Archive Documents

Personal Geographies

Eileen Hogan at Little Sparta

Goose Hut, Eileen Hogan

This has been written in April 2020. Because of the coronavirus pandemic I am ‘landlocked’ in a small mews house in London without a garden.

Little Sparta has become part of my DNA, as it is for many people, and on 4 April its presence in my head and in my heart was enhanced by the Little Sparta newsletter arriving in my mailbox. This included head gardener George Gilliland’s diary with notes about the last few months and extensive damage caused by the recent storms. One of George’s beautiful photographs of the garden shows vertical drifting snow piled up on the gateway to the garden, completely obscuring the outer inscription A COTTAGE A FIELD A PLOUGH (the inscription on the other side of the gate reads THERE IS HAPPINESS).

Ian Hamilton Finlay never wanted visitors to see Little Sparta when its trees weren’t in leaf, but seeing it in winter reveals its fragility. In Unconnected Sentences on Gardening Ian wrote Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks. There is still a battle at Little Sparta.

Eileen Hogan
Artist and researcher 

A selection of drawings and paintings by Eileen Hogan


“From 1997 to 2013, I visited Little Sparta regularly, painting the garden and then, as I gradually got to know him, Ian.” 

Read more from Eileen Hogan and see her paintings, drawings and photographs of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Little Sparta in our new digital book, Personal Geographies. 


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