Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Walling, Edna (1896 - 1973)

Born
4 December 1896
Yorkshire, England
Died
8 August 1973
Buderim, Queensland, Australia
Occupation
Journalist, Landscape designer, Writer and Photographer
Alternative Names
  • Keating, Edna (maiden name)

Summary

Edna Walling is best known for her contribution to Australian landscape architecture design. She was also a talented amateur photographer, and used the many photographs of gardens she took to illustrate the books and articles she wrote. Walling also created portrait photography.

Details

Edna Walling was born on 4 December 1896 in Yorkshire, England, and was the second daughter of William and Margaret Walling. Her father was a businessman, who had been keen on having a son; when Edna was born he was disappointed on having another daughter. He treated her as he would a son, involving her in exploring the countryside around Devonshire and woodworking.

In 1911, when Walling was 14 years old, the family moved to New Zealand. Shortly after this relocation her father travelled to Australia on his own, and in 1914 the whole family joined him there.

From 1916-1917 Walling trained at Burnley Horticultural College; following this she gained employment as a gardener, and eventually commenced a career as a landscape designer. She designed gardens for some of Melbourne's wealthiest families, such as those owned by Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Mrs Harold Darling, Sir Clive and Lady Steele and Sir William and Lady Irvine, many of whom had large country properties in the Western District of Victoria and the Riverina in New South Wales. Her landscape designs followed the English tradition and were influenced by the work of Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson.

Walling photographed these gardens as a means of documenting her work, and she used these photographs in her illustrated books on gardens, and to complement the many articles she wrote. She also worked as a journalist, writing for a number of magazines, including Australian Home Beautiful, as well as for many newspapers on gardening and landscape design. She produced numerous illustrated books - Gardens in Australia (1943), Cottage and Garden in Australia (1947), A Gardener's Log (1948) and The Australian Roadside (1952).
These titles featured her drawings, garden plans and photographs.

She also designed and built her own house at Mooroolbark, east of Melbourne, which she called Sonning. The house was burned down during the 1936 fires, but she rebuilt it and purchased more land to create the Bickleigh Vale village on 18 acres. In 1948 she purchased a property near Lorne on the Great Ocean Road, on which she built a cottage. Walling wrote about this property in The Happiest Days of My Life.

During her lifetime Walling designed a number of villages but unfortunately few were built. In 1967 she moved to Queensland, settling in Bendles, at Buderim, where she designed an Italian inspired village (but was not able to build it due to her advancing age).

Walling died on 8 August 1973 in Queensland.

Technical

Edna Walling used a Rolleiflex camera with a twin lens and worked in black and white.

Collections

Edna Walling Collection, State Library of Victoria

Private Collections

Content added for original entry in the Register, last modified 4 May 2009

The Walling family lived in the village of Bickleigh, Devon, before migrating to New Zealand, and then to Australia in 1914. In Bickleigh, Edna Walling's father William had trained his daughter in woodwork and honed her skills in perspective and scale. Father and daughter also enjoyed walking together through the English countryside. Walling's future garden designs were to reflect elements of this countryside, and of the various English gardens they visited.

After completing a course in horticulture at Burnley College in 1917, Walling commenced work as a jobbing gardener. In 1921 she purchased three acres of land at Mooroolbark and built her first home from local and second hand materials. This home was named Sonning after Gertrude Jekyll's Deanery Garden of the same name, which she had visited in England.

In 1922 Walling purchased a further 18 acres of land adjacent to Sonning. The houses she built became the village of Bickleigh Vale. Between the 1920s and 1960s Walling's commissions included designing the lily pond for Coombe Cottage, Dame Nellie Melba's residence in Coldstream, Vic.; Durrol for Mrs Stanley Allen, Mount Macedon, Vic.; and the Cruden Farm garden for Mrs Keith Murdoch (now Dame Elisabeth), Langwarrin, Vic. She also undertook commissions in Hobart, Tasmania, and designed villages at Port Pirie, South Australia (never completed) and Mount Kembla, New South Wales, for Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd.

During this period Walling wrote four books: Gardens in Australia (1943), Cottage and Garden in Australia (1947), A Gardener's Log (1948) and The Australian Roadside (1952). She wrote articles for The Australian Women's Mirror, The Australian Home Builder and The Australian Home Beautiful. In a letter held by the State Library of Victoria's Edna Walling Collection (La Trobe Australian Manuscripts), Walling declines an invitation to join the Australian Society of Authors by saying:

'Actually, you know, I am not a writer. I merely made a record of the work I had done, which the Oxford University Press published. I also wrote The Australian Roadside as my contribution to conservation work of this country… The books were only achieved through the great help of my teacher friend, Miss Lorna Fielden, without whose assistance I doubt if they would ever have seen the light of day. And so, much as I appreciate the honour you have bestowed on me I don't really think I have any right to be counted amongst the illustrious names appearing in your Society'

Walling's ABC Radio talks include On Making a Garden (1941), Improving the Farm and Curing Erosion and The Farmers' Friends (1951). In 1967, Walling moved to a cottage - 'Bendles' - at Buderim, Queensland. She died there in 1973.

Events

1995
Exhibition - Edna Walling's work featured in The Living Sculptures of Edna Walling. Location: McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Langwarrin, Vic.
1995
Exhibition - Edna Walling's work featured in Beyond the Picket Fence: Australian Women's Art in the National Library Collections. Location: National Library of Australia, Canberra, ACT.

Sources used to compile this entry: Barrett, Margaret (ed.), The Edna Walling book of Australian garden design, Anne O'Donovan, Richmond, Vic., 1980, 144 pp; 'Edna Walling', in Design and Art Australia Online, https://www.daao.org.au/bio/edna-walling/; Gardening Australia, Edna Walling, Landscape Designer, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 16/06/00, http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s147137.htm; Walling, Edna, Cottage and garden in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1947, 147 pp.

Related entries

Related Women

Archival resources

National Library of Australia

  • [Biographical cuttings on Edna Walling, architect, and horticulturalist, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals], BIOG; National Library of Australia. Details
  • [Walling, Edna: photography related ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia], Australian photographer files; National Library of Australia. Details

State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Exchange of correspondence and accounts, 5 Feb. 1937 - 14 Aug. 1937, MS 10725; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Edna Walling, 1962 - 1970, MS 10408; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Edna Walling, c. 1940 - c. 1970, MS 13048; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Jean Galbraith, 1900 - 1990, MS 12637; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Records of Cuming Smith & Company Limited, 1938 - 1960, 96/73; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • University of Melbourne. Photograph Collection, 1940 - 1972, 98/106; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Digital resources

Title
Moira Pye and Jean Galbraith
Type
Image
Date
c. 1930
Creator
Walling, Edna (1896 - 1973)

Details

Title
[Collection of 994 negatives]
Type
Image
Date
c. 1950 - c. 1970
Creator
Walling, Edna
Control
1713631
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Title
Bridget Profile [at Sonning]
Type
Image
Date
c. 1950
Creator
Walling, Edna
Control
H96.150/154
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Title
Portrait of Peter Greville
Type
Image
Date
c. 1957
Creator
Walling, Edna
Control
2984072; PIC P323 LOC Q91
Source
National Library of Australia

Details

Anne Maxwell (with Morfia Grondas and Lucy Van)

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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