Our History

Although Capel Manor, and the land at Enfield can trace its roots back to the 12th century, the College’s history started in 1932 when the Capel Manor estate which had been privately owned by the Warren family for some time, was sold to Colonel Medcalf. 

Amongst many other interests, Colonel Medcalf loved gardens and Clydesdale shire horses and he laid some of the seeds for what was later to become, Capel Manor College and Gardens. After his death in 1958, much of the estate was sold and some parts became quite neglected. 

However, Frances Perry, a local horticulturist who was very successful and respected within the horticulture industry, knew the quality of the gardens at Capel Manor and pressed for the saving of the estate. She succeeded with her vision and in 1968 Capel Manor was transformed into a horticultural college with enormous help from Enfield Council. 

From its humble beginnings as a horticulture college with around 15 students, today, Capel Manor College is London’s leading environmental college, with five campuses across the capital and hundreds of courses in many diverse subjects including arboriculture, conservation, farming, floristry, garden design, horticulture, landscaping, veterinary studies, and zoology.

We have a vibrant student body of over 3,500 that is a mixture of school leavers and adults of all abilities united by a common passion for nature.


1913 – Capel Manor in Enfield was privately owned by the Warren family who were tea merchants and responsible for planting a number of trees in the 30-acre gardens which were run by 12 gardeners. Post-war, this reduced to four gardeners to maintain the estate which was occasionally opened to the public.

1932 – Capel Manor was purchased by Colonel Sydney Medcalf, who was passionate about horticulture and Clydesdale horses. He introduced soil steam sterilisation to the Lea Valley Glasshouse industry.

1940 –  Colonel Medcalf commanded the local Home Guard and from around 1940 to 1950, there was an increase in food production and the establishment of the Clydesdale stud with large areas of the estate left as pasture.

1958 –  Colonel Medcalf died and left Capel Manor in Trust to the Incorporated Society of Accountants.

1960 –  The gardens were maintained by only two gardeners and in 1963, 12 acres of land and stables were leased to the Horses and Ponies Protection Association.

1963 –  The estate’s gardens and outbuildings became increasingly neglected before being saved by local horticulturist Frances Perry, who campaigned for Capel Manor to become a horticultural college with gardens for public use.

1968 –  Frances Perry was the first woman to be elected onto the RHS Council.

1968 –  Peter Robinson was appointed as the first Principal. The first 15 students joined the “Capel Manor Centre for Horticultural Education”. 

1974 –  Courses offered at Capel Manor College included arboriculture, floristry and the RHS General Certificate in Horticulture.

1981 –  Victorian glasshouses were restored, increasing the College’s self-sufficiency for plant production and reducing its carbon footprint.

1983 –  Dr. Stephen Dowbiggin OBE became Principal.

1985 –  Capel Manor College offered 18 short courses in horticulture and amateur gardening.

1985 – The Duchess of Devonshire became Patron of the College and Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles became a trustee.

1987 –  Capel Manor College built its first garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, ‘Garden for Everyone’ and won a Silver-Gilt medal.

1991 –  Margaret Thatcher opened the National Gardening Centre, a permanent collection of show gardens including the Japanese Garden designed by Dr. David Hessayon.

1993 –  The first Bachelor of Arts Honours in Garden Design is introduced.

1998 –  Apprenticeships started at the College.

2000 – The Duchess of Devonshire Pavilion was opened by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.

2010 –  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the Old Manor House Garden.

2015 –  The Royal Agricultural University became a partner, and validating university for all degrees at the College.

2015 –  The Duke of Devonshire succeeded his mother as Patron.

2015 –  The Princess Royal College of Animal Management and Saddlery was opened by HRH Princess Anne.

2016 –  Roger McClure became Chair of Governors.

2017 –  Malcolm Goodwin was appointed Principal.

2018 –  Staff and students won Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Gold at the Ideal Home Show.

2018 –  The Marchioness of Salisbury became Patron and President.

2018 –  Capel Manor College celebrated its 50th anniversary.

2019 –  Capel Manor College's students, apprentices and staff, designed and built the world's largest show garden at The Game Fair.

2022 –  Christine Bianchin was appointed Interim Principal.

2023 –  Peter Brammall was appointed Principal.

Visit us at our next Open Day

The Queen visits Capel Manor College, 2010
HRH Princess Anne, 2000
Capel Manor College wins Gold at RHS Chelsea, 2018
Chair of Governors - Roger McClure, Patron - Lady Salisbury and former Principal - Malcolm Goodwin, 2019
Capel Manor College build the world's largest show garden at The Game Fair at Hatfield House, 2019

Ivor's story

Capel Manor College as a whole is a great place to study any land-based course they offer. Ivor studied arboriculture and forestry during his time at Capel Manor College