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The life of Gertrude Jekyll

sketch of three figures in black and white, two ladies and one man sitting round a table with an Oil lamp
Gertrude Jekyll with Mary Newton in 1865. | © Mary Evans Picture Library/The Annabel Watts Collection

This brief overview of Gertrude Jekyll's life, shows her many interests, talents and achievements. In all her 89 years, her period of greatest creativity and success immediately followed her move into Munstead Wood in Surrey. She chose never to marry and as a single woman of her time, is truly remarkable for the life she carved for herself and success she achieved. When writing from and about Munstead Wood she freely expresses a great sense of fulfilment and happiness, but her writing was only one of many creative talents she fostered during her lifetime.

It has taken me half a lifetime merely to find out what is best worth doing, and a good slice out of another half to puzzle out the ways of doing it.

A quote by Gertrude Jekyll

Key dates in the life of Gertrude Jekyll


Childhood and young adulthood

  • 1843 29th November Jekyll was born in London as the fourth child of Edward and Julia Jekyll, she had two older brothers and one sister Caroline, the eldest of the family. Her younger brothers Herbert and Walter were born in 1846 and 1849 respectively. 
  • 1848 The Jekyll family moved to Bramley in Surrey when Gertrude was just four years old. She loved to climb trees, play cricket, and do ‘dangerous things with gunpowder.’  Her father caller her ‘my oddity.’ 
  • 1861 At the age of 17, Jekyll commenced study at the South Kensington School of Art, where Helen Porterson (later Allingham) also studied. 
  • 1863 Travelled with Charles and Mary Newton to the Aegean Islands. Charles Newton was keeper of antiquities at The British Museum and she and Mary were great friends and artists. 
  • 1867 Meets George Frederic Watts the painter and sculptor in April and exhibits at the Society of Female Artists. 
  • 1868 On a visit to Italy, Jekyll adds gilding and wood carving to her list of pursuits. 
  • 1869 Meets William Morris and takes up further crafts in the form of embroidery and textile design. 
a black and white sketch of a middle aged woman in Edwardian dress drawing. Her hair is tied up and she is wearing glasses
Mary Newton sketch of Gertrude Jekyll | © National Trust/ Ian Molesworth
A painting of a large ginger and white cat standing on its hind legs and carrying some boots a cloak and a sack on its back
Oil painting by Jekyll in 1869 of her cat Thomas as 'Puss in Boots' | © Godalming Museum Collections
A view of the main flower border at Munstead Wood. Red and yellow flowers grow in front of climbing plants on a stone wall, overshadowed by trees in the background

Donate to Munstead Wood

Please consider making a donation today, to support our work at Gertrude Jekyll's Munstead Wood, where gardening changed for ever.

An aerial view of a large red tiled roof on a large house with 5 chimneys surrounded by green lawn and woodland

Why is Munstead Wood so important? 

Understand more about the international significance of Munstead Wood to horticulture, architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement in Surrey.

white, purple and pink flowers in shade by a large garden wall

The garden at Munstead Wood 

Discover more about the personal garden of Gertrude Jekyll, her signature style of garden-making and what remains today at Munstead Wood, Surrey.

A large yellow stone house is pictured with three tall chimneys and a large tiled roof

The house at Munstead Wood 

We share an insight to the house at Munstead Wood, which is a collaboration of creative design genius and pivotal to the careers of both Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens.

An aerial view of a house in a woodland glade at Munstead Wood, Surrey

What next for Munstead Wood? 

Munstead Wood has been a private residence for over 75 years which hosted a handful of small garden tours each year. The house is a collaboration of creative genius which is key to the story of Surrey Arts and Crafts and the extraordinary careers of both Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens. We are exploring how best to carve a future for this remarkable place, that safeguards its unique character, shares its powerful stories and enables others to see the beauty that lies beyond the garden wall. Find out what has happened in our first year here.

Brick and stone south elevation to the house at Munstead Wood.  The ground floor of the house is partially hidden by bushy shrubs.

Open Country - Gertrude Jekyll 

Listen to this BBC Sounds programme looking at the life, work and influence of Gertrude Jekyll

Brick and Stone west elevation of the house at Munstead Wood.  Climbing roses and bushy shrubs grow in front of the ground floor.

Great Lives - Roger Saul chooses Gertrude Jekyll 

Listen to this BBC sounds programme, where Roger Saul, creator of the Mulberry brand, talks how the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll inspired his love of plants and landscaping