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There are three tree cathedrals in Britain – places where trees have been planted to emulate the spatial form of medieval gothic cathedrals – yet these special and eccentric groves are little-known and understood. Camilla Allen has been researching these places since first stumbling on a photo of the Glencuitten tree cathedral in the first journal of The Men of the Trees, published in 1936. In her talk Camilla explores the concept of cathedral-like trees and tree-like cathedrals; identifying forms in garden and landscape design history which precede the three tree cathedrals; and then will introduce you to the three sites themselves and introduce some important reference points which bring continuity to this account: hermetic influences on garden design, the Rosy Cross and, most importantly, the desire to imbue landscapes with meaning. It is research which had taken her to some peculiar places – the online archives of secret societies and the realm of conspiracy theorists being the most notable – but which has also demonstrated that the lack of primary source material relating to the three sites in terms of schematics does not prevent a rewarding and insightful investigation which encompasses the Palatine in the seventeenth century, to the city planning of Milton Keynes in the mid-twentieth.
Camilla presented a paper to TGT New Research Symposium last year and has since been awarded her doctorate as a member of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield.