Benton End House and Garden sits on the edge of the ancient market town of Hadleigh in Suffolk. From 1939 until 1982 Benton End was the home of Artist Plantsman Sir Cedric Morris (1889-1982) and his partner, artist, Arthur Lett Haines (1894-1978). It is here that they ran the legendary East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. During this time Benton End became a destination for a multitude of art students including Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling, as well as an eclectic and illustrious array of visitors, many of whom became close friends. Vita Sackville-West, Benjamin Britten, and Beth Chatto amongst others enjoyed the unique atmosphere that Cedric and Lett created. Aside from Cedric & Lett themselves, people were drawn by the art, and Cedric’s extraordinary plants. Most famously, Cedric bred his Benton Irises here, many of them named after friends, lovers, and cats.
In private hands since Cedric’s death, the property was bought by the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust in 2019 with the idea of reviving the house and garden in the spirit of Cedric and Lett. The foundation majority gifted the house and garden to The Garden Museum in Autumn 2021. The regeneration plan is well underway, and the gardens will open to the public in 2026.
Head gardener, James Horner, was appointed in Spring 2023. James has made great strides protecting plants originally planted by Cedric which still grow at Benton End. James also brings a strong environmental vision and is creating a modern day, bio-diverse garden that will continually change, yet always reflect Cedric’s ethos. Benton Irises continue to be repatriated and early this summer those plants filled two areas of the garden with a kaleidoscope of colour not seen for decades.
Members of the Iris Society visit to Benton End in May 2023
A National Lottery Heritage Funding (NLHF) application, with a detailed & budgeted activity plan, and outline architectural designs to support the intended uses of the house itself will be submitted in January 2024. The plans for the house will provide accessibility and facilities to fulfil the new vision whilst maintaining a layout almost exact to that of Cedric and Lett’s Benton End.
As well as NLHF we continue to seek out donors for this project. We hope our activity plan will make clear our intentions and ambitions and attract support from like-minded individuals and funding bodies large and small. We also seek champions to broadcast our vision as widely as possible. We will create a learning programme across art education, horticulture, and food-learning as well as offering residential art and gardening courses. We are building a project of which Hadleigh and East Anglia can be proud. A place of creativity, learning, and intellectual freedom. Above all, we will celebrate the spirit of these two inspiring men and enhance their legacy.
Despite the limitations of our current budget, our reach grew exponentially in 2023 and we welcomed over 1,000 visitors to the house and garden. Their generous donations enable us to offer open day events and pre-booked house and garden tours, often for gardening or arts societies, but all sorts of groups are welcome. We received 700 visitors on June 3rd when Benton End took part in the town-wide Hidden Gardens of Hadleigh event, made possible by a team of 12 volunteers. We hope to build on that success in 2024.
If you would like to support Benton End or simply bring a group of friends to visit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Benton End website by clicking here or follow Benton End on instagram @benton.end