Front garden in spring
Back garden in summer
Freud and Martha under the loggia, looking at the garden
When Freud wrote “We have it incomparably better than at Berggasse and even than Grinzing”, he wasn’t just comparing favourably the spacious rooms with large windows to the dark small apartments in Vienna. Both Sigmund and Anna Freud loved the garden, which is still meticulously maintained, containing many of the same plants of which Freud was so fond. And much like the classical artefacts Sigmund had on his desk, the garden’s alterations with the changing seasons, reflected his own interests and stages in life.
Freud’s architect son, Ernst, redesigned the house to suit Freud’s work and interests. At one end, French windows threw light onto his desk (perhaps an unconscious metaphor for Freud’s analytic work: throwing light onto the unconscious of his patients). The windows opened into the garden, one of the great delights of the house for Freud, who loved flowers.
Another piece of major construction was Ernst’s open-sided loggia (which has now been glazed and houses the shop). The roof is glazed with thick, round glass, forming a terrace for the room above and providing a sheltered space in the garden.
Though the harsh British winter of 1938 revealed some of the design faults of sash windows (Freud complained the house became "bitterly cold"), as spring returned, the garden could once more be enjoyed, and Ernest Jones wrote that Freud took particular delight in the almond tree in the front garden.
On Sunday, 19th February, 1939, it was warm enough to sit outside on Oliver’s birthday. After the hard winter, February was turning out to be the sunniest hitherto recorded. The following day, Ernest Jones (who, like Anna Freud, had an interest in gardens) noted early crocuses.
By April, Freud was beginning to take full advantage of having such a beautiful garden, enjoying the flowers he loved so much. Perhaps it was his close attention to the changing seasons in the garden that led to Freud making an apparently trivial comment in his diary on Sunday, 16th April, 1939, about the clocks changing? His Vienna home only had a courtyard and he only had gardens in rented villas during the summer. Now, in extreme age, he was able to enjoy a garden all the year round.
The weather on Saturday, 6th May, 1939 was fine enough for Freud’s last birthday, his 83rd, to be celebrated in the garden. In summer the hanging couch from Grinzing was set up and Freud would lie on it, as often as the weather permitted, and receive visitors.
As Freud’s health dwindled and his life moved inexorably to its final stage, his existence was confined to his study where a bed was set up for him, facing the French windows, so that he could still look out onto his beloved garden. Here, on 23rd September, 1939, he died.
The garden today is largely as Freud would have known it, from the terracotta flower pot, containing a red geranium (with Anna Freud’s trowel still beside it); to the circular flower bed to the right of the garden; to the curved bench and tables on the shaded left-hand side of the garden. The large pine tree at the rear of the garden, was knee-height when Anna Freud first had it planted and the roses, clematis, hortense, plum and almond trees are all original plants from the time of the Freuds first coming to live at Maresfield Gardens.