Thomas Mawson, who was born at Scorton in Lancashire on 5 May 1861, was forced to work in the building trade with an uncle in Lancaster from the age of 12 due to his family’s poverty. Here he studied technical drawing and, fortunately, his uncle had a strong interest in gardening. After his father died, they moved to London where he worked for a London nursery and gained experience in landscape gardening. However during the 1880’s he moved back north and started the Lakeland Nursery in Windermere, which was on the site where the Windermere Garden Centre used to be, together with his two brothers.
Once the firm was sufficiently successful he was able to turn his attention to garden design. His reputation was quickly established amongst the wealthy Lancashire industrialists who were building houses around Windermere. He also did a lot of work for the Graythwaite estate, which is south of Hawkshead. The gardens at Brockhole, Langdale Chase and Rydal Hall are some examples of his fine work. However, in 1908 he won a competition to lay out the gardens for the Palace of Peace at The Hague, this was soon followed by further work in Corfu, Egypt and Athens. He also had several commissions in the United States of America, one of which was to advise on the development of Smoky Mountain’s National Park.
In 1923 he became president of the Town Planning Institute and in 1929 he became the first president of the Institute of Landscape Architects. He also published two large volumes called The Art and Craft of Garden Making, which is widely accepted as one of the foundations of modern landscape architecture. Thomas Mawson died on 14th November 1933 at Applegarth, Hest Bank, Lancaster and is buried in Bowness on Windermere Cemetery, which is only a few miles from some of his best gardens and overlooking Lake Windermere.