The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Reading Gaol Garden

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The Garden of the Reading Gaol well deserves notice in a work, the great object of which is to promote a taste for this art. It is, as may be supposed, small; but the governor has a taste not only for gardening, but for natural history. He has, on his lawn or grass plot, a beautiful piece of rockwork, composed of flints and fragments of mural antiquities. He has, also, a variety of plants of the choicest kinds, such as Wistaria, double furze, Ribes several species, Petunia ph£nicea, and numerous pelargoniums, the whole mixed with fruit trees. There are several little green-houses, pits, and frames, well stocked with rarities. The whole was in the most exquisite order and keeping. Every advantage was taken of the high brick walls of the gaol for training vines and fruit trees. The governor had also a collection of fancy rabbits, a beautiful cockatoo, &c. The prisoners were watering the plants; and we can only account for the neatness of the whole from the abundance of hands at the command of the master. On looking through the prison we felt, as we did at Aylesbury, in 1831, the deepest regret at seeing so many persons imprisoned for mere trifles, without any reference to their reformation; which imprisonment, as the gaoler himself remarked, could only have the effect of making them worse. Great are the reforms that are wanting in this department of national police; and much remains to be imitated from the French and American practices. How this is to be effected in a country divided into what may be called castes, and where a sympathy for the lower classes in any that are above them is sure to involve obloquy, is what we cannot foresee. Providence, however, wisely orders all things for the best, and everything is advancing, however slowly. After all that has been done in America, however, in the way of prison discipline, it is now found that preven ion, by early education, is the only effectual check to crime, next to that of abundant employment. (See Roebuck's Speech on National Education, p. 7.)