July 2013: A Fresh Look At John Evelyn – Peter Bennett

Much more has become known about John Evelyn in recent years. Famed for his diary, his real contribution to history lies in the fields of landscape design, gardening, architecture and town planning. His views were formed while travelling in Europe as a young man. While abroad he met Charles II who was in exile.

Back in England John met Christopher Wren; the two later were founder-members of the Royal Society. John was asked to looked the problems of pollution and he proposed a clean air zone and green belt round London – 300 years ahead of its time! He wrote his famous book Sylva on trees, designed the first landscaped garden in England at Albury, drew up plans for rebuilding the city after the Great Fire and talent-spotted Grinling Gibbons, the great wood-carver who worked on St Paul’s and other city churches.

John later oversaw the building of the naval hospital at Greenwich. He suggested putting an inscription round coins to prevent forgery; the words appear on our pound coin today. Near the end of his long life he returned to Wotton and it was largely his influence that left us with the beautiful woodland landscapes we enjoy today. He was a man of vision and ideas and we have much to thank him for.