Friday, February 12, 2021

Memories of Old Garden Gates & Walls

Trull House, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

When we moved to this home, we built a garden gate near the new little garden area, we created at the front of the house. Nothing like these, of course, but a gate nonetheless. Our gates are smaller than their English & European predecessors, but they are still intended to limit access to the most personal areas of our property & to give limits to the smallest of grandchildren & family pets. Gates can also mark changes in personal roles, as people cross from one side to another, from one role to another, perhaps even from one life to another. A gate can either invite the visitor in or clearly intend to keep him out.

And it is true. Some folks I want to come in through my gates, some I do not.

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire
St Margaret's Place, Bradford on Avon.
Sissinghurst, Kent
Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Gardens, Surrey
Meadowbrook Oakland Unversity, Michigan
Mateo, California
Marks Hall Arboretum & Gardens, Coggeshall, Essex
Llanerchaeron, Wales

Helmsley, Yorkshire
Great Dixter (1910 Edwin Lutyens)

Garnish Island, Ireland

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Christ Church, Oxford
Chicago Botanic Garden
Charleston Farmhouse Garden, East Sussex
Brownsover Hotel, Rugby, Rugby
Ballindoolin House, Ireland
Sudley Castle Gardens
Ardgillan Castle near The Skerries, North of Dublin.

Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it. Genesis 2:15

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Geo Washington (1732-1799) - A Man In Love with the Earth

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer (1915) by Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 

A Man In Love with the Soil

One December day in the year 1788 a Virginia gentleman sat before his desk in his mansion beside the Potomac writing a letter...  The letter was addressed to an Englishman, by name Arthur Young, the foremost scientific farmer of his day, editor of the Annals of Agriculture, author of many books...

"The more I am acquainted with agricultural affairs," such were the words that flowed from the writer's pen, "the better I am pleased with them; insomuch, that I can no where find so great satisfaction as in those innocent and useful pursuits. In indulging these feelings I am led to reflect how much more delightful to an un-debauched mind is the task of making improvements on the earth than all the vain glory which can be acquired from ravaging it, by the most uninterrupted career of conquests."

Thus wrote George Washington in the fullness of years, honors and experience...his correspondent wrote that it was a "noble sentiment, which does honor to the heart of this truly great man." 

"I think with you that the life of a husbandman is the most delectable," he wrote on another occasion to the same friend. "It is honorable, it is amusing, and, with judicious management, it is profitable. To see plants rise from the earth and flourish by the superior skill and bounty of the laborer fills a contemplative mind with ideas which are more easy to be conceived than expressed."

When Washington made a book-plate he added to the old design spears of wheat to indicate what he once called "the most favorite amusement of my life..."

He was born on a plantation, was brought up in the country and until manhood he had never even seen a town of five thousand people. First he was a surveyor, and so careful and painstaking was he that his work still stands the test... 

After the capture of Fort Duquesne had freed Virginia from danger he resigned his commission, married and made a home. Soon after he wrote to an English kinsman who had invited him to visit London: "I am now I believe fixed at this seat with an agreeable Consort for Life. And hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced amidst a wide bustling world."

Thereafter he quitted the quiet life always with reluctance. Amid long and trying years he constantly looked forward to the day when he could lay down his burden and retire to the peace and freedom of Mount Vernon, there to take up again the task of farming.. he wrote to his old comrade-in-arms the Marquis de Chastellux: "I am at length become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, where under my own vine and fig-tree free from the bustle of a camp and the intrigues of a court, I shall view the busy world with calm indifference, and with serenity of mind, which the soldier in pursuit of glory, and the statesman of a name, have not leisure to enjoy."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wood Fences in 17C & 18C Virginia - The Wattle Fence


Wattle Fence Landauer Twelve Brother's House manuscript 15C

What might be called a systematized brush fence, that is, the wattle fence, was known in medieval Europe. Wattle construction, also called hurdle-or wickerwork, was well established in 17C England as a method for infilling the walls of timber-framed buildings. 

Wattle Fence From the Theatrum of Casanatense 14C Sage 

Composed of thin, vertical staves about which were woven flexible withes, wattle was finished with mud, clay, & sometimes plaster in its architectural context. Without this earthen covering & with staves or stakes driven into the ground, the wattle fence provided an effective windbreak & more or less defied the invasion or escape of small animals. Availability of materials coupled with familiarity & simplicity of construction suggest the use of wattle-and-daub infill in 17C Virginia. 

The wattle fence also seems to have made an early appearance. Archaeological investigation of Wolstenholmetown, one of the Martin's Hundred sites in James City County, revealed a curving line of small post holes defining what was probably a domestic yard protected by a wattle fence.

At the Clifts Plantation site in Westmoreland County, Virginia, wattle fences appear to have been constructed in conjunction with ditches about 1705. Archaeological findings suggest that such an arrangement enclosed the rectangular gardens, kitchen yard, & possible orchard adjacent to the main house. At the very end of the 18C, just such a combination fence was specified by George Washington in a letter to his farm manager: "When the Angle of Wood, adjoining the present Cornfield at Mansion house is cleared let all the Poles which are of a proper size for a wattled fence, either in whole, or by being split in two, be preserved; as my intention is, when I come home, to have a neat fence of that kind, on a ditch from the White gates along the road to the turn of it, as Allisons stakes will run to the present-fence."

As late as 1850, The American Agriculturist reported that the wattle fence was a common Virginia type & supplied instructions for assembling a "cedar-brush fence … first, throw up a ridge of earth about a foot above the level, & in this drive stakes on a line two to three feet apart, three & a half to four feet high, & then wattle in the cedar limbs, beating them down with a maul as compactly as possible." 

In the same journal, it was noted that the use of banking, as well as ditching, was an important aspect of fencing in the "low lands" of Gloucester & neighboring counties & along the Rappahannock River. Washington's pole variety of wattle fence also endured into the 19C; the placement of its stakes was observed to be 8 to 10 feet apart. Praised for its durability, especially when constructed with stakes of the cedar or chestnut then abundant in Tidewater, the wattle fence was said to survive for about twenty years with relatively little maintenance.

That wattle fence construction required less labor than other types is suggested by the comments of Landon Carter of Richmond County: "I fancy I must put a Watle fence round my new corn fields for I see what with idleness & sickness I can't get rails ready nor all in place."

Philip Vickers Fithian viewed the wattle fence with greater equanimity & wrote an account of fence building at Nomini Hall, Westmoreland County, in 1774: "I walked to see the Negroes make a fence; they drive into the Ground Chestnut stakes about two feet apart in a straight Row, & then twist in the Boughs of Savin which grows in great plenty here …"

In the 17C & 18C Atlantic British American colonial coast, fences were built for mainly practical reasons. In the southern colonies, livestock of all kinds was accommodated in the woods surrounding the cultivated fields. As the animals could be branded or otherwise marked for owner identification & cleared land was often limited, crops came to be enclosed & livestock was thus fenced out. 

But, in New England & parts of the middle colonies, livestock was customarily fenced in.  By no means restricted to agricultural use, fences also defined & protected all types of rural & urban spaces, such as churchyards, gardens, & work-yards, throughout the colonies.

These fences were common in the Chesapeake & in Tidewater Virginia. Fencing was sometimes achieved by the use of masonry walls, but native stone is a scarce resource in the Tidewater region, though brick was used to build some churchyard walls & to enclose certain buildings there. The majority of Virginia fences were constructed of wood. All fence types co-existed during the colonial period; the historical record offers no indication that one type completely supplanted another.

Text from: Partitioning the Landscape: The Fence in Eighteenth-Century Virginia by Vanessa E. Patrick. December 6, 1983. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 0134

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Walled & Fenced Yards

Brick-Walled Yard. 1750s Walled Garden & Grounds at Cleve in Virginia. Anne Byrd of Westover (1725-1757) (Mrs. Charles Carter). 

Brick walls usually surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls.  

A yard is an enclosed division of land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.  

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.

At private homes in rural settings, defined yards often were attached to service buildings used to house livestock or to store firewood or to outdoor kitchens.  

In Southern towns, yards sometimes were paved with bricks or crushed shells.  In 1753, in South Carolina Gazette, a dwelling for sale ad noted "a garden at the south front, and a yard lately paved in."

Eventually the term yard evolved throughout the 18C into the description of a cultivated area enclosed or attached to a dwelling that might contain flowers, orchard or shade trees, or a lawn intended to be used as a pleasure ground and exercise area. 

In the 18C, the term yard was used to designate practical & often commercial work areas such as, hemp yardswood or timber yards, and even dock & ship yards.

By the last quarter of the 18C, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated take exercise, as a prison yard. 

North Carolinian William Martin visiting Richmond, Virginia in 1813, wrote, "every private yard is decorated with the handsomest shade trees which our Country boasts." 

Other yards on larger rural properties were meant for livestock such as cow yards, pig yards, barn yards, poultry yards, chicken yards, turkey yards, & goose yards.  Domestic work yards, especially those used to house animals, were usually separated from kitchen & floral or pleasure gardens by fences or walls.

On smaller properties, homeowners often divided the land closer to the rear of the house into yards. These often included a woodyard or a stackyard for storing wood for heating.  

Some properties included a fenced family yard, which served as a safe, protected barrier against potential domestic & wild animal intrusion. In his Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, John Beale Bordley wrote that the family yard should be planted in clean, closely cut grass & that its margins alone should be allowed to contain purely decorative flowers. 

Bordely explained that the well often stood near the family yard & wood yard. Sheep houses & pigsties commonly had their own individually fenced yards, & many poultry houses, or coops, had a distinct poultry yard often covered with fresh sand & gravel. Sections devoted to animals usually had watering troughs within their yards. 

The women in the family & female servants did the washing & ironing in washhouses, which were usually within or near a separately fenced area where the wash was hung on lines or spread across shrubs to dry. Contemporaries called these areas “bleach yards.”

Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards. Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Wood Yards

Work Yards -Timber and Wood Yards

The term timber yard usually referred to a commercial enterprise selling wood, while wood yard usually was a place for gathering and holding wood at a private dwelling.
In 1736, the South Carolina Gazette advertised a commercial Charleston "Timber-Yard...where any Person may be supplied with all sorts of Boards, Scantling, Laths, Cedar Posts for Gardens, and Frames for Houses."

An edition of the 1740 South Carolina Gazette also advertised a private wood yard, "A House joining the Crown-Inn, with 6 Rooms, a Kitchen, Store Room, Garden and Wood Yard."

The 1761 Maryland Gazette in Baltimore, Maryland, advertised, "To be sold...a good Dwelling-House 80 Feet in Length...Garden...Wood-Yard, Etc."
Some business ventures required wood for fuel. The Pennsylvania Gazette noted in 1768, "a DWELLING HOUSE and BAKEHOUSE, very convenient for Loaf Bread or Sea Biscuit; with a large Wood yard, Stable and Garden, and a Pump at the Door."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Walled & Fenced Courtyard at Virginia Governor's House

Public Yard - Courtyard at Governor's House

Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was home to 7 royal governors, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. A professor from the College of William and Mary sketched a Williamsburg vista in a book published in 1724, when the city was just 25 years old. "From the Church," he said, "runs a Street northward called Palace Street; at the other end of which stands the Palace or Governor's House, a magnificent Structure built at the publick Expense, finished and beautified with Gates, Fine Gardens, Offices, Walks, a fine Canal, Orchards, &c." The Governor’s Palace was new then. It had been finished in 1722, after 16 years of fitful building and mounting expense.

Governor Edward Nott persuaded the General Assembly to authorize its construction with an act passed October 23, 1705, and building began the following summer. In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, levelled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and levelled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."
Governor Alexander Spotswood arrived in 1711, to replace the deceased Nott. The new chief executive pushed for the Palace's completion, and on December 9 the legislature provided another £1,560, with £635 more to be spent on outbuildings, gardens, ornaments, furniture, and a four-foot wall around it all. Another act to finish and beautify the residence passed in 1713, but it was 3 more years before Spotswood took up residence, and the work was still incomplete in 1718.The House of Burgesses was tiring of the continuing expense. It complained on November 21 that Spotswood was "lavishing away all the country's money" on the project. Spotswood promised to pay for the canal and the terraced gardens, if the burgesses would not.
The word "Palace" was used to describe Virginia governor's house about 1714. Just inside the gate – guarded by a stone unicorn on one side and a stone lion on the other – stood two one-and-one-half story brick advance buildings with gabled roofs. They ran perpendicular to the main structure. By 1723, Rev. Hugh Jones reported that the courtyard was "finished and with beautiful gates." 
In the words of one modern writer, the Palace visitor traveled a "carefully orchestrated procession of spaces moving toward and culminating in the presence" of the king's immediate representative in Virginia. Down Palace green, through the ornamental iron gates at the entrance to the courtyard, across the forecourt, up the stone steps, into the hall with its display of muskets and the royal coat of arms, up the stairs, and into the governor's room, the important visitor arrived at the chamber of power. Beyond the house was a formal garden in which guests could stand on the mound of earth that covered the icehouse to look into a large, naturalistic park that stretched away to the north. The stable, carriage house, kitchen, scullery, laundry, and an octagonal bathhouse were arranged in service yards beside the advance buildings. 

But by 1776, the wooden components of the fences had begun to deteriorate, when note was made in the Virginia Council Journal that they were "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round the Garden." Twenty five men were appointed "to repair fences of park" in 1777. And it was recorded that "60 foot of plank, 250 nails" were purchased for the task.