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.

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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

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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

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