RHS Wisley House and Gardens

During 1920’s Alfred Wise begun his association with the RHS as a resident botanical artists at RHS Wisley Gardens in Surrey. His studio was located within the main house known as The Laboratory. However he lived in a ramshackle caravan in the garden grounds, covered in ivy and green with age.  The caravan was lined with old newspapers and strewn with brushes, pots and paintings. Apparently he would wash up using a dash of detol. He became an eccentric feature of the establishment and is well remembered in the archives of the RHS Lindley library London, and through his publications in the RHS Garden journal and audio tapes.

Alfie and Skipper circa 1940’s  © RHS Lindley Library 
Seven Acres Lake at RHS Wisley today
Seven Acres after the Storm 1947 by Alfred John Wise

The iconic house and gardens at RHS Wisley was home to Alfred Wise for most of his working life. 

Alfred’s studio was to the rear of this building, he often would cook his eggs and bacon in the research laboratory on a pan heated via a bunsen burner. 

Alfred’s Caravan

For much of Alfred’s time at RHS Wisley he lived in a ramshackle caravan in the grounds. Although there are currently no known photographs of the exact caravan, those who saw it say it looked much like the picture below – a 1930’s touring type caravan green and cream in colour and around 12 foot long.  The caravan was parked next to a tool shed in what was called the “Wild garden” at Wisley, rather appropriate considering Alfred’s demeanour.  This was behind the Director’s house towards Wisley village end of the gardens. It is thought that vandals destroyed the caravan and tool shed in the early 1960s. After this Alfred acquired a boat to live in moored on the nearby River Wey, bordering RHS Wisley gardens.  However he neglected this as much as the caravan, resulting in it eventually sinking one night whilst he was inside asleep.  After this he moved to a flat nearby in Merrow.  

Example of 1930’s Touring Caravan – similar to the home of Alfred Wise at RHS Wisley