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AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in English: The Wrest Circle

Applicants are sought for a three year, fully funded studentship to work towards a DPhil (PhD) in the Faculty of English, University of Oxford on the AHRC project ‘The Wrest Circle: Literary Coteries and their Impact on Landscape Design, 1740-1760.’ This collaborative doctoral award (CDA) will be supervised jointly by Prof Christine Gerrard, of the University of Oxford, and Dr Andrew Hann, Head of the Historians team at English Heritage. English Heritage is a heritage organisation and charity responsible for the care and presentation of 420 sites and monuments across England, ranging from Stonehenge to the York Cold War Bunker, that have been taken into state care since the 1880s.

The studentship will commence in October 2018 and is open to UK nationals, or EU nationals who have resided in the UK for 3 years or more. The successful applicant will normally have achieved a Master’s degree with distinction (or equivalent) in literary studies or history, or will have done so by October 2018. It would be an advantage to have a solid grounding in the literature or garden history of the mid-eighteenth century.

The Project

This collaborative research project builds on existing research by Prof Gerrard on eighteenth-century literary coteries, and by Dr Hann and colleagues at English Heritage on the development of the gardens at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. It offers an innovative approach which draws on both literary scholarship and garden history to explore the intersections between country house literary culture and garden design and use in the mid-eighteenth century. It will not only shape academic debate, but also inform the ongoing garden restoration at Wrest Park, and the ways in which mid-eighteenth century gardens are presented to the public.

The focus of the research is Wrest Park, a historic garden of international significance which showcases 250 years of garden history. The project concentrates on the mid-eighteenth century, when Wrest was owned by two young intellectuals, Philip Yorke and his wife Jemima, Marchioness Grey. Under their stewardship Wrest became the meeting place for a coterie of leading poets, writers and intellectuals, including Samuel Richardson, Thomas Edwards, Daniel Wray and Catherine Talbot. Their literary exploits inspired early forays into garden design at Wrest, particularly the creation of the Mithraic Glade with its enigmatic altar and root house. Visitors’ accounts show that the gardens at Wrest were a key stimulus to literary conviviality and imagination.

Further Information

If you would like to discuss this informally, please contact Prof Christine Gerrard at: or Dr Andrew Hann at:

If you would like discuss the application process please contact the Oxford English Graduate Office at: Details on how to apply may be found on the next page.

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Deadline Friday 9 March 2018.