Sunday, 4 November 2007

Deal of watering to do...


The Diary of a Victorian Gardener: William Cresswell and Audley End is, in part, exactly what it says: the diary kept by Victorian gardener William Cresswell between February 1873 and December 1875 (the last few entries are rather sparse). The, usually short, diary entries have been transcribed but otherwise edited very little, and many will look familiar to any gardener. A typical entry reads thus:

Wednesday 13 [May 1874]: Wind N.E. in morning & all day, changing in evening to S. dull all day but mild. Fruit trees on walls disbudded. French Beans raised in boxes, planted out & covered at night with mats to protect from frost. Potatoes are now black from frost, late fruit also injured.
William Cresswell worked at Audley End House in Essex for quite a brief time: March 1874 until he was given a month's notice at the end of August that year. Nonetheless his diary provided a valuable record of gardening practice and plant varieties when the garden was restored by English Heritage in 1999. The book contains a brief record of the restoration, as well as an introduction on Cresswell's life and work (he was later to work at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge), a commentary on the diary, and a list of the plants mentioned.

Not all of the entries relate solely to gardening; there are hints of Cresswell's courtship - "sent book to E.A.C. for birthday present on 21st" and his regular church attendance: "Went in E.[vening] to St. Saviour's church, Brockley, heard a nice funeral sermon.", and occasionally to notable events. The overall picture is of a strong-minded young man, hard-working and conscientious, whose ideas occasionally get him into trouble.

The book is nicely illustrated, with some attractive drawings in the diary section and photographs of places and people mentioned. It's a book for browsing rather than reading straight through and would make an excellent present for anyone interested in the history of gardening.

6 comments:

Lesley (El Zed) said...

Why was he fired? Too opinionated?

GeraniumCat said...

He doesn't say, Lesley, but he was lectured "on obedience" shortly before so I'd guess so, yes.

BooksPlease said...

This sounds an interesting book. I particularly like the insight into life at that period that you get in a personal account.

Hannah Velten said...

Does he mention anything about the methods he uses to control moles, rats, etc? Rather a stange quesion, I know. But there is a reason...

GeraniumCat said...

Booksplease, I wish he'd kept the diary for longer, I found it very interesting even though the entries were often short.

Don't think there is anything, Hannah, but I shall check when I'm home (in London at the moment. Next project? if so, let me know, I'll look out for refs in other places (got the odd old gardening book, as I like them).

Hannah Velten said...

Yes, please. Long term project - my village has a long association with mole catching and I have an idea for a novel...any info would be greatly received....characters, gardens, techniques....thank you.