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.
It was a profitable crop, and Tusser, who lived in the Eastern counties, warns the husbandman not to forget it:—
" Pare saffron plot Forget it not His dwelling made trim look shortly for him When harvest is gone then saffron comes on A little of ground brings saffron a pound." †
* Le Strange, Household Books.
† Five Hundred Pointes of Goode Husbandrie.—August.
The work in gardens of all sizes seems to have been superintended by one head-gardener, who had the charge of the buying and selling and planting of the garden stuff; but the actual manual cultivation was done by labourers hired by the day, and not by a permanent staff. The post of head-gardener in any of the Royal gardens was quite an important position.* The wages were from about £12 per annum, and all the money for the payment of labourers passed through the head-gardener's hands. The labourers received 6d., 4d., or 3d. a day, or even 2d. a day if they were given food. The weeding was usually done by women, and 3d. or 2d. a day was the ordinary wage.†
Garden tools have not changed much since the earliest times. The spade and rake we now use are much the same may 8th, 1540.—"to claaston, for mowyng of the garden at hunstanton, 2d." september, 1543.—"for dyggen in the garden, 4d".
* 1532.—also paid by the hands of the forsaid edmund gryff(yn) (head-gardener), for digging, gathering, and sorting of the said trees, 12d. also paid to the said edmund gryff(yn), for carriage of the forsaid apple trees, 15d".
1530.—"a gardener at 6d. a day".
1530.—to john hutton, for making and levelling of beds in the king's new garden, and raking of the same, by the space (of) 12 days at 4d. a day, 4s."—Hampton Court Accounts.
December 10th, 1549—" 2 ffellowes for helping in the garden for oon week, 2s. 6d."—Le Strange, Household Books.
1530.—"paid to four gardeners for four days—march 18th, 2s. sd."—A Book of Receipts and Expenses of Cardinal's College Oxford.
† 1530.—"5 labourers and 15 women weeders in the garden and the orchard;" again, "20 women weeders, 2 labourers, and 2 mowers"—a list of the names of the weeders follows, and the men received 4d. per day, the women 3d.—Hampton Court Accounts.
April 23rd (1530).—"paid to two women rooting up unprofitable herbs (extirpantibus herbas inutiles) in the garden for three days, 16d".
June 6th.—" paid to margaret hall, cleansing the garden, 3d".
June 23rd.—"joan fery, working for three days, 10d".
August 19th.—" paid to agnes stringer, working for two days with a half, 7d".
Several more entries of women gardeners follow these: " paid for bread and drink and herrings and other things (for) the gardeners, all women, as appears by the book of expenses of the second term in the seventh week, 2s. 1 3/4d "—Cardinal's College, Oxford.
"3 whemen for wedyng, 6d."—Le Strange, Household Books.
As those of Tudor days. Tusser, in the following passage, enumerates the tools then in use * :—
" Now set doo aske Watering with pot or with dish new sowne doo not so, if ye doo as I wish Through cunning with dible, rake, mattock and spade by line and by leuell, trim garden is made".
We know the cost of these tools from various accounts. The prices ranged from 4d. to is.†
Probably many of the tools were home-made. Fitzherbert, in 1534, in his Book of Husbandry, devotes a paragraph to showing " howe forkes and rakes shulde be made." He says that they should be prepared in the winter, "when the housbande sytteth by the fyre, and hath nothynge to do than may he make theym redye, and tothe* the rakes with dry wethywode, and bore the holes with his wymble,t bothe aboue and vnder, and drive the tethe vpwarde faste and harde, and than wedge them aboue with drye woode of oke . . . They be most comonly made of hasell and withee." Fitzherbert also gives a list of the tools used for grafting: " a graffynge-sawe . . very thynne, and thycke-tothed," " a graffing-knyfe, an inch brode with a thycke backe, to cleue the stock with all," " a mallet to dryue the knyfe and thy wedge in-to the tree," " a sharpe knyfe to pare the stockes heed, and an other sharpe knyfe to cutte the graffe cleane." " Two wedges of harde wood or elles of yren".
Tools used in grafting.
* Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie.
† Hampton Court, March, 1533. Item for three iron rakes serving for the King's new garden at 6d. the piece—18d. Item for a hatchet serving for the said garden, 6d. Item for three new knives to shred the quicksets in the new garden at 3d. the piece, 9d. Item for six pieces of round line to measure and set forth the new garden, 12d. Item for two cutting hooks, 2s. Item for two cutting knives, 4d. Item for two rakes, 16d. Item for two chisels, 6d. Item for a grafting saw, 4d. The price paid for a spade at Hunstanton, in Norfolk, on July 7th, 1538, was 8d., and on December 1st, in the same year, 5d. and " for a hattchett, a rake and a parying yearne (= paring-iron) for the garden, 10d. March nth, 1543."—Le Strange, Household Books.
While the husbandman was working in his garden, or making his tools, the housewife busied herself with the preparation of conserves of fruit, and distilling and making decoctions from almost every herb that grew. This business was of such importance that a room was in most houses set apart for the purpose. We have a survival of this custom in the "still room" of modern days. One of Tusser's "five hundred pointes" is "good huswifelie Physicke," in which these stanzas occur :—
" Good aqua composita, vinegar tart Rose water and treakle to comfort the hart. Cold herbs in hir garden for agues that burne that ouer strong heat to good temper may turne.
Get water of Fumentorie, Liuer to coole and others the like, or els lie like a foole Conserue of the Barberie, Quinces and such with sirops that easeth the sickley so much".