Feeding London & Horticultural History At Guildhall Library

FLH1As temperatures rise and the growing season is upon us we are celebrating the history of gardening and food production in and for London at Guildhall Library.

‘Feeding London: the Forgotten Market Gardens’ is our current exhibition which runs from 4th April – 24th June. It highlights the long history of market gardening in South West London, telling the story of commercial food growing in the area and includes sound-recorded memories of workers and families. It is accompanied by a selection of material from Guildhall Library’s fascinating gardening collections.

The exhibition is curated by Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow; a Heritage Lottery funded project run by the Environment Trust for Richmond upon Thames.


On the 5th April we held an evening event to launch the exhibition in which we learned more about the Jam Yesterday project.   Juliana Vandegrift, Heritage Project Manager & Oral Historian for the project spoke about the setting up of the project and some of its outcomes.  The research for the project has led to the creation of a Model Market Garden in Marble Hill Park, a collection of oral histories (some of which you can hear as part of the exhibition), a schools education programme and nationally recognised horticultural courses for young people. It has also produced the audio visual exhibition ‘Feeding London’ which visitors to Guildhall Library can currently enjoy.

You can find out more about the Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow project on the Environment Trust website http://www.environmenttrust.co.uk/jam-yesterday-jam-tomorrow

Our second speaker was David Lawrie, oral historian & research volunteer for Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow, who told us about the history of market gardening in the Twickenham, Hampton and Hounslow areas. David told the story through a document awarded in c1900 which forms part of the exhibition; the “Certificate of Achievement” issued to William Poupart for 35 years’ service to the Home Counties Market Growers Association.

William Poupart (b.1847) was brought up on a Bermondsey farm and his family name is associated with a variety of agricultural produce. He moved to Kew and by the late 1870s had expanded his business into the Twickenham area and to Marsh Farm in particular. His family business was later well known for the production of jam.

David’s talk also covered ‘Universal Provider’ William Whiteley who had a farm on which he grew the produce sold in his Bayswater store. As with his shop assistants he housed his workers on site. We know more about Whiteley because he commissioned a book in 1895 which included photographs of his farm – Alfred Barnard’s ‘Orchards and Gardens; Ancient and Modern’. The strawberries on Whiteley’s farm were picked by mostly female labour and he also had his own jam factory employing male chefs and female workers.

David also told us about local nurseryman and businessman A W Smith who was known as the ‘Cabbage King’, taking a million cabbages a year into Covent Garden. By around 1890 Smith owned 1000 acres at Feltham and was so influential he was able to have his own siding made to his farm off the London and South Western Railway line!

We were delighted that our audience were joined by descendants of the market gardeners who met and talked with people about their family history after the talks.

There are still a few places on our “Shirley Hibberd: The Father of Amateur Gardening” talk given by Anne Wilkinson on the 12th May and on an opportunity to see several volumes from the collection of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners held at Guildhall Library on 26th May. Both are free but you will need to book https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/events.aspx


You can also see a write up and photographs of the exhibition launch on the Environment Trust’s blog http://www.environmenttrust.co.uk/blog/feeding-london-guildhall-library#.VxI8o9TR_ct

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

Neat Houses and Battersea Bundles: Market Gardening in London


Early Market Gardening

Market gardening or growing for profit developed in the sixteenth century as towns became large enough to allow making one’s living as a commercial grower viable. The Reverend Daniel Lysons in his “Environs of London” tells us that growing for profit or market gardening may have begun at Sandwich in Kent and its success there was soon followed by similar gardens closer to London. It is thought that Huguenot settlers may have been among these early market gardeners in Kent. Thomas Dorman records a list of the trades and occupations of Dutch Settlers in Sandwich taken from the Dutch Foreign Book of 1582, in which thirteen Huguenot settlers were market gardening in the area.

Before that time monasteries, private gardens and the surplus from large houses were sources of food supply for London but their role decreased during the sixteenth century with the dissolution of the monasteries and increased pressure on land for building. In his ‘Survey of London’ John Stow recorded an early market gardener named Cawsway who worked land at Houndsditch growing herbs and roots, but by 1553 the land was “parcelled into Gardens, wherein are now many faire houses of pleasure builded…” This pressure upon the land was to increase in the following centuries.

The Development of Market Gardening for London

The first market gardeners to supply London worked land along the Thames where the soil was rich, transport was easy and there was access to plentiful horse dung. The granting of charters to the Gardeners’ and the Fruiterers’ Companies in 1605 may evidence that market gardening was becoming important in the early seventeenth century. Webber tells us that the Gardeners’ Company appears to have owned or rented large market gardens outside the City and by 1649 they were reported as employing 1500 men, women and children as well as 400 apprentices. Lysons states that the principal places for fruit growing were Brentford, Isleworth, and Twickenham (known for strawberries) and Hammersmith, Kensington and Plumstead (known for cherries).

By the eighteenth century market gardening was thriving at the Neat House Gardens at Pimlico. The area was already known for its gardens but was now supplying London and Westminster with a range of fruit and vegetables.

“Water from the Thames was brought to the gardens through sluices while hothouses made possible the growing of early and tender crops. Dung from the London streets was used in abundance. The gardens were a training ground for young market gardeners and did much to raise the standard of British horticulture. By the end of the eighteenth century they covered 200 acres and were providing a gross income of £200,000 a year. They succumbed to the spread of London a few years later when the ground level was raised by soil excavated from St Katharine’s Docks and built upon.” (Webber, 34)

These market gardens of Pimlico were mentioned by John Strype in his 1720 Survey:

“The Neat Houses are a Parcel of Houses, most seated on the Banks of the River Thames, and inhabited by Gardiners; for which it is of Note, for the supplying London and Westminster Markets with Asparagus, Artichoaks, Cauliflowers, Musmelons, and the like useful Things that the Earth produceth; which by Reason of their keeping the Ground so rich by dunging it, (and through the Nearness to London, they have the Soil cheap) doth make their Crops very forward, to their great Profit in coming to such good Markets.”

The Nineteenth Century and the decline of Market Gardening

Milne’s Land Utilisation Map of 1800 shows the position of market gardens as well as nurseries and orchards in and around London at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The map shows that west of the City on the north bank of the Thames were the market gardens of Tothill Fields followed by the Neat Houses. Earls Court had several ‘common gardens’ and Fulham to Hammersmith was largely made up of market gardens and arable land. Even as far west as Isleworth, Richmond and Twickenham there were plenty of vegetable and fruit growers.

Most of the market gardens east of the City were in Hackney, Bethnal Green and Hoxton and further out at West Ham, Plaistow and Poplar. The main potato growing areas of London were around Wanstead, Barking, Ilford and Plaistow.

South of the Thames was another belt of gardens through Greenwich, Deptford, New Cross, Camberwell and Lambeth. Asparagus became the speciality of the gardeners at Battersea and Londoners would travel there to buy ‘Battersea Bundles’ or Sparrow-grass (asparagus).

Maisie Brown describes the rise and success of the market gardens at Barnes and Mortlake. It was a hard life and she records market gardener William Breffit’s description of the marketing and distribution of the produce (c1814).

“Every gardener had his market cart or carts which were loaded at sunset, leaving the garden grounds between 10pm and 1am. Each cart was accompanied by a driver and a person to sell the produce, often the gardener’s wife. They would reach Covent Garden Market between 3am and 5am when dealers would be waiting to do business. Sales would be completed by 7am at the latest, when the produce would be taken to retail shops and markets by ‘ill-paid Irish women who carried loads of up to one hundredweight on their heads, to all parts of London’[Quoting Sir Richard Phillips ‘A Morning’s Walk from London to Kew’]. The carts were back home by nine or ten in the morning. According to Phillips, this was the way of life of every gardener’s family within ten miles of London – of some every night and of others every other night – for at least six months of the year.”

Rates of pay were comparatively good but market garden workers still lived in overcrowded and often insanitary conditions and were hampered by a lack of income during winter.


As we have seen the tension between use of land for produce or building has been part of London life for centuries. Brown states “There can be little doubt that London created the market gardens. What is equally certain is that they were destroyed by London, when its need for land became as pressing as its need for food.” (38)

Writer and architect Thomas Hardy was to reflect this building boom in Chapter 41 of his novel ‘The Hand of Ethelberta’:

“On an extensive plot of ground, lying somewhere between the Thames and the Kensington squares, stood the premises of Messrs. Nockett and Perch, builders and contractors. The yard with its workshops formed part of one of those frontier lines between mangy business and garnished domesticity that occur in what are called improving neighbourhoods. We are accustomed to regard increase as the chief feature in a great city’s progress, its well-known signs greeting our eyes on every outskirt. Slush-ponds may be seen turning into basement-kitchens; a broad causeway of shattered earthenware smothers plots of budding gooseberry-bushes and vegetable trenches, foundations following so closely upon gardens that the householder may be expected to find cadaverous sprouts from overlooked potatoes rising through the chinks of his cellar floor.”

You can find out more about the history of market gardening in Guildhall Library’s collections and upcoming exhibition, “Feeding London: The Forgotten Market Gardens”,  from 4 April – 24 June. Here are just a few items you may enjoy…

Maisie Brown’s “The Market Gardens of Barnes and Mortlake: the Rise and Fall of a Local Industry” (Ref. Pam 18103)
Thomas Dorman’s “Notes on the Dutch Walloons and Huguenots at Sandwich in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” In Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, 2 (1887-88): 205-240.
Rev Daniel Lysons “The Environs of London” Volume 4 Herts, Essex and Kent (Ref. SL 93)
John Stow’s ‘The Survey of London’ (Ref. L 71)
Malcolm Thick’s “The Neat House Gardens: Early Market Gardening around London” (Ref. L 45.5)
Alan Charles Bell Urwin’s “Commercial Nurseries and Market Gardens” (Ref. ST 297)
Ronald Webber’s “Market Gardening: The History of Commercial Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Growing.” (Ref. 635)
E J Willson’s “West London Nursery Gardens” (Ref. L 45.5)


Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass through the Ages

Our current exhibition has been put together by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, and takes you on a journey through the life of the Company, from its historical beginnings, to its work in the present day, which includes supporting students and creating new work, often for secular buildings.

Front Banner and Drape2

The first recorded reference to a Guild of Glaziers in London is in 1328. It regulated and protected those who practised the art. Foreign competition and unfair trading practices led it to seek a Royal Charter from King Charles I in 1638.

It had a Hall at this time but, like so many other Livery Halls, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Company remained without a Hall until 1978. The ‘new’ Hall is held by the Company on a long lease on a ‘peppercorn’ rent (meaning nominal) – the rent each year is a piece of glass made by artist members of the Company. It often makes reference to an incoming Master. There are five of these beautiful rents on display in the exhibition!

Wall Drape

As well as displaying some of the Company’s precious items from the past, the exhibition also looks to the future. One of the most striking artefacts on display is a wall hanging, commissioned by Past Master Glazier Peter Doe and his wife Liveryman Janet Doe and first unveiled in the River Room at Glaziers Hall by the Lord Mayor in spring last year. It celebrates the relationship between the Glaziers Company and the River Thames. The stitching was undertaken by prisoners from across the UK supported by Fine Cell Work, the charity which trains inmates in embroidery and textile skills.

If you wanted to find out more about the Company, Guildhall Library holds some of their archive. Material that is available to view includes charters, minutes and apprentice bindings.

The exhibition at Guildhall Library is free and open until 23 March.

Amy Randall
Events and Exhibitions Officer
Guildhall Library

Love’s Secret: Affairs in Georgian London

“Behind the Masquerade: setting the eighteenth-century scene”

During the period 1670-1857 divorce was only obtainable by an Act of Parliament or by the church courts. From an early date both men and women were able to seek separation on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. This was extremely expensive and from 1750 to 1857 on average only about three such Acts of Parliament was passed each year. Before obtaining a private Act of Parliament, the husband was expected to obtain a divorce from his wife in a church court and to seek damages in the Court of King’s Bench from his wife’s lover for criminal conversation or ‘Crim Con’.

Matrimonial causes which provide further detail on individual cases at the Consistory Court of London are held at the London Metropolitan Archives. One such case is that of Lady Penelope Ligonier and the Count Vittorio Alfieri in eighteenth-century London. Within 5 years of marriage, Penelope Pitt indulged in an affair with the Italian dramatist. Their affair provoked a duel in Hyde Park in 1771: following this Alfieri was made to leave the country. The couple divorced by Act of Parliament in November 1771.

The newspapers of the day had a fascination with the love affairs of the aristocracy who were the celebrities of the time. The London Evening Post informed its readers in 1771:

“When the first report of Lady Ligonier’s infidelity was carried to the Queen’s Palace, their Majesties were at cards…The King, who sincerely loves Lord Ligonier, was much affected with the news; on which her Majesty observed, that it was no wonder such things happened, when the greatest encouragement was given to places, which were only calculated to increase female licentiousness (alluding to a certain place of polite entertainment).”

These places of entertainment referred to are likely to be the popular site of the Pleasure Gardens. Vauxhall Gardens at Lambeth and Ranelagh at Chelsea often played host to masquerades which were a significant part of eighteenth-century culture. The idea of dressing up in the guise of a particular character and putting on the face of another could invite intrigue and dangerous encounters.


Collage: 7274, View of the Canal, Chinese Building and Rotunda in Ranelagh Gardens, Chelsea, during a masquerade (1750)

The masquerade became a hot bed for deception and enabled a certain anonymity to people that might not be afforded this in everyday public life. The Evening Post picked up on this:

“The Masquerade on Monday night was extremely splendid at Soho, though the company was by no means so numerous as upon some former occasions; the many dangerous intrigues, at present the subject of conversation in high life, at is said, determining several husbands of fashion to keep their ladies as much as possible from that vortex of dissipation…” (May 14, 1771)

You can explore related images on the image library, COLLAGE  http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage/app Some examples follow:


Collage: 17337
View of figures dressed in masquerade costume at Vauxhall Gardens.(1782)

The mood of Vauxhall Gardens is conjured up in this print:


Collage: 19371 Scene at Vauxhall Gardens showing a fashionably dressed woman shielding herself with a fan from the gaze of three men. (1780)

The following print which is entitled, A Bagnigge Wells Scene, or No Resisting Temptation shows one woman being suspicious of the other in the grounds of this once popular spa. One woman picks a rose which symbolises the deflowering of virginity and a loss of innocence. The fountain in the background is hugged by a cupid-like figure another allusion to sexual connotations. Classically speaking it could imply the story of Leda and the Swan, where Leda is raped by Zeus having an all the more sinister tone.


Collage: 17028 ‘A Bagnigge Wells scene, or no resisting temptation’. (c.1780)

For further revelations regarding the high profile love affairs of the eighteenth-century and an exploration of the matrimonial causes then book for the event on Thursday 11th February at Guildhall Library: Love’s Secret: Affairs in Georgian London  https://lovessecret.eventbrite.co.uk

By: Charlotte Hopkins, Information Officer, London Metropolitan Archives

The Twelve Days of Christmas

To celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, this year we are bringing you some of the most intriguing Christmas items from our collection. We hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

On the first day of Christmas – we wish you a happy Christmas! A more traditional offering from a French published book of hours, 1509. These were devotional books containing prayers and psalms, popular in the Middle Ages.

Book of hours

On the second day of Christmas – enjoy Boxing Day! The tradition of the Christmas box either derived from the opening of alms boxes placed in churches so donations could be collected for the poor, or the practice of giving boxes of gifts to employees on the day after Christmas, which became known as Boxing day.

Mrs Brown's Christmas Box

On the third day of Christmas…have a smashing time! This is the Fortnum & Mason Christmas Catalogue, 1934. ‘Dishes Ready to Serve’ included boar’s head at 5 shillings a pound. If that isn’t to your taste you could try Christmas cakes with the ‘the fattest and richest fruits’ raised pies, special hams, fruits in brandy, paradise cake and chocolate bacchanalia!

Fortnum and Mason catalogue

On the fourth day of Christmas…fun and games. Gamages Xmas Bazaar (1938) showcased a selection of Christmas toys available to buy that year. Hobby horses, pushchairs, typewriters and train sets were all the rage at Gamages.

Gamages Xmas Bazaar

On the fifth day of Christmas…nostalgia. Here are some Christmas specialities from 1936. This graceful representation of King George VI’s Coronation Coach provides a novelty of topical interest. Filled with iced animal and kindergarten biscuits. Each model packed in an attractive carton. All for 1/6.

Christmas Specialities

On the sixth day of Christmas…still cracking on. Film merchandising is nothing new. Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White’ of 1937 may have influenced the toy selection in this brochure from Gamages Xmas Bazaar (1938). On offer inside these pages was a set of all eight characters (for 8 shillings and eleven pence) as well as Snow White jigsaws, games, crackers and books.

Gamages Xmas Bazaar

On the seventh day of Christmas… ‘a stellar Christmas’? The image is from Punch magazine 1954. We particularly like Father Christmas’ space helmet, which accommodates his beard!

Punch magazine

On the eighth day of Christmas, we wish you a Happy New Year! This passage is taken from Charles Dickens’ Christmas story The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844): ‘So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to many more whose happiness depends on you! So may each year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren or sisterhood debarred their rightful share, in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.’ This image is of Trotty Veck, a character from the story.

The Chimes

On the ninth day of Christmas…continue with the festivities. This is ‘Bringing in the Boar’s Head’ by J. Gilbert, Illustrated London News, 22 December 1855, page 733. In past centuries, a boar’s head was the meat dish chiefly associated with the festive season. John Aubrey, writing in the 17th century, describes how in gentlemen’s houses at Christmas ‘the first diet that was brought to table was a boar’s head with a lemon in his mouth.’ The Boar’s Head ceremonies held at Queen’s College, Oxford and in London by the Butchers’ Company still preserve this custom.

Boar's Head

On the tenth day of Christmas…still merry.  This image is ‘The Wassail Bowl’, drawn by John Gilbert (Illustrated London News, 22 December 1860, page 579). The beverage of choice for the wassail bowl was lambswool – hot spiced ale with toasted apples bobbing on the surface. Carol singers often went door to door with an empty wassail bowl, in the hope of cadging a drink off wealthier neighbours, but this does not seem to be the case in this particular illustration!

Wassail Bowl

On the eleventh day of Christmas…last dance. Published by the Moore Brothers in the 1800s. The Moore Brothers were tea merchants based in King William Street, City of London, as indicated by the logo in the top right-hand corner.

12 day of xmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…Christmas goes out in fine style! A festive party two hundred years ago with Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Wordsworth and Keats.

Keats 1815

“The Book of Blockheads” by Charles Bennett: A Victorian Gem

Gem 1

Illustrator, satirist and children’s writer Charles Bennett was born near Covent Garden in 1828. His life was short (he died at only 38) and punctuated by ill health but he was a popular and gifted man, who was clearly liked by his colleagues. He was described by M. H Spielmann, in his ‘History of “Punch”’ as “one of the brightest and most talented draughtsmen Punch ever had.” His peers seem to have not only appreciated his skills but also his sense of humour, indulging in friendly banter at his expense. He was teased by them for his artistically long hair, for example a ‘Punch Council’ of October 24th 1866 resolved:

“That this meeting deeply sympathises with C H Bennett on the state of his hair.
That this meeting appreciates the feeling which detains the said Bennett from the Council until his hair shall have been cut.” (Spielmann, 77)

They go on to offer to set up a subscription to enable him to go the barbers and “have his dam [sic.] hair cut” and be able to re-join the assembly of the brethren.

Bennett made over 230 drawings for “Punch” including a series of illustrations on “The Essence of Parliament.” Spielmann thought that Bennett would be remembered for his parliamentary drawings.

Gem 2

“Essence of Parliament” for 10th February 1866 issue of “Punch” by Bennett

“The great Reform Bill stands a thing of snow.
While DERBY, DIZZY, WALPOLE, missiles fling.”

Gem 3

 “Fresh Game for Mr Punch” by Bennett for “Punch” 11th August 1866.  The peacock figure at the bottom of the image is writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton who was raised to the peerage in 1866.

Bennett was frequently in financial difficulty and after his death the men of “Punch” raised some money to help his family by putting on a play and other performances (July 29th 1867).  The programme included “Cox and Box; or the Long Lost Brothers” with original music by Arthur Sullivan and Tom Taylor’s popular drama “A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” with Mark Lemon and Ellen Terry among the players.

Gem 4

The Dalziels were the engravers of much of Bennett’s work but Joyce Irene Whalley tells us that he frequently cut his own wood blocks and was one of the few artists of the period to use both etching and wood engraving. She goes on to say:

“His illustrations had a certain whimsical and facetious quality about them, in keeping with much contemporary work, and although he could make his pictures perfectly plain and attractive to a child, he nearly always added a touch of detail which would appeal more to an adult.” (79)

That appeal to adults is borne out in Bennett’s “Book of Blockheads” which was published by Samson Low of Ludgate Hill in 1863. It was essentially a child’s A-Z combined with an amusing moral tale.

It opens with “Once upon a time there stood, in the middle of next week, a little city called Block.” Their neighbours the Wiseacres are angry with them and decide to lay siege to Block and starve the Blockheads into good manners. Their attempt is foiled by the gate being locked so they sit outside and wait. As the ‘besieged’ inmates run out of food the greatest Blockheads are asked by the increasingly desperate inhabitants to ‘get their dinners’. There follows 26 (one alliterative name for each letter) endeavours which fail to fulfil the city’s hunger.

‘Charley the Captain’ offers to fight for their dinners, but first he must ‘be covered in lace’.
In a few short sentences Bennett manages to communicate to children and adults alike the character’s self-importance and stupidity.

“So in honour of the battle he was going to win, they brought all the gold lace they could find, and with a strong needle and double thread sewed it onto his coat, hat, gloves and breeches, – they would have sewn it on his boots but they could not get the needle through.”

Gem 5

The illustration shows a tangle of arms, legs, bellows and umbrella, with Charley (finally dressed for battle) astride his innocent victims in dramatic pose and with frenzied expression. The contained shape of the image intensifies the sense of frantic movement and noise in a tightly controlled space. The bellows and the windmill in the image are both references to “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. Charlie is tilting (as in jousting) at windmills i.e. his attack is misplaced and will not achieve its purpose.

Upper class characters are largely portrayed as out of touch with the city inhabitants. “Edward the Esquire” gets it wrong because generally he “holds his nose up in the air and his dinner comes to him” and Kole the King just doesn’t understand the problem and complains that “they are always wanting something to eat.”

Francis the Farmer is well meaning and ploughs the land and plants crops for their dinners but fails to appreciate that they need their dinners now and cannot wait for them to grow.

Richard the Robber tries to steal their dinners but doesn’t manage to steal anything useful.

He is depicted running away from the inhabitants of Block, his legs stretched out across the image, his sword mirroring the stretched legs and the watches he has stolen curved before him.

Gem 6

Only the Fool, the cleverest man in Block, named Zephaniah the Zany manages to get the Blockheads their dinners.

“He puzzled it up, he puzzled it down, he puzzled it in and at last, he puzzled it out”…but you will have visit to read the book to find the solution!

Watch our Pinterest boards & blog in the coming months for more illustrations from Bennett including “The Sorrowful Ending of Noodle Doo”.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian


Bennett, Charles H. The Book of Blockheads. London: S. Low, Son, and Co, 1863.
(Our reference H 6.6 no 10)

“Punch or the London Charivari” 1866
(Our reference ST 670)

Spielmann, M. H. The History of “Punch.” London; Paris; Melbourne: Cassell and Company, 1895.
(Our Reference 052)

Whalley, Joyce Irene et al. A History of Children’s Book Illustration. London: Murray with the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1988.
(Our reference 741:64)