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'Warley Place' - a homage to Miss Ellen Willmott and her garden at Warley Place.

about the project.

As part of the “Echoes from Essex – Minerva Scientifica” Project, May - September 2020, Electric Voice Theatre commissioned a piece of music and art to explore the life and work of female pioneer, Miss Ellen Willmott.


The music and art were first premiered and exhibited in the "Soundings from Essex" series, in an online episode of music, art and conversation about Miss Ellen Willmott. The event also included discussions with historian Patricia Fara and modern scientists, and is available to watch on the Electric Voice Theatre website here, and on their YouTube channel shown above.

As part of the “Women in Science and Music: 30 Celebrations” series, the music and canvas were played and discussed in a podcast, available to listen here

The canvas will be exhibited in Chelmsford Civic Theatre when possible, and in other Essex based locations to be decided.

about the art.

This bipartite, panoramic canvas traces the transition of Warley Place from a manicured garden, once carefully cared for by Ellen Willmott and her gardeners, to the wilder nature reserve it is today. It treats history and nature as dialectical but, ultimately, in relative harmony, by using imagery, composition and colour to convey Ellen’s diminishing authorship over the garden as natural forces take precedence, and to pay homage to her horticulture.


One of the ways it explores the temporal change of the garden is through its structure and composition, which become fuller and more entropic the farther right one scans. The daffodils and narcissus deplete into an amorphous foliage on the garden floor, and the branches of the walnut tree increase in number and overlap. At the centre of the piece is the conservatory, appearing on the left in its pristine original form, and on the right in its weathered state today. There is greater precision in line and form on the left than on the dense, freeform right.


To explore Ellen’s palpable authorship over the garden, imagery and colour are used as metaphors. Her spirit scatters the canvas via her iconic flower, the Eryngium, also known as ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’. Her biology is engrained into the foundations of the garden, shown through interweaving vines shaped like DNA and the walnut tree’s increasingly numerous and twirling nerve-like vines. A polychrome palette embodies her documented eccentricity in character. Despite nature’s cultivation of the garden over time, Ellen’s spirit persists through her iconic flora and design embodied in the canvas.

Music and Art Commission, 2020. 

Ellen Willmott: The Botanical Gardener of Brentwood 

about the music.

“The Moon of Heaven” was first performed by Electric Voice Theatre singer David Sheppard (countertenor), with the pre-recorded voices of Frances M Lynch (soprano), Simone Ibbett-Brown (mezzo) and Julian Stocker (tenor), on August 10th 2020 in the “Soundings from Essex” Series online. The music is available to listen to on the Minerva Scientifica website here. More details about the score and how to purchase it available via Elspeth's music website, here. (All rights reserved).

The music was Lockdown-Recorded for use online. It will also be used in the final “Echoes from Essex” Finale on September 20th on Zoom.

The Moon of Heaven
00:00 / 03:48

The specific images used in the canvases are as follows:

  • Eryngium "Miss Willmott’s Ghost"

  • Field of daffodils and narcissus, inspired by the Alfred Parsons watercolour Ellen commissioned

  • Ceratostigmata willmottianum

  • Rosa willmottiae

  • Roses from The Genus rosa (2 vols, 1910 / 1914), also illustrated by Alfred Parsons

  • The walnut tree

  • The conservatory

    • Tit bird

    • Iron gate


The project is administered and run by Electric Voice Theatre. 


With support from Chelmsford Civic Theatres, Essex Music Education Hub, Essex 2020, Essex County Council, PRS Foundation and Arts Council England.

Dr Patricia Fara – Science Historian, Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.

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