Saturday, April 22, 2017

18C Garden Furniture from England to the British American colonies

As the British American colonies became more secure & furniture became more plentiful in the early 18th century, colonists often moved routine daily chores outdoors as soon as the weather allowed. Preparing vegetables & fruits; churning butter; washing, spinning & sewing; studying schoolwork; and practicing musical instruments all became outdoor activities during the hot, humid summers along the shores of the Atlantic.

In England. Household chairs and tables are carried outdoors.  1738 William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764) The Hervey Converstion Piece - The Holland House Group

Traditionally the formal pleasure gardens of the British gentry, living in servant-laden households, had served as pleasure grounds for promenading, playing at games & sport, meditating, romancing, or entertaining.  It is clear from English paintings, that even the gentry were using their household furniture outdoors.

In England. Here the wife sits on a garden bench.  1763 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Francis Vincent, his Wife Mercy, and Daughter Ann, of Weddington Hall, Warwickshire. Detail

18th Century English Woodcut

By mid-century, the up-to-date colonial gardener knew that the latest taste dictated placing seats & benches to emphasize a focal point in the garden; to terminate an impressive vista on the property; to view the garden or an impressive vista; or to catch a cooling breeze under trees or by the water. As early as 1669, English garden writer John Worlidge had instructed his readers in Systema Agriculturae that proper garden seats should be placed "at the ends of your walks...that whilst you sit in them you will have the view of your garden."

In England. Here the gentleman sits on a bench which is clearly placed at a focal point in his garden.  1749 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The Thomas Cave Family

In his 1718 garden writings, Stephen Switzer, Iconographia Rustica or the Nobleman, Gentleman and Gardeners' Recreation makes a direct reference to the Windsor chair. By 1730, a London newspaper advertisement offered for sale "All sorts of Windsor Garden Chairs."

Like their less wealthy neighbors, colonial gentry usually carted common chairs outside, whenever the weather permitted. Gardens & yards served as welcome extensions of cramped indoor living spaces. Small, close living quarters were the rule in the colonies, even for the rich in the first decades of the 18C, and this encouraged a variety of sedentary outdoor leisure activities across all classes such as doing chores, chatting, reading, gambling, & eating.

In America. Scenes from a Seminary for Young Ladies. St. Louis Art Museum.

Colonials needed something to sit on & something to put things on, indoors & out. Common household furniture including chairs, benches, & tables regularly found their way outdoors. Most British American colonials looked for some balance between the functional & the ornamental. The ordered, geometric gardens of the gentry in the colonies were a combination of ornament & function. Most colonists, even the wealthy Charles Carroll in Annapolis, grew edible plants in their formal terraced garden parterres.

In England. Here the lady of the family sits in a Windsor type chair.  1749 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Mr and Mrs Van Harthals and Son

As the consumer revolution reached full-tilt mid-century, British American colonial gentry occasionally ordered special garden furniture from local craftsmen or from English factors. Garden furniture was part of the competitive furniture trade in England. Most furniture designers offered a few examples in their style books. Although Thomas Chippendale's furniture stylebook was the most influential of the period, enraver & London furniture designer Matthew Darly, who flourished between 1754 & 1778, seemed to have led the way toward this new design.

In England. This tables & chairs sit far from the house in this painting.  1750 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Henry Fiennes Clinton,9th Earl of Lincoln, with his wife Catherine and his son George on the great terrace at Oatlands

Always searching for the latest trend in the mid 1700s, British tastemakers were drawn to rustic or "forest" furniture style for their new natural gardens. No more of the stiff classic benches dotting those old-fashioned Dutch influenced William & Mary English formal gardens.

The 1761 3rd edition of Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, contained a single plate called "Designs for Garden Seats," engraved by Matthew Darly, of rococo French chair with a possible rustic leg, a gothic French settee, & a "grotto chair." Matthew Darly was a London printseller, furniture designer, and engraver who owned a very successful print shop with his wife Mary.

In England. Just throw the fish on the table!  1773 Edward Smith (English artist) An Angling Party (perhaps The Willyams Family at Carnanton)

Even though English garden designers would soon be rebelling against the French & Dutch formal influence in the gardens of the gentry, Chippendale & Darly were introducing a fairly formal serpentine & rococo into the garden with these design patterns. Matthew (also called Mathias) Darly earlier had designed "root chairs and tables," whimsical garden furniture to be made out of gnarled roots, for Edwards & Darly's, A New Book of Chinese Designs published in 1754.

In his 1765 design book The Cabinet and Chair-maker's Real Friend and Companion, English furniture designer Robert Manwaring described his garden seat designs, "designs given for rural Chairs for Summerhouses finely ornamented with Carvings, Fountains, and beautiful Landscapes, with the Shepherd and his flock, reaper, etc. Also, some very beautiful designs, supposed to be executed with Limbs of Yew, Apple, or Pear Trees, ornamented with Leaves and Blossoms, which if properly painted will appear like Native."

Manwaring's 1765 Rural Garden Seat design included classical busts as finials on the back posts. The basic Gothic design incorporated many of painter William Hogarth's serpentine curves. Hogarth had published a treatise on esthetics in 1753, The Analysis of Beauty, which promoted the serpentine curve as the true "line of beauty."

An 1735 inventory of Andrew Allen at Goose Creek, South Carolina did record "an Old Forest Chair." It is not clear whether this refers to one of the simple outdoor chairs which were known in England as forest chairs, or whether "forest" referred to the (beech) forests of the English the Chilterns where many of them were produced or to the shades of green in which they were painted.  There were also a few less practical "designer" forest garden chairs available in Britain.

1786 Unknown artist. John Coakley Lettsom (1733–1810), with His Family on an ornamental Garden Bench, in the Garden of Grove Hill, Camberwell

One of Matthew Darly's root designs.

Life in the colonies was difficult, where many grew old & infirm quickly. For those who could not yet walk or no longer stroll & strut around their grounds, there was the "garden machine" or "rolling chair." A depiction of a "Garden Machine" appeared at the top of a trade card in late 18th century London, which also advertised "all Sorts of Yew Tree, Gothic, and Windsor Chairs."

In the last quarter of the century, 2 South Carolina inventories each boasted "1 Mahogany Roling Chair." Focusing on the special needs of the elderly & the infirm, Charleston cabinetmaker Thomas Elfe advertised in 1751, that he made "All kinds of Machine Chairs...for sickly or weak people."

In America.  This is a rolling chair built for a child.  1751 John Hesselius (1728-1778). The Grymes Children- Lucy Ludwell Grymes 1743-1830, Philip Ludwell Grymes 1746-1805, John Randolph Grymes 1747-96, & Charles Grimes 1748-?  They were the children of Phillip Grymes and his wife Mary Randolph who were born at "Brandon" on the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County, Virginia. In the year following this painting, another daughter, Susanna Grymes was born into the family. Similar rolling chairs & variations which appear to be a cross between a carriage or wagon & a rolling chair are found in British paintings.

In England.  1747 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) Richard, Mary, and Peter, Children of Peter and Mary du Cane Detail

In 1752, a South Carolinian offered his plantation on the Ashley River for sale including "several handsome garden benches." Many garden seats appear in colonial inventories with no specific description, making identification of the style of garden furniture impossible.

In England. Here both mother & father have Windsor chairs. 1751 Arthur Devis (English artist, 1712-1787) The James Family

Two 1755 Charleston inventories of record each of the deceased owning 2 "garden chairs." In 1767, Charleston turner John Biggard specifically advertised that he could produce both "Windsor and Garden chairs." The difference is not spelled out, and without a sketch, it is difficult to know the particularity of each.

In America.  Scenes from a Young Ladies Seminary. St. Louis Art Museum.

After the Revolution, gardening burgeoned into a democratic pursuit, needing to satisfy both the functional & the ornamental goals of the new nation. Lightweight, orderly, simple Windsor chairs--that could be used indoors or out--seemed to fill the bill & appealed to all levels of society in the new republic. Sensible, airy Windsor chairs, painted or stained, became the most popular garden furniture in America.

Green windsor garden chairs had been popular in the South well before the Revolution. At first, merchants offered imported chairs to their stylish customers. In the 1764 Charleston inventory of John McQueen was "1 Windsor Garden Seat." In 1766, Charleston merchants Sneed & White offered "Windsor Chairs ... and settees ... walnut ... fit for piazzas or gardens," imported Philadelphia.

18th Century English Woodcut

Aiming to cut out transportation costs & the middlemen, Philadelphia turner John Biggard moved to South Carolina in 1767, opening a "turner shop" advertising "Windsor and Garden chairs... cheaper than could be imported."

One 1775 Charleston inventory revealed 2 specialized windsors, "In the Passage...2 green Garden Windsor Chairs...2 Children do (garden Windsor Chairs)."  Most inventories noted that the Windsor chairs were painted green. The 1783 South Carolina inventory of Benjamin Cattell listed 12 green Windsor chairs.

In England.  Here the Windsor chairs are brought out to the statue in the garden.  1763 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) The Mathew Family at Felix Hall, Kelvedon, Essex

A year later, inventory takers noted 12 green Windsor chairs in another Charleston entrance hall lined up like soldiers ready to see if their next engagement would be indoors or out. Charleston's leading professional gardener John Watson's 1789 inventory listed green Windsor chairs in his seed sales room plus garden tools & books. On his piazza, he had 4 out-of-the-ordinary teal benches & one normal green bench.

Outdoor Windsors were often painted green to blend with nature. Englishman Uvedale Price wrote in his "Essays on the Picturesque" that white seats created unnatural spots in their green surroundings.

In England. In this group portrait, the gentlemen have taken a variety of household furniture outdoors.  1780 Johann Zoffany (German-born English painter, 1733-1810) A Group of Gentlemen

Thomas Dobson's first American edition of his Encyclopedia or Dictionary of Arts and Science in Philadelphia in 1798, recommended, "To paint arbours and all kinds of garden work, give a layer of white ceruse grinded in oil of walnuts...then give two layers of green...This green is of great service in the country for doors, window shutters, arbours, gardens seats, rails either of wood or iron; and in short for all works exposed to the injuries of the weather."

Charleston wasn't the only city with a local suppy of windsor chairs. In >New York City, Andrew Gautier advertised in the 1765 New York Journal, "a large and neat assortment of Windsor Chairs, made in the best and neatest manner, and well painted. Chairs and settees fit for piazza or garden."

In America. Detail 1772 William Williams (American artist, 1727-1791). The William Denning Family

John H. Chandless advertised in the 1792, Baltimore Daily Repository "a large assortment of Windsor Chairs, of the newest fashions and painted in the best manner...Chairs, Settees, Garden Seats & Made and painted to particular directions." During the last decade of the 18C Baltimore furniture makers were arguably the best in the United States.

A rare surviving wooden bench is the late 18C “Almodington Bench,” a diagonally slatted back design of yellow pine which was originally made for the Somerset County Maryland, plantation named “Almodington.” This is the oldest known piece of American garden furniture, which is now in the collection of the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

In America. This appears to be a small bench rather than a Windsor chair.  1793 James Peale (American artist, 1749-1831). The Ramsey-Polk Family in Cecil County, Maryland.

In the Virginia, inventories often listed "green chairs in the passage," meant to be used indoors & out. George Washington purchased 27 windsor side chairs for his piazza at Mount Vernon from Philadelphia Chairmakers Robert & Gilbert Gaw in 1796. The 1800 inventory of Mount Vernon recorded "in the Piazza...30 Windsor Chairs."

Virginian John Randolph's Tagewell Hall included "5 green windsor chairs and one green settee belonging to my summer house." Mary Page of Spotsylvania County, Virginia ordered "one dozen Windsor Chairs for a passage."

In eastern North Carolina, David Stone's Hope Plantation contained 12 Windsors in the hall passageway running from the front door to the back door, a design encouraging both air circulation & the moving of chairs in & out of doors.

Wooden chairs aged a little faster outdoors. In the Fayetteville North Carolina Minerva in 1796, Vosburgh & Childs advertised that they could make, paint, & repair Windsor chairs, probably the victims of a little rain and humidity now & again. Hall's North Carolina Wilmington Gazette on February 9, 1797, advertised "Windsor Chairs of every description...elegant settees of ten feet in length or under, suitable to either halls or chairs suitable to arbors." A premature war between the North & the South was on as the ad noted, "those that are imported...are always unavoidably rubbed and bruised."

In America.  Here the ladies sit on rather delicate chairs, while they gather around the pond to watch the gentlemen fish.  1770 Henry Benbridge (American colonial era artist, 1743-1812). The Tannatt Family

While in Wilmington, North Carolina, Eliza Clitherall recorded seats under trees in the more shady recesses of the Big Garden. William D. Martin recorded in his journal while visiting a "Girls Boarding School Pleasure Garden in Salem, North Carolina," Next I visited a flower garden...situated on a hill, ...At the bottom of this terrace were arranged circular seats, which, form the height of the hill in the rear were protected from the sun."

18th century English Woodcut.

In 1801, Virginian Thomas Jefferson designed "benches for Porticos & Terraces...the back Chinese be painted green." Jefferson also noted "the seats at Washington by Lenox are 8 ft. long 21 I high, & the seat is 15 I broad, of five laths 2½ I wide." Peter Lenox (1771-1832) was the head carpenter, foreman, & clerk at the President's House in Washington, District of Columbia.

In America. c 1796. Charles Fraser (1782-1860) Detail of Settee on a Hill at Rice Hope Plantation Taken from One of the Rice Fields. South Carolina.

Not all gardeners relied on the simple Windsor chair for their gardens. A grey garden bench appears in the 1771 Charles Wilson Peale painting of the Edward Lloyd family of Wye House in Talbot County, Maryland. The bench had rolled arms & a latticed back. Peale wrote in his autobiography that in Pennsylvania, "The proprietor [Peale himself] made summer houses (so called), roots to ward off the Sunbeams with seats of rest. One made of the Chinese taste, dedicated to meditation, with the following sentiments within it. "Mediate on the Creation of Worlds, which perform their evolutions in prescribed periods!"

In America.  1771 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Edward Lloyd Family wife Elizabeth Tayloe and dau Anne.

For those not satisfied with ordinary wood furniture, both English & local craftsmen also fashioned cast iron garden furniture including chairs, benches, & tables during the early federal period. Weight would have been a consideration in importing them from England. The Robert Wood foundry in Philadelphia produced cast iron garden furniture between 1804 -1858.

In America.  Here the American grandmother is clearly sitting in a Windsor chair.  1787 Henry Benbridge (American artist, 1743-1812). The Hartley Family.

Henry Benbridge painted stone garden seats in paintings of a Charleston family; the Enoch Edwards family of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the Taylor family of Norfolk, Virginia, during the last 2 decades of the 18C. 

In America. 1779 Henry Benbridge (American artist, 1743-1812). The Enoch Edwards Family.

Whether these stone benches were real or fanciful is unclear. What is clear is that the dark green Windsor chair was the most enduring piece of garden furniture in practical 18C America. The use of everyday chairs for garden events continued into the 19C & early 20C.

In 19C America. Photo Maryland Historical Society

To follow the development, diversification, & distribution of Windsor Chairs see any of these books by Nancy Goyne Evans, (2005) Windsor-Chair Making in America: From Craft Shop to Consumer; (1997) American Windsor Furniture: Specialized Forms; and (1996) American Windsor Chairs.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Garden History - Plant Lists - 1736 List of Virginia William Byrd II 1674-1744

Virginian William Byrd II's 1736 Virginia Plant List

Maria Sibylla Merian (German artist, 1647-1717)

Like his father, Colonel William Byrd, William Byrd II (1674-1744) was a wealthy Virginia planter on his inherited plantation Westover, on the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. He served as a member, & later president, of the Governor's Council, as did his father. His library was one of the finest of his time in the British American colonies. He recorded his observations on natural history as well as life in colonial Virginia. 

William Byrd's Natural History of Virginia: Or, The Newly Discovered Eden is available in a translation edited by Richard Croom Beatty & William J. Mulloy from a German edition printed in 1737 (Dietz Press, Richmond, 1940).

The following are the plants Byrd listed c.1736:



Silk grass
Turkish or Indian Corn
Guinea corn
Broad beans
French beans (small beans)
Indian beans (dwarf beans)
Peas, European
Heartpeas (Ronceval)
Bonaveria (Calavance-'Nanticokes')



Curled red
Sea fennel
Fragrant melons



Bachelor's buttons
Brazil cabbage
Cardo bennet spoonwort
Coriander, anise
Wood mint
Poppy seed
Worm seed
Jamestown grass
Hart's tongue
John's wort
Maiden hair



Princess feather
Cardinal flowers
Moccasin flower
Tulip tree
Laurel tree
Wild apple tree


Chestnut oak

Red oak
Spanish oak
White oak
Black oak
Bastard oak
White iron-oak
Indian chicken-oak
Willow oak
Water oak
Green liveoak
Elms, two species
Tulip tree
Laurel trees
Wild apple tree
Sweet gun tree
White gum tree
Black gum tree
Scarletcolored snakewood
Bay tree
Red cedar
White cedar
Cypress tree
Hollow tree
Locust tree
Sorrel tree
Fir tree
Pitch pine
Almond tree
Hickory tree
White hickory
Red hickory
Brown hickory
Common maple tree
Egyptian fig tree
Glass wort tree
Prickly ash
Chestnut tree
Poison vine
Grape vines
Cluster grapes
Red cluster grapes
Fox grapes
Summer grapes
Winter grapes
Cherry tree
Hazel nuts
Mulberry, Common Red
Mulberry, red
Mulberry, white
Sugar maple
Spanish pepper tree
Papaw tree
Wild figs
Wild plums
Raspberry bushes
Winter currant tree
Bermuda curants
Myrtle berries
Eglantine berries
Jamestown plant
Fragrant tulip-bearing
laurel tree
Wild fragrant apple tree
Gall apple
Camellia tree
Red hawthorn
Black hawthorn
Fragrant laurel tree



Golden russet
Summer pearmain
Winter pearmain
Fall harvest apple
Winter queening
Juntin' apple
Golden pippin
Red streaks
Long-stem apple
Red apple
Green apple
French rennets



Summer bon chretien
Egg-shaped pear
Winter Bon chretien
Frauen Bieren
Madeira pear
Pond pears
Musk pear



Plum peach
Nectarine peach
Apricot tree
Wild plums
Fig trees
Cherry trees
Mulberry trees
Nut trees
Indian nut tree
Hazel nut
Grape vines
Coffee trees
Tea trees 

Working Gardeners - Who was William Byrd's Virginia gardener?

Tracing William Byrd II's gardener "Tom" in the records of Westover & Williamsburg, seems to point to Thomas Creas (c 1662-1757) as one of the earliest professional gardeners in Virginia.

In Virginia early in the 18C, a succession of professional gardeners, who were not serving under an indenture, worked at institutions of the royal government in Williamsburg, including the Governor’s Palace & the College of William & Mary. Some of these professional gardeners held pristine credentials. James Road, an assistant to George London, Royal Gardener to King William & Queen Mary, was sent to Virginia in 1694, to collect plants for shipment back to Hampton Court Palace. He also probably to laid out the earliest gardens at the new college in Williamsburg. London had served as a gardener at Versailles & had traveled to Holland to study their smaller flower gardens, as well.

It is possible that James Road's supervising gardener George London (1681-1714) actually drew up the plans for the gardens at the College of William & Mary. Virginia planter John Walker wrote to John Evelyn in 1694. He received a reply to his particular query in May of 1694, in which Eveyln wrote, "Mr. London (his Majs Gardner here) who has an ingenious Servant of his, in Virginia, not unknown I presume to you by this time; being sent thither on purpose to make & plant the Garden, designed for the new Colledge, newly built in yr Country." The servant was London's assistant at Hampton Court, James Road.

The College, which was formally established by Royal Charter in 1693, began as a 330-acre tract of land purchased from Col. Thomas Ballard. William & Mary's 1st chancellor was Henry Compton, bishop of London. He was a serious gardener & horticulturalist who helped train George London to become a gardener.

Upon James Road's return to London, he was followed by gardener Richard Hickman. Soon after Hickman's appointment, the records indicate that Thomas Creas or Crease (c 1662-1757) was paid to assist Hickman in getting the gardens in order. After that, only Crease's name was associated with the ongoing management of the gardens at the Governor’s Palace for an unusually long tenure, from 1726, until he died in 1756.

It is unclear whether Creas was born, & perhaps trained, in the England. Some report that Thomas Creas was the head gardener at the Governor's Palace during the administration of Alexander Sportswood who served from 1710-1722. Others speculate that Creas came over from England with Governor Hugh Drysdale in 1722. Drysdale was the 1st Governor to occupy the new Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, from 1722-1726.

Others suggest that Crease may have begun his gardening work at Westover, the home of William Byrd II. Byrd calls his gardener Tom in his early journals & refers to a gardener "Tom Cross" in 1720. The same "Tom Cross" carried at least one letter from Byrd's Williamsburg brother-in-law John Custis during one of his visits to Westover.  Byrd, Custis, & Tom Cross/Creas were all accomplished gardeners.

Two years before his appearance in the Governor's Palace records, in 1724, Creas was identified as a "gardener of Williamsburg, married & owning a half acre lot." His house was on the land now supporting the "Taliaferro-Cole" house.  The earliest record relating to this property appears in a deed of trust, December 15, 1724, in which deed the lot number, 352, is noted & the owner's name, Thomas Creas: 
December 15, 1724. Creas, Thomas - Gardener
Mary, his wife
Keith, William
Ferguson, Patrick
Consideration: 5 shillings All that messuage or dwelling house wherein the said Thomas Creas, & Mary, his said wife, now live & all that lot or half acre of land described in the plot of the said city by the figures 352, situate, lying & being in the city of Williamsburg, & all kitchens, stables thereto belonging. (York County Records, Deeds, Bonds, III, p. 439.) The above deed of trust was acknowledged on January 18, 1724/5. 

In a lease given by John Custis to James Spiers, joyner & cabinetmaker, on October 26, 1744, a lot is described as "one lot of ground, with the houses & garden thereunto belonging, it being the house next to Thomas Craze's..." 

According to York County, Virginia, records Creas married the widow of Gabriel Maupin, Marie Hersent, in 1724. Gabriel Maupin, his wife Marie, & family had sailed to the Huguenot settlement at Manakintown, in Virginia, in 1699-1700, after passing through the Spittalsfield (now Bethnell Green) "suburb" of London in the late 1690s.

Gabriel had operated a tavern in Williamsburg from 1714-1718. After her husband died, Marie ran the tavern from 1719-1723. When she married Creas in 1724, they operated the tavern together. Marie, born in France, died in Williamsburg in 1748.

Creas began to be "paid for his Service & labourerers in assisting in putting in order the Gardens belonging to the Governor's house" in 1726. He also was "Gardener to the College, in Williamsburg."

In addition to operating a tavern in Williamsburg, Thomas Creas supplemented his income by selling plants. In January 1737/38, he placed an ad in the Virginia Gazette (Virginia Gazette, Parks, ed.), "Gentlemen & others, may be supply'd with good Garden Pease, Beans & several other sorts Flower Roots; likewise Trees of several sorts & sizes, fit to plant, as ornaments in Gentlemen's gardens...Thomas Crease--Gardener to the College in Williamsburg." 

On May 9, 1739, Crease placed another ad in the Virginia Gazette, May 4, 1739, "Notice is hereby given, That the Subscriber, Now living in Williamsburg, designs to leave this Colony, in order to go to Great-Britain ——. It is therefore desired of all Persons who are indebted to him, to come to his Shop, or to the House of Mr. Thomas Crase, in Williamsburg, & pay their just Debts Hugh Orr" 

When Creas died in 1756, his estate was valued at 166.4.3 pounds, & he owned 6 slaves according to his January 1757 inventory. His will, which was proved in York County on January 17, 1757, named a brother Thomas Hornsby & his wife Margaret, & friend Hugh Orr & Catherine, his wife. In his will, dated February 26, 1756, & probated January 17, 1757, Thomas Creas, gardener, living in Williamsburg, appointed Thomas Hornsby, his brother, & Hugh Orr executors. (York County Records, Wills, Inventories, Book 20, p. 414.)

The Virginia Gardens of Virginian William Byrd II (1674-1744)

Virginian William Byrd II (1674-1744) painted by Hans Hysing 1724

Colonel William Byrd II (1674–1744), a Virginia planter & slave owner, kept a journal of his life, when he returned to take possession of the family estate Westover, after his father's death in 1704. The early years of that journal were later transcribed in the 1940s & became "The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712." William Byrd II had been sent to study in England, when he was 7.

Upon Byrd's return to Virginia in 1705, he began his search for a wife; his goal was not only to find companionship, but to increase his wealth. Lucy Parke was an obvious candidate. Not only was she beautiful, but her father, Colonel Daniel Parke II, was wealthy & politically connected. Lucy had already reached the age of 18, & her mother was concerned, that she would not find a husband. When Byrd wrote a letter to the Parkes asking to court Lucy, they immediately accepted. The couple soon wed.

Soon after their wedding, Lucy found her husband to be incapable of the emotional & intellectual relationship she desired. William was able primarily to provide sexual intimacy. Like many men of the time (including Lucy's father), Byrd was sexually unfaithful in his marriage. His wife often tried to turn a blind eye to his affairs.

Lucy & William did quarrel over other matters, particularly about the running of the household. William wanted a patriarchal household, while Lucy wanted to have some say over household matters. The two disagreed on whose power reigned over the various parts of the estate. Lucy refused to conform to the traditional role of the submissive wife & wished to assert her authority over slaves & servants. William often rebuked her in front of others, when she acted upon this inclination, visibly undermining her authority.

William also required absolute sovereignty over the library he inherited from his father & continued to expand. To him, the library was a very intimate & personal place, one in which Lucy did not belong. He disliked her entering the library at all, & he loathed her tendency to borrow books, when he was away.

Despite the couple's differences, they seemed to be in love. When she died of smallpox in 1715, Byrd suffered greatly. He blamed himself for her death, telling friends & family that he felt God was punishing him for his pride in his wife's beauty & likeability.

Passages in his early journal recount his fascination with his library, his garden, & women other than his wife. Byrd gathered the most valuable library in the Virginia Colony, numbering some 4,000 books. His attention to refining his garden also was noted. Early in 18C Pennsylvania, botanist John Bartram (1699-1777) wrote to English botanist Peter Collinson (1674-1768), on July 18, 1740, about Colonel William Byrd's (1674-1744) grounds at Westover in Virginia. "Colonel Byrd is very Gates, gravel Walks, hedges, & cedars finely twined & a little green house with two or three orange trees...he hath the finest seat in Virginia."

These selections from William Byrd II's early journal reflect his daily activities in his garden & record only a few of the other events of each daily entry.  Byrd often walked in his garden with visitors to Westover & with his wife.  The garden was a spaced away from others, where they could discuss governmental, economic, & personal issues with the assurance of some privacy.

Wednesday, May 4, 1709
A ship arrived in the York River about 9 o'clock. Captain Berkeley came to see us, who is a very good-humored man. We walked in the garden about an hour; then we went to dinner.

Friday, May 13, 1709
In the evening I took a walk about the plantation and in the garden where I ate abundance of cherries. 

Friday, May 20, 1709
John Pleasants and Isham Randolph came to see me and dined with us.  In the afternoon we played at billiards and I won half a crown of Isham Randolph. Then we walked in the garden and ate some cherries. 

Saturday, May 21, 1709
I ate mutton and sallet for dinner. In the evening they went away and I took a walk about the plantation. I was out of humor at my wife's climbing over the pales of the garden, now she is with child. 

Sunday, May 22, 1709
In the evening I walked in the garden. I read some news. I said my prayers. 

Thursday, May 26, 1709
He went away in the evening and I walked about the plantation. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, but was out of humor with Tom for the disorder of the garden.

Thursday, June 2, 1709
I ate nothing but beans and bacon for dinner. In the evening we rode out to take the air. When we returned I took a walk in the garden till it was dark. 

Monday, June 6, 1709
I said my prayers and ate milk for breakfast, and raspberries. I ate pork and turnips for dinner.  Mumford went away about 5 o'clock and I walked in the garden. 

Thursday, July 7, 1709
In the evening we took a walk in the garden.

Monday, July 25, 1709
In the evening it left off raining and I walked in the garden. 

Sunday, July 31, 1709
In the evening Mr C-s came to see me and we drank a syllabub. We walked in the garden till late. 

Friday, September 23, 1709
In the afternoon I was angry with Grills for being sick and not telling me of it and with Tom for not doing well in the garden. 

Friday, October 14, 1709
I ate fresh pork and sallet for dinner.  In the evening I took a walk in the garden. 

Tuesday, November 15, 1709
The rain did not hold up till towards evening when I took a walk in the garden. 

Sunday, December 4, 1709
I danced my dance, and then took a walk in the garden because the weather was very tempting for so late in the year. God continue it for the service of those that have but little corn.  In the afternoon I ate an apple and then took a long walk about the great pasture with my wife and I found they finished stacking.

Friday, March 10, 1710
About 12 Mr Isham Randolph came. They walked in the garden till dinner.  In the evening we took a walk about the plantation.

Friday, March 24, 1710
We took a walk in the morning, then we had some sack and toast, after which we took leave and returned home where we found all well, thank God. I ate pigeon and asparagus for dinner. In the afternoon I took a little nap. Then Mr Randolph and I took a walk to Mr Harrison's who had been very sick but was something better, and young Drury Stith was sick there likewise. We stayed there about an hour and then walked home and walked with my wife in the garden. 

Tuesday, May 16, 1710
After dinner we ate cherries and talked till about 6 o'clock and then I took leave and rode home, where I found all my family well except my son, who still had a fever. It rained very much till about 2 o'clock. I took a walk about the garden. 

Saturday, June 3, 1710
I rose at 6 o'clock and as soon as I came out news was brought that the child was very ill. We went out and found him just ready to die and he died about 8 o'clock in the morning. God gives and God takes away; blessed be the name of God.  In the afternoon it rained and was fair again in the evening. My poor wife and I walked in the garden. 

Monday, June 5, 1710
My wife continued very melancholy, notwithstanding I comforted her as well as I could.  Then we walked in the garden. 

Sunday, June 11, 1710
It continued to rain so that we could not go to church. My wife was still disconsolate.  In the afternoon we took a little walk but the rain soon sent us home. In the evening we took a walk in the garden because the grass was wet. 

Thursday, June 15, 1710
It rained this afternoon very hard with a little wind and thunder. This hindered my walking anywhere but in the garden. 

Monday, July 10, 1710
hen we talked till 6 when the company went away and we walked in the garden. 

Thursday, August 10, 1710
Mr [Gee] with a present of grapes.  In the afternoon we walked about the garden and Major Burwell was very well pleased with everything. He and the rest of the company stayed till the evening when we walked in the garden.

Saturday, August 12, 1710
It rained and hindered our walk; however we walked a little in the garden. 

Sunday, August 20, 1710
About 11 o'clock we went to church and had a good sermon from Mr Anderson. We had some watermelon in the churchyard and some cider to refresh the people.  In the evening we took a walk but only in the garden for fear of the rain. 

Monday, September 11, 1710
My wife and I played at billiards. My wife and I walked in the garden. 

Wednesday, September 20, 1710 I received at the landing with Mr C-s and gave him three guns. Mr Clayton and Mr Robinson came with him. After he had drunk some wine he walked in the garden and into the library till it was dark. Then we went to supper and ate some blue wing. After supper we sat and talked till 9 o'clock. 

Sunday, December 17, 1710
I took a walk in the garden. 

Sunday, December 31, 1710
In the afternoon I looked over my sick people and then took a walk about the plantation. The weather was very warm still. My wife walked with me and when she came back she was very much indisposed and went to bed. 

Friday, January 19, 1711
Then I went to plant trees in the garden, and in the pasture.  Then I went and planted more trees and afterwards took a walk about the plantation. 

Thursday, February 15, 1711
I read some English and took a walk in the garden. I ate roast mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I walked about the plantation till the evening and then my cousin Harrison came and when she had stayed here about an hour my wife and I walked home with her and did not return home till 8 o'clock.

Monday, April 30, 1711
I met with nothing extraordinary in my journey and got home about 11 o'clock and found all well, only my wife was melancholy. We took a walk in the garden and pasture. We discovered that by the contrivance of Nurse and Anaka Prue got in at the cellar window and stole some strong beer and cider and wine. In the evening I took a walk about the plantation and found things in good order. At night I ate some bread and butter.  I gave my wife a powerful flourish and gave her great ecstasy and refreshment.

Monday, May 7, 1711
My wife and I walked in the garden. 

Wednesday, May 9, 1711
I took a walk into the garden and ate some cherries. My wife and daughter were both indisposed, the first with breeding, and the last with a fever.  I ate some pork and peas. In the afternoon I took another walk and then returned and settled my accounts. Then I read in the Tatler till the evening and then my wife, being better, took a walk with me in the garden. 

Thursday, May 10, 1711
It continued to rain till about 8 and then cleared up for a little while. I took a walk to look over my people.  My daughter was a little better, thank God, but my wife was indisposed by fits as women are in her condition. I went onto the garden and ate some cherries.  In the afternoon it rained again and hindered my taking a walk so that I took a nap. In the evening I took a walk and ate some cherries at M-n-s. The season has happened so late this year that cherries are three weeks more backward than they used to be.  I wrote a letter to the Governor to send by Tom with some cherries.

Sunday, May 13, 1711
In the evening we walked in the garden and at night we drank a bottle of wine. 

Wednesday, May 16, 1711
Then I went into the garden to eat some cherries.  In the afternoon came Frank Eppes to bring me his father's bills for the quitrents. He stayed here till about 6 o'clock and then went with me to see the gates and my wife came and walked with me. Just as I was going to bed the Captain of the salt ship came and stayed about half an hour with me and I gave him a bottle of cider. I rogered my wife, in which she took little pleasure in her condition.

Wednesday, May 23, 1711
In the evening the master of the salt ship came and he agreed next week to send up 100 barrels of salt to my store at Appomattox. I walked with him in the garden and said my prayers. 

Tuesday, May 29, 1711
The company went to breakfast but I could eat nothing with them and therefore walked in the garden. 

Saturday, June 2, 1711
I ate beans and bacon for dinner. In the evening we walked in the garden, because it was too wet to walk about the plantation. 

Wednesday, June 6, 1711
I walked in the garden because I could not walk in the pasture. 

Wednesday, June 27, 1711
In the evening it rained a little, enough to hinder me from walking about the plantation. However, I walked in the garden. I was a little out of order today and had a small looseness.

Wednesday, July 18, 1711
I ventured to eat a pear. I ate some broth and lamb for dinner and ate a great deal. In the afternoon I ate some Virginia cherries and some watermelon. I took a little walk in the garden. 

Thursday, July 19, 1711
I ate some Virginia cherries.  I settled some accounts and took a walk in the garden. 

Friday, July 20, 1711
I sent Tom to Drury Stith's for watermelons.  In the afternoon Tom returned and brought four watermelons, one of which we ate and then wrote more letters till 5 o'clock, when I ate more eggs and in the evening I took a walk to the store and in the garden.

Saturday, July 21, 1711
I wrote more of my accounts till 6 o'clock and then ate some more of my chicken. Then I took a walk in the garden. 

Saturday, July 28, 1711
In the evening I drank some warm milk and walked in the garden till it was almost dark. 

Tuesday, July 31, 1711
In the afternoon I settled more accounts and read some French till the evening and then I walked in the garden because it threatened rain and as soon as it was dark it began to rain and thundered very much and did so good part of the night. 

Wednesday, August 1, 1711
In the evening it threatened more rain. However I took a walk in the garden. The rain blew over. 

Monday, August 13, 1711
In the evening I walked a little in the garden. 

Tuesday, August 14, 1711
I read some French and walked about till dinner, and then I ate some crab and four poached eggs.  I ate some watermelon and peaches and drank some canary. . In the evening I ate a poached egg and then took a walk in the garden. 

Wednesday, August 15, 1711
In the evening I wrote a letter to the Governor, to make my excuses for not going to council tomorrow. Then I ate more snipe and took a walk in the garden.

Monday, August 20, 1711
I sent further orders to Colonel Frank Eppes about the militia and gave them to Colonel Littlebury by word of mouth and walked about in the garden pretty much without being tired. 

Tuesday, August 21, 1711
I ventured to dress myself today and was very easy and well. I ate some mutton for dinner. In the afternoon I prepared some infusions of the bark to take at the end of the week. I read some French and in the evening I wrote to Colonel Frank Eppes to send with a copy of the Governor's letter to me. I took a walk in the garden.

Wednesday, August 22, 1711
I slept well last night and could hardly wake this morning. I took a walk in the garden. I ate some squirrel and onions for dinner. Then I took a walk in the garden a little while but the air was a little too damp for me. 

Friday, August 24, 1711
In the evening I took a walk to the point and in the garden. 

Sunday, August 26, 1711
In the evening it rained a good shower after which I took a walk in the garden. 

Wednesday, August 29, 1711
In the evening I took a walk in the garden. Mr Chamberlayne brought me a letter from Robin Mumford that told me he was better. After it was dark came Dr Cocke but he brought no news. I ate some bread and butter with him and we drank a bottle of wine. 

Friday, August 31, 1711
Then came Captain H-n-t the master of the ship from Mr Offley and brought me 77 empty bottles from the vessel that had been taken and lost my cider. In an hour he went away and then I put my library in order till the evening and then I took a walk in the garden. 

Saturday, September 1, 1711
A man brought some peaches for which I likewise ordered him a pair of wool cards. Then I took a walk into the garden because it rained a good shower and made it wet without. 

Tuesday, September 4, 1711
In the afternoon the company went away about 4 o'clock and then I read a little Latin and afterwards took a walk about the plantation and finished my walk in the garden. I was a little displeased with my wife for talking impertinently. 

Monday, November 12, 1711
I rose about 7 o'clock and said my prayers. Then we ate our breakfast of milk and took our leave and proceeded to Westover, where we found all well, thank God Almighty. Mr Graeme was pleased with the place exceedingly. I showed him the library and then we walked in the garden till dinner and I ate some wild duck. In the afternoon I paid money to several men on accounts of Captain H-n-t and then we took a walk about the plantation and I was displease with John about the boat which he was building. In the evening we played at piquet and I won a little. Then Mr Graeme and I drank a bottle of pressed wine which he liked very well, as he had done the white madeira. About 10 o'clock I went to bed and rogered my wife.

Friday, January 4, 1712
I took a walk in the garden till dinner. I ate no meat this day but only fruit. In the afternoon I weighed some money and then went into the new orchard to trim some trees and stayed there till it was dark almost and then took a little walk about the plantation. 

Saturday, January 19, 1712
I rose about 7 o'clock and read a chapter in Hebrew and some Greek in Lucian. I said my prayers and ate boiled milk for breakfast. I danced my dance. The weather [was] cloudy and rained a little. In the afternoon it held up and I took a walk to see my people plant peach trees. In the evening I took a walk about the plantation.  I dreamed a mourning coach drove into my garden and stopped at the house door.

Thursday, March 6, 1712
I rose about 7 o'clock and read nothing because of the company. However I said a short prayer and drank chocolate for breakfast. Then we walked about the garden because it was good weather and then we played at billiards and I won 3 shillings. In the afternoon we played again at billiards and then Colonel Hill went away and we took a walk about the plantation till the evening and then Mr Lightfoot and Mr Jimmy Roscow took their leave and went to Mrs Harrison's, one to make love to the mother and the other the daughter.

Monday, March 17, 1712
About 10 o'clock I took a walk in the garden and then settled several accounts and read some English in Milton till dinner and I ate some roast shoat but I dined by myself with nobody but the child, for Mrs Dunn was sick likewise. In the afternoon I went into the garden and trimmed the vines and was angry with Tom for being so lazy there. Then I returned and read some English in Milton till the evening and then I took a walk about the plantation and found things in pretty good order. 

Saturday, March 22, 1712
It rained a little almost all day so that I could not walk out.  In the evening I walked about the garden because the grass was wet everywhere else. 

Thursday, April 10, 1712
The weather was very clear and warm but it had rained in the night and thundered. My wife and I took a walk about the garden. In the afternoon I took a walk to see my young trees. Then I wrote a letter to England and afterwards took a walk about the plantation and saw the people at work in the churchyard which Captain D-k was pale in.  At night I ate some bread and butter and drank some cider and my wife and I romped for half an hour till we went to bed. 

Friday, May 2, 1712
In the afternoon we opened more goods till the evening and then I took a walk with my wife in the garden and found things in good order there. Then I took a walk about the plantation. I rogered my wife in the morning and also wrote a letter to England and settled several accounts.

Tuesday, May 6, 1712
Then I took a walk in the garden because it was too late to walk about the plantation. I neglected to say my prayers but had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty.

Thursday, May 8, 1712
My people washed the sheep in order to clean them for shearing tomorrow. In the afternoon I set my closet in order and afterwards read some Greek till the evening and then I took a walk about the plantation. At night I ate some strawberries and milk and after eating took a walk in the garden. 

Thursday, May 22, 1712
In the afternoon I wrote two more accounts till the evening and then took a walk in the garden. I said my prayers and was reconciled to my wife and gave her a flourish in token of it.

Monday, May 26, 1712
In the afternoon I wrote more letters till the evening and then took a walk about the plantation with the ladies and afterwards Mr Catesby and I walked in the garden. 

Tuesday, June 3, 1712
The company went away about 4 o'clock after being very merry and I took a little walk in the garden and the library. 

Thursday, June 5, 1712
After dinner I found myself better and walked about the garden all the evening, and Mr Catesby directed how I should mend my garden and put it into a better fashion than it is at present. 

Friday, June 13, 1712
 In the afternoon I put things again in order in the library and then walked in the garden. I had a small quarrel with my wife concerning the [nastiness] of the nursery but I would not be provoked. In the evening Mr Catesby and I took a walk about the plantation and I drank some warm milk at the cow pen an there discovered that one of the wenches had stolen some apples. 

Monday, August 4, 1712
In the afternoon I took a walk in the garden, it being very cool and then I read more law till the evening and then I took a walk to see the house, noe the roof was put up this day, notwithstanding the rain which fell often today. 

Saturday, August 23, 1712
In the afternoon I put several things in order in the library and then settled some accounts and afterwards read some Latin till the evening and then I took a walk about my plantation, and then walked with my wife in the garden, where she quarreled with me about Mrs Dunn. 

Sunday, September 14, 1712
The company went away about 5 o'clock between which and dinner there was abundance of rain. In the evening I took a walk in the garden.