WANDERINGS IN THE GARDEN OF THE MIND; PETER MITCHELL AND THE MAKING OF GLYNN

by John Prebble and Bruce Weber

Publisher:  Oxford University Press (2003)
ISBN  0 1951 4266 7

£45.00

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As many people know, the CGT is currently recording the historic estate and gardens at Glynn, near Bodmin.  It seemed therefore a happy coincidence that this book was published in 2003.

Glynn is a substantial Georgian house but when Mitchell bought it in 1960 the house was derelict.  Its acquisition was to be the start of an unique experiment, not only for Cornwall, but also probably for the country as a whole: Mitchell went on to establish a privately funded research laboratory at Glynn, where the fundamental work was recognised in 1978 with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
In the 1960s  Mitchell and his wife, Helen, set about restoring the house to its present handsome state and much of the history of the house and of the Glynn family is described in the book.  He also got involved in other aspects of the history and culture of Cornwall.

However, there is little mention of the gardens in this book as it is largely a scientific biography.  In fact, the gardens were completely overgrown in the 1960s but Mrs Mitchell, who is a keen and knowledgeable gardener, was responsible for clearing the laurel and bramble to reveal the original garden, including walled gardens, terraces, an American garden and bowling green.  She planted many interesting shrubs and trees, now reaching maturity, and created a memorial garden to her husband.  She has been of great help in providing us with information to supplement this book.

What therefore is the origin of the book’s title?  In a radio interview in 1988 Peter Mitchell said: ‘I’ve often thought that the human mind is a bit like a garden.  You prepare this garden and you plant things there, and it is a sort of garden, partly of facts and partly of ideas and you keep rearranging it…’

Alison A Newton