by Sheffield amateur filmmaker Kenneth Tofield. Kenneth first started making films in the 1930s, first in black and white before quickly moving onto colour once it became available in the late 1930s. He broke off from filmmaking during the Second World War, but soon started up again, continuing up to 1963. Kenneth was quite professional in his approach, usually providing full titles and intertitles, and always using a tripod. All the films that the YFA have by Kenneth were made with 16mm film using a Bell and Howell – they were the first to manufacture a spring-driven l6mm cine camera as early as 1923. Before the war his films were more of a documentary format, although most of the films are of family and friends out in the countryside, and many in winter walking, skiing or skating on ice. These latter films show just how responsive people were in getting out when the snow came, as it regularly did. Kenneth also made films of local events, such as the 1954 Gliding World Championships, and he occasionally put on film shows to local groups beyond family and friends. Once Kenneth started using colour film his love of colour can be clearly seen, as it is in this film. At the time Kenneth was living on Brooklands Crescent, in the Fulwood area of Sheffield. His son John, seen in the film in his romper suit aged about 3 or 4, would meet his father returning from his job at the Midland Bank off the no. 88 bus. John can remember in particular the smell of freshly ground coffee beans from the grocers on Brooklands Avenue – now an Indian takeaway – where the bus terminated. The tricycle that John is riding in the film, and the very collectible Dinky models, were very much a feature of child life in the 1950s and 1960s. This strong sense of colour is equally apparent in one of Kenneth’s other hobbies, gardening. In the 1930s Kenneth won the Brighter Sheffield competition five times for his gardens whilst still living at his parent’s house, before moving into the house that can be seen in the film with his wife Joan in 1947. Kenneth then continued his passion for gardening, although becoming less concerned to win prizes. His son John used to give him a hand. Kenneth wasn’t interested in growing vegetables, only flowers, bringing colour into the garden – perhaps he wouldn’t have been best pleased to turn his garden over to growing food as part of the ‘dig for victory’ campaign during World War Two. The English are strongly associated with their gardens, especially from the seventeenth century with the birth of the English Landscape movement and its most notable exponent Capability Brown. Even before this the aristocracy and the landed gentry were keen on bringing in exotic plants from abroad, hence the first botanical garden in Britain, The Oxford University Botanic Garden, was established by the Earl of Danby in 1621. It was in the Victorian era that gardening spread out to larger numbers of the newly affluent middles classes, with the lawnmower making its appearance in 1830, and gnomes from Germany in the 1860s. It was also the time when theGardenesque movement, inaugurated by John Claudius Loudon in 1832 through his Gardeners Magazine, began to shape ideas about garden style. The idea was to make gardens both informal looking, yet also well designed. In 1838 he published his The Suburban Gardener And Villa Companion. Gardens were an integral aspect of suburbs even at the early stage in their development. With the Edwardians, and the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, gardens become more naturalistic, adventurous and individual. Amateur Gardener was started in 1884, and is still going strong. It also become as popular with women as it was for men, with Gertrude Jekyll leading the way, and two colleges offering courses for women to study gardening, including Swanley College which in 1902 became a women only college for horticulture. One example of this was the garden created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold at Sissinghurst in the 1930s, and which was opened to the public in 1938. What the film shows however, is not the large-scale landscaped garden of the wealthy, but an example of the much smaller gardens that were built as part of the boom in suburbs between the two World Wars. It was this development that allowed for the growth in gardening as a major English hobby for the upper working and lower middle classes. Hence also the growth of garden competitions. Also after the Second World War local authorities aimed to provide housing with gardens, even for prefabs. But towards the end of the 1950s and the 1960s this ideal of a garden for every family was largely abandoned in favour of high rise housing and small backyards. Mass Observation studies of the late 1930s found that the overwhelming majority of garden city (suburb) and housing estate dwellings had gardens. By and large these were well maintained. The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act also led to a growth in allotments, with about one for every five houses. Unfortunately the growth of urban and suburban gardening among the less wealthy tends to get overlooked in more recent books on gardening history (Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall barely deals with it – see References). One exception is Alison Ravetz’s wonderful book The Place of Home (see References). Here Alison notes that the back garden fitted in with a new sense of home, with smaller families, but that gardens rarely provided the privacy they promised. Gardening really took off as a hobby, and the first specialist gardening radio programme, Mr Middleton’s In Your Garden, started in 1934. But they were hard work for those for whom gardening was not a hobby, and so Geoffrey Jellicoe introduced his minimum garden in 1951, with extensive use of concrete paving – today decking serves a similar function. Around about the same time this film was made, the American landscape gardener Thomas Church published Gardens are for People in 1955, setting out his four principles of garden design: on unity, function, simplicity and scale. His 'Californian style' – with raised beds and decking – went on to have a large influence in Britain. The film was also made just prior to the 1956 Clear Air Act, which established smokeless zones to counter the affect of pollution on urban gardens. But as this film testifies, suburbia was a different world from the cramped and polluted inner cities, a place to escape to – with larger gardens and more greenery a key attraction. Yet for the younger generation growing up in the 1950s, and since then, it also become a place to escape from – hence the mockery it received from bands such as the Kinks, who have a rather different take to Jimmy Rodger’s hit of 1962, English Country Garden (not to be confused with the Darkness song!). With the continuing threat to wildlife, and ever more species becoming endangered, suburban backyards have a vital role in preserving Britain's biodiversity. Research at Sheffield University surveyed 61 gardens in Sheffield between 1999 and 2002, and discovered an "astonishing diversity" of flora and fauna. In fact small gardens made as important a contribution as large ones, and contained a far richer range of life than modern farms. Scientists have identified 1,166 types of plants - equivalent to more than two thirds of native British flora - and 700 species of invertebrates in Britain’s 16 million gardens. Yet apparently it helps if the gardens are a bit more wild and untidy than the perfect example that Kenneth has preserved for us in this film. References Thomas Dolliver Church, Gardens Are For People, McGraw Hill, San Francisco, 1983. Simon Frith, ‘The suburban sensibility in British rock and pop’, in Roger Silverstone (ed.) Visions of Suburbia, Routledge, London, 1997. Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, The Garden: An English Love Affair, London, 2002 Alison Ravet with Richard Turkington, The Place of Home: English Domestic Environments, 1914-2000, E & FN Spon, London, 1995 The Garden History Society (GHS) is the oldest society in the world dedicated to the conservation and study of historic designed gardens and landscapes. BUGS Biodiversity in Urban Gardens projects Bibliography of sources of information Further Information Madge Charles and Tom Harrison, Britain by Mass Observation, Harmondsworth (Penguin), London, 1939. Miles Hadfield, A History of British Gardening, Spring Books, London, 1960. John Claudius Loudon, The Suburban Gardener And Villa Companion, Alison Ravetz, Council Housing and Culture, The History of a Social Experiment, Routledge, London, 2000. J.M. Richards and John Murray, Castles on the Ground: The Anatomy of Suburbia, Architectural Press, London, 1973 (1946). Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, The Garden: An English Love Affair, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2002. Tom Fort, The Grass is Greener; Our Love Affair with the Lawn, Harper Collins, London, 2001. Anne Helmreich, The English Garden and National Identity, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Charles Quest-Ritson, The English Garden. A Social History, Penguin Viking, London, 2001.