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Diane James

Thesis: “An Endless Variety of Forms and Proportions”: Indian Influence on British Gardens and Garden Buildings, c.1760-c.1865.

Supervisor: Dr Rosie Dias.

Research Summary:
My research examines the development of Indian design in British architecture and gardens at the end of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, coinciding with the height of the trading and territorial ambition of the British East India Company and the homecoming of returnees from India to Great Britain and Ireland. A number of gardens and houses were built with elements of Indian style including onion domes, chhajja cornices, minarets, temple pools or nandi statues, constructed by returning Company administrators, engineers, and military personnel. My research examines the factors which influenced the use, and also antipathy to this style, and the ways in which the returnees, although often seen as a homogenous group of 'nabobs', individually memorialised India in their gardens and garden buildings, whilst endeavouring to establish domestic roots and rejoin society.

My first degree was in History of Art and Design from the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University), where I began looking at the connections between the design of seemingly unrelated countries and activities. My dissertation examined the inter-relationship between fishing and knitting in the development of Fairisle knitwear, with a special study of the role of Shetland women. In 2004 I moved to Bristol University for the MA course in Garden History, and continued in this examination of relationships with a dissertation on the links between a Picturesque garden and historical myth in 'History, Myth and Mythology: Sir Guy of Warwick and the Landscape of Guy’s Cliffe'. At Warwick my PhD research explores the inter-relationship between the Hindu and Mughal art, architecture and gardens experienced by men working for the East India Company, and the landscapes and buildings they constructed on their return to Britain and Ireland. My research is fully supported by the AHRC including a Research Training Support Grant for a visit to India in early 2014. Also in 2014 I received the Company of Arts Scholars Research Award.


'A Fairy Palace in Devon: Redcliffe Towers Built by Colonel Robert Smith (1787-1873), Bengal Engineers', in The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857, ed. by Margot Finn and Kate Smith (London: UCL Press, 2018), pp.277-297.
‘One of the most romantic and pleasant places imaginable: the pleasure grounds of Guy’s Cliffe, Warwickshire’, Follies Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 4, Issue 83 (Autumn 2012), pp.10-13.
Mowl, T., & James, D., Historic Gardens of Warwickshire (Bristol, Redcliffe Press, September 2011).
James, D. (et al.), Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and the Landscapes of Middle England, Gallery Guide (Compton Verney, June 2011).
‘The Architect and the Artist: Malvern Hall in the late 18th and early 19th centuries’, Warwickshire Gardens Trust Journal (Spring 2011), pp.8-13.
Prayer and Passion: The Story of Priory Park, Warwick, exh. booklet (Warwick, 2001).
Fifties Fantasy: Themes and Motifs of the 1950s and early 1960s, exh. booklet (Warwick: 1999).

Diane James