James Carter conquers the world

From Carter's 1909 catalogue

From Carter’s 1909 catalogue

Wherever you live in the world if you are a gardener ‘of a certain age’ then you’re bound to remember Carters Tested Seeds. They were one of the great horticultural institutions of the 19th and 20th centuries. But where are they now?

When I was a child and first learning about gardening my grandparents had an allotment where I was allowed a little patch of ground on which to grow plants.

From Carter's 1909 catalogue

From Carter’s 1909 catalogue

We would go to the local seedsman and nursery sundries shop – Roses in Farnham  – and choose a few packets from the colourful display of Carters seeds.  If we went to London by train we would travel past their nursery and trial grounds on the south western outskirts so it was very sad when, in the late 60s and I had begun commuting,  that these were sold off and built over, and Carters seemed to vanish.

From Carter's 1909 catalogue

From Carter’s 1909 catalogue

Of course the company didn’t disappear completely, as you will see, but I was reminded of Carters a few months back when when writing a post about sweet peas. [Catch up on that at   http://wp.me/p4brf0-vyp]  That’s  because the founder of the firm, James Carter seems to have been a pioneer in hybridizing them to sell from his shop on High Holborn.

It made me investigate a little further, so read on to find out more about the rise and rise and then the Cheshire-Cat-like disappearance of this pioneering and iconic firm of seedsmen . Continue reading

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Sir Nathaniel Bacon, his kitchen garden and his cookmaid

 

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Bacon’s memorial in Culford Church, Suffolk, image from Karen Hearn, Nathaniel Bacon, Full reference at the end of the post.

The Latin epitaph on this marble funerary monument translates as “Look Traveller, this is the monument of Nathaniel Bacon, A Knight of the Bath, whom, when experience and observation had made him most knowledgeable in the history of plants, astonishingly Nature alone taught him through his experiments with the brush to conquer Nature by Art. You have seen enough. Farewell.”

Erected in the church at Culford in Suffolk  after Bacon’s death in July 1627 the monument is, according to Karen Hearn, former Curator of 16th and 17th century art at the Tate, “cutting edge in artistic terms. It is equally significant  for garden historians because it commemorates not just the life of a prominent country gentleman,  but also a pioneer artist and horticulturist.  You may well never have heard of Nathaniel Bacon, and you are unlikely to  have ever seen any of his pictures unless you have noticed the one the Tate acquired 20 years ago but that doesn’t diminish his importance. And as you will see  although  he’s an elusive figure  he’s definitely one worth discovering….

Bacon's signature from Essex Record Office D/DByC15, fol..116

Bacon’s signature from Essex Record Office D/DByC15, fol..116

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The Rev Ditchfield & another view of Capability Brown

screenshot

from The Cottages and Village Life of Rural England, 1912

Today is a post about the  author or editor of around 100 books and articles, who, in the fine tradition of this blog, has partly been chosen because you won’t have heard of him!  He’s also another in the line of gardening clergymen who seemed so prominent in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Rev Peter Hampson Ditchfield was a historian and antiquarian rather than a garden writer but several of his books cover gardens in some depth, particularly those of the manor houses and villages of southern England, including Berkshire where he was a parish priest for 44 years.

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from The Cottages and Village Life of Rural England, 1912

He writes, even in the early 20thc, in a rather nostalgic way about what has been lost because of ‘modernity’ but I decided to research him a bit further when I read his rather trenchant views on Capability Brown….

So read on to find what they were, and to discover a little more about rural gardens of all kinds a hundred or so years ago…. Continue reading

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Fishing Temples 2: the 18th century

detail from 'Pisho Bury' by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 'http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

detail from ‘Pisho Bury’ by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 ‘http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

Last week’s post was about the earliest surviving garden buildings designed for fishing which dated from the 16th and 17thc. After I’d published it I realised that I’d missed out some tiny but atmospheric details from some plates by Jan Drapentier for Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, published in 1700.

detail from 'Pisho Bury' by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 'http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

detail from ‘Pisho Bury’ by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 ‘http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

The quality isn’t brilliant but I thought  I’d include a couple in this post before going on to  show how  as the 18th century progressed fishing temples became more sophisticated, often doubling up as boathouses or places to eat.  Perhaps this is associated with the shift from formal gardens to designing the  landscape in a new way, and particularly with an increasing emphasis on the importance of water.

detail from 'Little Offley' by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 'http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

detail from ‘Little Offley’ by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700 ‘http://www.furneuxantiquemaps.com

Tiny detail from Bedwell Parke, by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700

Detail from ‘Bedwell Parke’, by Jan Drapentier in Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700

Whatever the reason the result is a collection of amazing garden and landscape buildings. So read on to find out more about some of them. Continue reading

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Fishing Temples 1 : the earliest survivals

Charles Cotton's Fishing Temple in Dovedale, Derbyshire http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Ftheincompleatangler.files.wordpress.com%2F2014%2F07%2Ftempblog1.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fincompleatangler.com%2Ftag%2Ftemple%2F&h=951&w=713&tbnid=zt5AYZkoMLImJM%3A&docid=n46J805cY046bM&itg=1&ei=DOmmV4aPEMKqa4mAo7AN&tbm=isch&client=safari&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=628&page=2&start=15&ndsp=25&ved=0ahUKEwiGxZ3M6a7OAhVC1RoKHQnACNYQMwhIKBQwFA&bih=601&biw=1215

Charles Cotton’s Fishing Temple in Dovedale, Derbyshire
https://incompleatangler.com/tag/temple/

Its August and I’ve been sitting admiring my lake – how’s that for showing off?  It’s about an acre in extent and stuffed full of hideous fat carp.  It’s an attraction for local fishermen and there’s often one sitting on the bank although they hardly ever catch anything and when they do they put them back. Being vegetarian I have no interest in catching fish at all  and I’m happy to just sit and look at the water and all the waterlilies we’ve planted. But lovely tho’ my lake is, I was a little envious  of a little riverside lodge in Dovedale, which was up for sale recently.   Built in 1674 in honour of his friend Isaak Walton author of The Compleat Angler, Charles Cotton’s one-roomed fishing temple looks a rather nice place to sit and contemplate, as does Bourne Mill near Colchester

so even tho I don’t fish, and don’t even understand why anyone would want to do it, this is the first of a few posts dedicated to fishing temples and lodges. Today’s looks at the few survivors from the 16th and 17th centuries. Continue reading

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Welwitschia mirabilis: “the ugliest plant in creation”?

Life on a welwitschia mirabilis plant in the Namib Desert, David Marsh, Feb 2016

Life on a Welwitschia mirabilis plant                        in the Namib Desert, David Marsh, Feb 2016

What a mouthful that is! Even worse when you realise it’s the Latin name of a bizarre plant ‘discovered’ by a man born in the Austrian Empire of Slovak origin, who worked for the Portuguese monarchy in one of their African colonies and ended up being buried in London.

Actually bizarre is a bit of an understatement: how many plants do you know that only have two leaves, live on fog and sometimes have to be kept in a cage!

The caged welwitschia, David Marsh, Feb 2016

The caged Welwitschia, David Marsh, Feb 2016

OK I admit that’s a bit of a cheat because, like the Wollemi pine, it’s to protect the plant from humans rather than the other way around!

But why am I writing about Welwitschia on a blog about Britain’s parks and gardens? Read on to find out…

Weltwischia from a pianting by Baines, in Transactions of the Linnean Society, 1863

Welwitschia from a painting by Thomas Baines, in Transactions of the Linnean Society, 1863

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Artificial Stone 4: Post-Coade potteries

Detail of a Triton fountain by J.M. Blashfield http://www.jardinique.co.uk

Detail of a Triton fountain by J.M. Blashfield
http://www.jardinique.co.uk

While Eleanor Coade’s factory was the dominant player in the artificial stone market in the late 18th and early 19thc there were others. A few using their own magic mixtures and from the 1820s onwards others began using the new invention of Portland cement. So when William Croggan went bust in 1833 there were several other entrepreneurs ready and able to move in and pick up the pieces.

This post is about two of them – Mark Blanchard and John Marriott Blashfield whose careers ran in parallel through the mid-late 19thc. Their  architectural and decorative faux stone and terracotta work can be found all over the country in buildings like the V&A, as well as structures like Chelsea Bridge, and their  garden statuary, urns and other  ornaments are in many historic gardens and are now very collectable.

from Blanchard's catalogue, 1869

from Blanchard’s catalogue, 1869

Read on to find out why….

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Artificial Stone 3: Coade broken

The entrsance to Coade and Sealy's exhibition gallery, © The Trustees of the British Museum

The entrance to Coade and Sealy’s exhibition gallery, © The Trustees of the British Museum

In two earlier posts we have seen the rise and triumph of Eleanor Coade’s artificial stone business. [Catch up on them at:   http://wp.me/p4brf0-vR6  &   http://wp.me/p4brf0-vR8 ]  Eleanor was a successful entrepreneur dominating the market in architectural decoration and garden ornaments in later Georgian England. This was partly thanks to her own skills and partly thanks to the talent of her chief designer, John Bacon.  After Bacon died in 1799 Eleanor chose a new business partner – her cousin John Sealy and the business was renamed Coade and Sealy. But was it to continue on an upward curve?

At first it seemed so and Coade and Sealy went from strength to strength but by 1833 the business went bust. What went wrong? Read on to find out what happened to destroy Eleanor’s Coade’s enterprise and take down such an iconic name.

Coade Stone factory yard on Narrow Wall Street, Lambeth, London, c1800.

Coade Stone factory yard on Narrow Wall Street, Lambeth, London, c1800.

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Beer and Skittles … but mainly skittles

Miss Tipapin going for all nine, 1779'From the Original Picture by John Collet, in the possession of Carington Bowles. British Museum

Miss Tipapin going for all nine, 
British Museum

Games where you roll or throw something at some sort of target to make it fall over are documented since at least medieval times, maybe even in ancient Egypt.  Such games have only evolved marginally since then!   Whether its kegel, the nine-pin bowling of the Teutonic world, the ten-pin bowling of the American world, quilles which is played in France,  or skittles, a game which is recorded from before Tudor times in England the principle is much the same.

Mind you the detail is very different. I hadn’t realised quite how many variations in the game survive in Britain – each with their own specific rules but don’t worry I’m not going to try and explain them all.  These games were sometimes played indoors but in early modern Britain they were more often played in gardens… particularly those attached to inns and hostelries

from Every Woman's Encyclopaedia, 1910

from Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910

 

Read on to find out more about the origins and history of skittles in the beer garden and elsewhere… Continue reading

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What is an English Garden?

david marsh July 2106

“A contemporary re-interpretation of the traditional English garden” ?              David Marsh, July 2106

What is an “English Garden”? We all know the answer don’t we? Especially in 2016 The Year of the Garden. Even though not all of the readers of this blog are in England I’m sure the words “English Garden” conjure up familiar and comfortable images in your mind. Maybe grand herbaceous borders or expansive Capability Brown landscapes…maybe cottage gardens stuffed with roses and hollyhocks  or neatly trimmed lawn  with croquet hoops… box topiary, stone urns and lead statues…suburban bedding plants or workday productive allotments?  Actually maybe defining an English garden isn’t quite that simple after all.

The question came to mind when I saw this garden a couple of days ago…

David `Marsh July 2016

“A contemporary re-interpretation of the traditional English garden” ?                                                  David Marsh    July 2016

 

and read this description of it….

“Lawns, generous mixed borders planted with annuals and perennials, winding paths and scented rose-filled alleyways are just a few of the features of this new … garden, a contemporary re-interpretation of the traditional English garden.”

David marsh July 2016

“A contemporary re-interpretation of the traditional English garden” ?                             David Marsh   July 2016

Since most of the garden looked nothing like my idea of a typically English garden, after a little giggling, I was left feeling rather bemused and began to wonder if actually I had any idea of what I was talking about.  So then I thought best to check out what other people thought and think, so read on to find out about some possible interpretations of what makes “an English Garden”… Continue reading

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