While the Abbess Christina was adorning her cloister gardens with roses and flowering herbs, other monasteries were being beautified in like manner. The first Abbot of Ely, Brithnodus, was famed for his skill in planting and grafting, and improved the Abbey by making orchards and gardens around it.†
It seems as if there were gardens at Ely earlier than his time (twelfth century), as the following quaint story implies the existence of some sort of garden in the neighbourhood of Ely. It is related among various miracles wrought at the tomb of St. Etheldreda ‡ how the hand of a girl was cured. She was servant to a certain priest, and " was gathering herbs in the garden on the Lord's Day, when the wood which she held in her hand, and with which she desired to pluck the herbs unlawfully, so firmly adhered (to her hand) that no man could pluck it out for the space of five years, by the merits of St.
* Migne, Patrologiæ cursus completus, tom. 159-160, sec. xii. " Eadmer," p. 427. Also D'Achery, Spicilegium (Paris, 1723), Vol. II., p. 893. Freeman, Wm. Rufus, Vol. II., p. 32.
" Rex siquidem propter inspiciendas rosas et alias florentes herbas, claustrum nostrum ingressus".
† Gale, Historiœ Britannicœ, 1691. " Hist. Elieusis," Liber II., chap. ii.
‡ Dugdale, Monasticon, Vol. I., p. 4.73 (new ed.).
Etheldreda was cured." The Saint died in 679, and, although of no historical value, surely such a curious legend is worth relating.
Few records of a very early date have come down to us, but monastic life did not quickly change, and probably the gardens of the fourteenth century differed little from those of the twelfth. To gain a fuller knowledge of these gardens, we must pass over two centuries to the time when written accounts begin. As we get into the fourteenth century there is more material on which to work. The outlines of the management of these gardens is clear, although the details can only be filled in by imagination.
Each department within the monastery was directed in a regular and orderly way, and was presided over by an officer, with set duties to perform: who had to keep the accounts of his office, and was responsible for its management. There was a Gardener, or Hortulanus or Gardinarius, or Garden Warder, just as much as there was an Almoner, Sacristan, Precentor, or any other officer.
In some instances the accounts of the Hortulanus have been preserved, and further references to gardening matters are scattered throughout various chartularies. Two very perfect series are those of Norwich Priory and Abingdon Abbey,* and they are doubtless fair examples of the Gardener's accounts in the majority of monasteries. There are four accounts at Abingdon, the earliest for the year 1369-70. The Norwich series is far more numerous, there being some thirty rolls, the earliest 1340, the last 1529 ; the first years of the fifteenth century being well represented.
These accounts show the receipts and expenses of the office, the cost of repairs, the money received from the few products sold, but they throw no light on the processes of cultivation, nor do they particularize the plants which were grown.
Like the other officers, or obedientiars, the Hortulanus had his "famulus" to assist in the work, and was also allowed to employ labourers, and money was forthcoming for their payment from the rent of some small piece of land, or some tenements which belonged to the office. At Ramsey Abbey* there were two "famuli" in the garden, and their payment (circ. 1170 a.d.) was " to each of them fourteen loaves," and two acres of land.† But in spite of various small rents and money received from the surplus garden produce, or grain grown on the lands belonging to the garden office, the accounts do not always show a balance on the right side, and the receipts not infrequently failed to cover the expenses.
* Those at Norwich are only in MS. Those at Abingdon are printed by Camden Soc, Accounts of the Obedientiars of Abingdon Abbey, R. E. G. Kirk, 1892.
In early times the monks seem to have worked better, or at any rate managed more carefully, for the garden paid its expenses; but at Norwich as the years went on, the office got more and more into debt. In 1429 "the expenses exceed the receipts, £8. 2s. 8 1/2 d.;" in 1431 there is a deficit of £13. 16s. 8 3/4d. Then a new plan began, and the garden was let to a certain William Draper, who paid 40s. for the farm of it; ‡ this state of things continued to the end of the period covered by these accounts. The following are transcriptions of some of the rolls, the greater part are translated from the Latin but the words in quotation marks are spelt as they occur in the originals.
The earliest roll, a.d. 1340, is here given complete.
Account of brother Peter di Donewich of the garden in the 14th year of Dan William di Claxton Prior.
Remainder of preceeding account, 73s. 8d.
Of rent of assize that is to say from Adam Gilbirt now holding one shop in Nedle rowe, l8d.—of " fagot " branches and roots, 28s. 2 1/2d.—of rods [of] " osiers," 13s. 4d.—of timber " Stamholt and wrong," 9s. 8d. —of hay, 36s. 10d.—of beans, 13d.—of herbs, 13d.—of garlick, 11d.—of apples & pears, 13s. 4 1/2d.—of " Sandice " (Sandal wood?), 5s. 6d.— of eggs, 14s.—of " hempsede," 1d.—of wax, 9s. 7d.—of "forage," 2s.— of " lapp," 3s. Sum of receipts, £S. 19s. 6d.
* Cartularium Monasterii de Rameseia, Wm. Hart. List of Monastic officers.
† At Durham monastery the payment was to " Robert Kyrvour, ortulanus, per annum 5s.," together with a few other small payments amounting to about another 5s. (Surtees Society).
‡ Examples of the entries: — 1471. Receipts " From the great garden demised to John Plomer for the term of 20 years this being the sixth, 25s." 1487. From Robert Castyr for the farm of the great garden, demised to him for the term of 10 years this being the second, 26s. 8d".
Of 1 cow, 3 bullocks, 27s.—of calves, 8s. 2d.—of milk, 65s. 9d.—of the farm of 1 cow demised to farm, 2s.—sum, 102s. 11d. Sum of whole receipts, £17. 16s. 1 1/4d.