Hadfield, Miles (writer and artist)

Reference: MS 1408Date: 1853-1974Extent: c.117 files

Miles Hadfield was born in 1903 in Handsworth on the outskirts of Birmingham.  In 1918 Miles went to public school at Bradfield near Reading, returning to live at home and study engineering at Birmingham University in 1921. In 1924 he went to work for the local firm of Best and Lloyd, designers and makers of light fittings. Miles stayed with Best and Lloyd, in Birmingham and in their London showroom, for six years, but he had other ambitions. He began to study at Birmingham School of Art in the evenings and in 1930 left the firm and became a fulltime student. He then embarked on a career as a botanical artist and writer on gardening and forestry. Miles Hadfield published The Gardener’s Companion, a miscellany with his own illustrations, in 1936 and Everyman’s Wild Flowers and Trees in 1938, both of which sold well.

On the outbreak of war in 1939, Hadfield redirected his horticultural expertise towards the war effort and joined the Ministry of Food, Midland Division. He eventually became Deputy Controller of Food for the Midlands and was especially concerned with the supply of food to Coventry during the blitz. After the war he could have continued as a senior civil servant but at the end of 1949 he resigned and returned to writing, contributing regular articles to Country Life, The Gardener’s Chronicle and House and Garden among other periodicals. In 1957 he wrote and illustrated British Trees and established his reputation as a garden historian with Gardening in Britain, published in 1960 and still a standard work on the subject. Some of his other books included Gardens of Delight, written in collaboration with his brother John, the novelist and editor of the Saturday Book series, in 1964 and A Book of Country Houses in 1969. He was also interested both in the local history of Handsworth and in his family history.

Miles Hadfield worked as an advisor to the National Trust, helping with their reconstructions of historic gardens including Westbury Court in Gloucestershire. He was instrumental in the formation of the Garden History Society and became its first president. He was honoured for his services to arboriculture by the Royal Forestry Society and for his services to horticulture by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The collection consists of notes by Miles Hadfield on his family history and gardening notebooks created by Miles Hadfield and Edward Cahen including notes, drawings, photographs, excerpts, newscuttings, offprints and correspondence, among which are letters to Hadfield from Edward Cahen, Maynard Greville and Sacheverell Sitwell and letters to Cahen from Maynard Greville and L.J. Rogers.

More Information

  • A full description is available on our online database
  • A handlist of the whole collection is available here
  • See also P DX1197, a photographic collection donated to The MERL by Hadfield
  • The MERL library holds copies of many of Hadfield’s publications