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People in Her Life
Portrait of Edna Walling

Barbara Barnes, Edna Walling's niece recalls:

' ...she was an emotional person. She was tremendously enthusiastic about things and I think her enthusiasms attracted people enormously... '
Edna Walling, 1966
Portrait by Daphne Pearson

Edna Walling was a forthright and honest woman with a great charm and sense of humour. Her clarity of vision gave her a determination to achieve the best she could in her work. Her passion for her work, and her ability to inspire and encourage others attracted many to her. A lesbian at a time when homosexuality was not openly talked about, Walling was also a spiritual person, taking an interest in Christian Science and philosophy.

' ...those walks across the moors where we played games on "How far is it to that stone wall?", "How high is that stone wall?" '


Edna Walling was close to her parents. Her father, William Walling taught her perspective and scale and instilled in her a love of tools and building things. Her mother, Margaret, was one of Edna's greatest admirers.

' She was always having to listen to ...praise for her elder daughter! for [her] looks "such sparkling brown eyes! And that wonderful olive skin!", and so on, until one day she could stand it no longer. "Edna's quite good looking too", she piped up for her little ugly duckling. '

Portrait of William Walling

William Walling

Portrait of a Young Edna Walling

It was her mother who persuaded the Head of Burnley Horticultural College to take her daughter on as a full time student. After William Walling died in 1933, Walling's mother went to live at Bickleigh Vale in Downderry, a house specially built for her by Edna. Walling often looked to her mother for support and advice:

' To me her taste was irreproachable and when I was building my home and in a bit of a fix [as to] how to cope with some problem I would wait for her to come up for the weekend to put the problem before her. '
The Young Edna Walling
Section of Garden Plan for Melba

Plan of Water Lily Garden for Dame Nellie Melba [335 K]

Friends shared Walling's interests in gardening, music and literature and were often treated to cordial and sandwiches on the Sonning lawn. Most of her friends worked in creative areas and shared a love of nature and the bush. Many of her clients became friends, most notably Dame Nellie Melba.

' Returning to Coombe Cottage she would ring and ask me to come over and walk around the garden with her... '

'Trouser Lane' was a local nickname for the village as so many single, independent women lived there. Walling encouraged and selected like-minded women to live nearby. Lorna Fielden was the 'mistress of Lynton Lee', a house and garden Walling built for her with the required lavender bush to dry her handkerchiefs on. Other friends such as Mervyn Davis and her partner Daphne Pearson were encouraged to join the Bickleigh Vale village, but never did.


Portrait of Edna Walling

Walling's planned album of "Famous People" recorded many people of note that she came to know. Writers, actors, dancers, photographers and artists were in the album and interestingly, none of the portraits were of her wealthy clients.

Edna Walling, 1966
Portrait by Daphne Pearson
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