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.
Another old rhyme thus celebrates these vines :—
" Quatuor sunt Elić: Lanterna Capella Marić, Et Molendinum, nec non claus Vinea vinum".
" Englished " thus by Austin, in 1653 :—
" Foure things of Elie towne, much spoken are. The Leaden Lanthorn, Marie's chappell rare The mighty Milhill in the Minster field, And fruitful vineyards which sweet wine do yeeld."*
Ely long continued to be famous for its grapes. From time to time, when the manors were in the king's hands, during some interregnum caused by the death of the Bishop ; the papers relative to the administration of the lands give evidence of the vineyards as well as of the orchards and gardens belonging to the See, from which a profit was derived.† The chief entries refer to the "herbage of the garden," "apples," "pears" and nuts sold, also hemp and reeds. The farm of the " rosery " often occurs, but the word is disappointing; and it stands for " roseria," " rosar," or bed for reeds or rushes, at places in the Fens.‡
In the " Bailiwick of Cambridge, except the island," and at Somersham Manor, there were vineyards which yielded grapes, but the principal one was at Ely itself. In 1298 as much as twenty-seven gallons of verjuice, "viridi succo," from the grapes, were sold ; and the next year, twenty-one gallons.
* Ralph Austin, A Treatise on Fruit Trees. 1653.
† Exchequer Q. R. Bishops' Temporalities, 91/95Ł; and Ministers' Accounts, 1132/9 (Record Office).
‡ " Litilport 40s. of yearly rent of the ' Roseria' at the Annunciation," a.d. 1302.
The following are examples of the entries of most of the Manors:— 1286. Downham. 9s. of apples and nuts sold there.
1286. Littlelburi. 7s. 2d. of apples and pears sold there during the same time. 1286. Derham. 15s. of apples sold there.
1298. Feltevelle. 55s. 9d. of herbage and fruit of the garden and pasture sold.
The entry runs thus :—
" And of 109s. 8d. of pasture and herbage sold in the vineyard and elsewhere in divers places in the summer. And of 25s. 3d. of fruit in two gardens and the vineyard, " besides the grapes, with 21 gallons of verjuice sold. And of Ł10 for 9 1/2 butts of wine sold, of the remainder of the preceding year".
From another passage in 1302 it appears that cherries were the other fruit, besides the grapes, which grew in the vineyard,* and also we find in the same year the charges for the livery of the vine-dresser and the labourer under him, which was paid for in corn.†
The Bishops of Ely also had a vineyard attached to the garden, " Ely Place," of their house in Holborn, the site of which the present " Vine Street " commemorates. The earliest records of these gardens date from the reign of Edward III., and they are preserved at Ely. They are most interesting from the names of streets and houses in London mentioned in them, some with gardens attached,‡ for which rent was paid to the Bishop. But it is only in a few of the earliest ones that we find any details of the garden or vineyard, for from the year 1379-80 to 1480-81, they were let at the yearly sum of 60s.
The rent of the garden alone was 20s. The accounts until the year 1419 are preserved at Ely; the continuation from 1423 to 1483 are in the Record Office.§ Among the latter in the time of Bishop John Morton, 20 to 21 Edward IV., we find the garden is at last again in the Bishop's hands; the entry states that there is no rent, " quod occupatur ad vsum Domini proprium hoc anno".
The following is the earliest of the rolls at Ely :— Account of Adam Vynour, gardener ("ortolani ") of the Lord Bishop of Ely, in his Manor of Holbourne, and collector of the rents, belonging to the said manor, from Michaelmas in the 46th to 7th June in the 47 year of Edward III.
* "Of 20d. from cherries in the vineyard sold".
† 20 -March to 18 July—30th Edward I. "Wheat and barley—-In the livery of one ' vinitor' during the same time, 2 qrs. 1 bus., he taking 1 quarter for 8 weeks. In the livery of his ' garcionis ' during the same time 6 1/2 bushels 1 peck taking 1 quarter for 20 weeks".
‡ 1312. " In lez railes in gardino apud Faryndonesin".
§ Ministers' Accounts, Bishops' Temporalities, 1137/10. (1372-3). (Then follow rents of assize, and payments for the farm of shops. 77s. 6d).
Issues of the Garden—And of 16s. for onions and garlick sold.—And of 9s. 2d. for herbs, "lekes," parsley, and herbage sold.—And of 48s. 6d. for pasture in "le gras5erd " sold, and of 5s. 4d. for beans in the husks sold, sum, 79s., also Ł6. 6s. 8d. from Sir Thomas Wylton, sum total of receipts, Ł14. 3s. 2d.