Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

30 May 2018

An unexpected historic herb garden in Southwark

Southwark Cathedral Herb garden on chapel foundations

At the end of last week I visited Borough Market near London Bridge to hear a talk on planting for urban bees as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival. Southwark Cathedral is next to the world famous market and I'd read on the London Open Squares website that there's a herb garden in the churchyard. It's sited on the 14th century foundations of the original Priory chapel and planted with herbs that the Augustinian Canons would have used for cooking, strewing and brewing, or medicinally in the nearby 12th Century St. Thomas' hospital (named for Thomas Beckett, now the Herb Garrett Museum).

4 Aug 2011

Tales of York Rise

Rose finial
Thistle finial
I've been thinking for some time about putting up a page on the history of York Rise. Not only are the flats in a conservation area but they were very innovative when built in 1938: a lot of thought went into the planning to ensure that the properties were more than just housing: plenty of outside space for gardening, leisure and playspaces for the children despite proximity to Hampstead Heath. Sheds were provided for pram storage as there were no lifts to the top floors. (Very handy now for garden tools!) Every flat had a balcony so the occupant could open the door and enjoy fresh air and each balcony had a window box for flowers or tomatoes. My personal favourite was the wonderful Gilbert Bayes designed ceramic finials, shown here, sitting atop the drying line posts; they were removed 15 years ago for safekeeping but I'm on mission to get them restored, if only in the shape of replicas. (The rose and thistle were the emblems of the London Midland Railway who funded the initial build.)

Families, friends and neighbours were relocated as one from the Somers Town area behind Euston and were bonded by moving to this new life together. Most of the tenants today were either born here or have lived here for many years; elderly tenants have known some of today's mothers since they were babies; this not only adds to the sense of community (people know each other here) but provides a wealth of history if you have the time to chat, which I do. I enjoy knowing that this is such a safe, and largely peaceful, community that people have wanted to grow old here.

So, the history. Well, I've finally been spurred into action by someone who used to live here, in fact was born here, and contacted me through this blog. She left in 1983, I moved here in 2002 but it's astonishing the number of people here that we both know (of). I've been entertained by email with stories from the past and she's been kind enough to provide me with a few photos from her personal archives.

So the history page at the top of this blog is about York Rise beginnings and how that ties in with our veg growing today. I hope that other readers will enjoy it, even if it may be a bit long - and on Friday I'll be back with the veg news!

The Wonderful Wyvern, who used to sit in the centre.

28 Aug 2009

A tale of radish past…

radishes in glassJust because they're beautiful…

Having searched (and failed) to find suitable recipes to honour our glut of radishes, I bring you instead…
Radish Folklore! (gleaned from Garden Action)

Apparently in the old days, when people had time to sit around and discover these things,
(probably when I was just a girl), lovers of the humble radish believed that eating them would stimulate the appetite, and be good for hair and nails, teeth, gums and nerves. (This one I can vouch for, being slightly tubby with all my own teeth and of a cheerful disposition.)

Tradition would have it that they help to speed up recuperation from nervous exhaustion. (Those living life in the fast lane should take note.) Constipation is eased by eating radishes. (Well, one never knows, does one? …)

Ancient wisdom reveals that whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis have also been treated with the radish. Chronic liver and gallbladder disease, including gallstone and kidney stone afflictions, have responded by eating the whole plant. (Oh, surely not! the leaves are so prickly! - perhaps if they're cooked first? I leave you to experiment, should the need arise.)

Or, how about some medieval medical advice for baldness (found on - love that name). In 1597, John Gerard wrote in The Herbal: "The root stamped with hony (sic) and the powder of a sheepes heart dried, causeth haire to grow in short space."

Oo, what we did before trichologists (… or Marmite. Remember that ad, UK viewers?)

21 Aug 2009

People Need Roots…

"Kiddies" digging in the VegPatch, circa 1960

The urge to grow veg (and flowers) resurrects a fine, historical trend within our community.

When the flats were built in the late 1930s, it was specified that there should be plenty of space for social living and gardening: allotments, raised brick beds, window boxes on each balcony, gardens between - and flower beds surrounding - the houses. The land for the flats was provided by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. It was a triangle of orchard farmland, leftover after the railway line had been run next to it, and had therefore never been poisoned by industrial use.

Irene Barclay*, writing in her book ‘People Need Roots’ (1976), considered that
'the finest achievements are at York Rise, where we had much more space for both communal and private gardens, and for children’s gardens, where the kiddies learnt not to kill worms, and how to wait for seeds to germinate.'  
And, to prove it, here they are, gardening their little socks off in the early 1960s. (The real point of interest here is the garden… that's our VegPatch in its previous incarnation.)

The early York Rise tenants - mainly railwaymen rehoused from the Euston area - had a love of gardening, and Mrs Barclay writes that ‘York Rise’ became famous for its flower and vegetable gardens.

Oh. Great. … so, no pressure there then.
*Irene Barclay was an architect whose work was instrumental in the early days of the St. Pancras Housing Improvement Society (as our landlord was then known).
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