This section is from the book "A History Of Gardening In England", by Alicia Amherst. Also available from Amazon: A History Of Gardening In England.
" The rose rayleth hire rode The leues on the lyhte wode Waxen al with wille The mone mandeth hire bleo The lilie is lossom to seo The fenyl and the fille".
Springtime, MS., c. 1300.
DURING the years which succeeded the Norman Conquest, the country was constantly plunged in wars abroad and troubles at home. There could be little thought of the quiet pleasures of a garden while William I. and his sons ruled the conquered English with a rod of iron : while Stephen was fighting for the crown against " the Empress Maud"; while men's minds were occupied by Crusades to the Holy Land; or while the Constitution of England was being slowly built up, and her liberties gradually secured by bloodshed and ceaseless struggles.
It was necessary, in these troublous times, for security of life and property, to live in as inaccessible a position as possible. Castles were built on the tops of hills, or protection was sought by placing the dwelling behind some river or marsh, when no high ground or escarpments of steep rocks afforded a suitable defence. This was the opposite course from that pursued by the monks, who, as a rule, chose a fertile valley in which to place their cloister, and plant their orchards, gardens and vineyards. There was no room for much garden within the glacis of a feudal castle, and as it was not safe for any of the inmates to venture beyond, it was scarcely worth while making any garden or orchard outside, merely to see it plundered by some turbulent neighbour.
But, in spite of all these disadvantages, some attempt at cultivation of fruit was not unfrequently made.
At Carlisle there must have been gardens round the town, and outside the castle walls, if the old rhyming Chronicle of the Wars in 1173 and 1174, between Henry II. and William the Lion, of Scotland, is to be believed. The supposed author, Jordan Fantosme, describes the siege of the Castle of Carlisle. The translation of one verse runs thus* : —
" They did not lose within, I assure you I do not lie, As much as amounted to a silver denier. But they lost their fields, with all their corn [And] their gardens [were] ravaged by those bad people, And he who could not do any more injury took it into his head To bark the apple trees ;—it was bad vengeance." †
Scattered throughout the Pipe rolls and Exchequer rolls and Liberate rolls, there are to be found a few entries which indicate some of the royal gardens in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In 1158-9 occur payments to the king's orchardman, " Henricus Arborarii," in London, and to the vine-dressers at Windsor and elsewhere.‡ In 1259, Henry III. made extensive alterations at the Palace of Westminster, and among payments to workmen and carpenters and others,§ occur several to labourers for " levelling the area of the garden with a roller".
In the reign of Edward I. further entries occur for keeping the garden, and for dressing the vines in the vineyard at Westminster, and of payment of the daily wage of 2 1/4d. to "Roger le Herberur," "formerly servant to the Lord the King Henry, the king's father." In 1276-7, we find the king paying as much as £97- 17s. 7 1/2d. to Master Robert de Beverley, keeper of the king's woods, " for divers necessary things ... to make mews at Charing, and likewise to make the king's kitchen-garden there." Henry III.'s chief garden was at Woodstock, but he was not the originator of it, as there had been a garden there in the time of the second Henry. In it was the labyrinth which concealed the " Bower," made famous by the tragic fate of the " Fair Rosamond." A halo of romance and mystery hangs round this hiding place, but in reality labyrinths were by no means uncommon. There is evidence of the existence of labyrinths in very early times, and they, presumably, suggested the maze of more modern date. The first labyrinths were winding paths cut in the ground, and the survival of these is still traceable in several places in England. Of these, Saffron Walden, with its encircling ditch, is the most striking example. Camden describes one existing in his time in Dorsetshire, which went by the name of Troy Town or Julian's Bower.*
* Surtees Society, 1S40, p. 77.
† A curious confirmation of the gardens at Carlisle even earlier, 1131, is in the Pipe Roll, 31st Henry I. (printed ed., p. 141).
"William Fitz Baldwin renders account of 30s. of old farm of the king's garden of Carlisle. He delivered [the same] into the Treasury—And he is quit. And the same William owes 30s. of the farm of the same garden of this year past".
‡ Pipe Roll Society. Vol. I., 1884.
§ Devon Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, 1837.
In 1250, Henry III. improved the gardens at Woodstock for his queen. Among certain works which he commanded the Bailiff of Woodstock to perform, were the following:—"To make round about the garden of our Queen two walls, good and high, so that no one may be able to enter, with a becoming and honourable herbary near our fish pond, in which the same Queen may be able to amuse herself;—and with a certain gate from the herbary which is next the chapel of Edward our son, into the aforesaid garden." † Again, on August 19th, 1252, the order was given to turf the "great herbarium." ‡ The word herbarium may simply mean a place where herbs were grown, but in this case it seems as if it were used for " herber," the old English word for arbour, which only means a shelter, or " harbour".
The same year, among other works at Clarendon the queen's " herbarium" was to be " remade and amended." §
* Camden's Britannia, by Gough, 1806. Vol. I., p. 73.
† Liberate Roll, 34 Hen. III., m. 6—Dated at Wodestok, 20 June, " cum herbario decenti et honesto prope vivarium nostrum, in quo ipsa Regina possit spaciari".
‡ Ibid., 36 Hen. III., m. 4.
§ Ibid., 36 Hen. III., July 9th, m. 6.
This looks as if it was what is usually understood by an arbour, a covered-in place. There are many descriptions of such arbours in the fourteenth century, and it was the custom to turf them. The herbarium may, however, have been a small private garden, planted with herbs, with high thick hedges. The garden at Clarendon was enclosed by a paling,* while those of Windsor † and Kennington ‡ were enclosed by a ditch. In 1260 more alterations were carried out in the garden outside Windsor Castle; the gardener's house was moved, and a further wall built. During many successive reigns this garden at Windsor was kept up, and from time to time improved, and the orchard or vineyard was extended. Entries of the wages paid to the gardener and the vine dresser occur in many of the household accounts preserved in the Record Office. The gardener received 100s. a year, the labourers 2 1/2d. a day. It is curious to note that the produce of these gardens was sold, and it seems to have been the exception when all the fruit was consumed by the king's household. In 1332 there is the following entry among the receipts—"6s. 6d. received for the fruits and herbage of the king's garden outside the Castle," § and other like entries occur. In " the account of Walter Hungerford, Knight, Steward of the Household of King Henry V. and Constable of the Castle of Wyndsore" || (1419-22), "for any issues arising from fruits of the garden and vines of the king there in the two second years (sic) in the time of this account, he does not answer, for that the fruits of the said garden were ' delivered to the Household of the Lord the King there, and the grapes of the vines there were eaten by the Ladies and others of the King's Household then being there, so that the same Constable had not and could not have any profit thereof, as he says upon his oath".
* Liberate Roll, 37 Hen. III., m. 13. † Ibid., 37 Hen. 111., m. 17. ‡ Ibid.
§ Ministers' Accounts. Bundle 753, No. 9. || Ibid. Bundle 755, No. 10.