Between 1930 and his death in 1950, Ralph designed and built dozens of medal winning gardens for exhibitions and garden shows both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The following images are taken from When I Make a Garden (both editions). They were designed for either the Chelsea Flower Show or The ideal Home Exhibition. Others, photographed in both volumes, are not as easily identifiable.
None of the Chelsea or Ideal Home Exhibition gardens exist today. As is the practice with such flower shows, exhibition gardens would be broken down once the show closed. Hancock would have used much of the hardscaping elsewhere, either at other shows or incorporated into gardens which he had been commissioned to build.
This short video shows two such gardens, the first is the 1938 Chelsea Flower Show at which Hancock displayed a Spanish Themed garden (similar to those at both Derry and Toms and the Rockefeller Center) the second is from the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition of 1947 and is typical of Hancock's Arts and Crafts style. The third film is of the Derry Roof Gardens and is likely to have been filmed when they first opened also in 1938.
Ralph and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) at Chelsea in 1949. Ralph's use of rustic cottages would have been well known to visitors to both Chelsea and the Ideal Home Exhibition. There were several designs used but all shared similar features such as exposed beams, Cotswold tiled roofs and roses around the door.
The show catalogue pointed out that this small garden house would be suitable as a studio or workshop and that it could be built without a building licence .
This image (seen left) is of Ralph's Tudor courtyard designed for the 1937 Chelsea Flower Show. It looks very similar to the Tudor courtyard that was to later grace Derry Gardens on top of Derry and Tom's, Kensington, London. Even down to the use of a wrought iron hand pump. It must have been useful to 'try-out' different designs and ideas before he actually put them into 'live' situations.
Hancock would have used moulds to cast the concrete used for the arches. Those at Rockefeller Center and Derry and Toms are remarkably similar.
Hancock designed this Spanish garden for the 1938 Chelsea show. Listed in the show guide as a 'formal Mediterranean garden' it clearly has links to what he had built for both Rockefeller Center and Derry and Tom's. Hancock was awarded a Silver Medal for this garden.
The guide for that year also has advertisements for various garden ornaments that can be seen within Ralph's creations. Spanish-style well-heads from The Greatful Garden Company and Japanese lanterns from Liberty's.
Hancock also had his own showrooms at 4 Park Mansions Arcade in Knightsbridge, London. Here he displayed oil jars, lead and stone ornaments, electric fountains and wrought iron. After World War Two he diversified into garden furniture. These were all supplied from Hancock Industries Limited based at the Old Barn in Lingfield, Surrey. Later, as Hancock and Son, Ralph and Bramley also had an Exhibition Garden in Hampshire.
There is no doubt that Ralph Hancock was very good at what he did. He was an accomplished landscape architect and garden designer with an enviable reputation. His garden designs were in great demand and he received countless commissions from his exhibition gardens at both the Chelsea and Ideal Home shows.
Indeed the 1949 show guide included a photograph of Hancock with the Royal Family on the inside cover, confirming his status as one of the leading garden designers of his age.