In the June Bulletin, the events of 100 years ago when Lawrence Johnston and his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop, came to Hidcote Manor and then the subsequent creation of Hidcote Manor garden leading up to its heyday in the 1930s were recalled. In this article, the transfer to the National Trust in 1948 and subsequent developments at Hidcote up to Lawrence Johnston's death in 1958 are covered.
In the 1930s, Lawrence Johnston was actively engaged in seeking plants for Hidcote or for his garden at Serre de la Madone at Menton on the south coast of France. He was both a sponsor of, and went on, plant hunting expeditions to places such as Formosa (Taiwan) and to Yunnan in China. When he was at Hidcote, he led an active social life as his diaries for 1929 and 1932 show that there were many coming to see the garden or to play tennis. Towards the end of the 1930s when he was in his late 60s, he spent his summers at Hidcote and the winter months at Serre de la Madone.
During the second World War he was concerned about the taxation associated with living in England and began to consider what he should do about Hidcote. James Lees-Milne, whose parents used to live at Wickhamford, records in his diary that in February 1943 at a luncheon organised by Sibyl Colefax, an influential figure in London society who is mentioned a few times in Lawrence Johnston's diaries, Johnston took him aside to ask if the National Trust would take over Hidcote without endowment after the war when he intended to live in the south of France for good.
Following the end of the war, Sibyl Colefax wrote in April 1947 to James Lees-Milne who was then working for the National Trust to say "I was over at Hidcote with Vivien Leigh Saturday. Laurie Johnston wants to give Hidcote to the N. T. now. So do get him tied up. You see he is not gaga but has no memory. He told me, indeed took me away specially to talk of this."