The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 11 Inns of Court

Kings Bench Walk

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When houses were put on the site of the present Paper Buildings in 1610, the Great Garden was cut in two, and the eastern portion went to form the broad stretch with its trees known as King's Bench Walk. Elm trees were planted, and the walks and seats under them repaired from time to time, and kept in good order. The part to the west was carefully tended, and became from that year the chief garden. In James I.'s reign, that age of gardening, when every house of any pretensions was having its garden enlarged, and Bacon was laying out the grounds of Gray's Inn, the Temple was not behind-hand. The accounts show constant repairs and additions and buying of trees. The items for painting posts and rails are very frequent. Probably they do not always refer to outer palings, but it may be that the Tudor fashion of railing round the beds, with a low trellis and posts at the angles, still prevailed. One of the largest items of the expenses was for making "the pound" in 1618. This, it is said, was a pond, but no record of digging it out, or filling it with water occurs, while all the payments in connection with it went to painters or carpenters, and therefore it was more probably a kind of garden-house, much in favour at that time, made by the wall, to command a view over the river. The chief items with regard to it are:- "1618. To John Fielde, the carpenter, for making 'the pound' in the garden, �19." "To Bowden, the painter, for stopping and 'refreshing' the rails in the 'wakes' (walks), the posts, seats and balusters belonging to the same, and for stopping and finishing the 'pound' by the waterside, �9, 10S." Again in 1639 the entry certainly implies some kind of summer-house and not "a pond": "Edward Simmes, carpenter, for repairing 'the pound' and other seats in the garden and walks, &c., �15, 8s." There must have been another summer-house at the same time, unless the sums paid to a plasterer "for work done about the summer-house in the garden," in 1630, refers to the same "pound." A great deal seems to have been done to the Garden during the first few years of the Commonwealth, and large sums were expended in procuring new gravel and turf: "392 loads of gravel at 2s. 6d. the load" is one entry. But the chief work was the re-turfing. An arrangement was made, by payment of various small sums to the poor of Greenwich, to cut 3000 turfs on Blackheath, and convey them in lighters to the Temple Stairs. A second transaction procured them 2000 more, each turf being a foot broad and a yard long. These amounts would cover a third of an acre with turf. The head gardeners seem to have been particularly unruly people. Although they remained in office many years, there were frequent complaints. On one occasion this official had cut down trees, another time he had the plague, and his house was frequented by rogues and beggars. At first the gardener's house was on the present King's Bench Walk side of the Garden, near the river; later on, near where Harcourt Buildings are now. In 1690 the house, then in Middle Temple Lane, was turned into an ale-house, and evidently none of the quietest, for the occupier was forbidden to sell drink, and the "door out of the gardener's lodge towards the Watergate" was ordered to be bricked up, so as to prevent all the riffraff from the river rioting in his rooms. Yet the post descended from father to son. In 1687 Thomas Elliott succeeded his father, Seth Elliott, who had been there some years, and when in 1708 Charles Gardner had taken the second Elliott's place, his daughter Elizabeth's name occurs as a recipient of money, and Elliott himself received a pension of �20 a-year, although he was the culprit of the riotous alehouse. During the years succeeding the Restoration, the Garden seems to have been little touched. The kitchen-garden would still be maintained, and either it was farmed by the gardener, or its supplies were inadequate, as on fast-days there was always a special payment to the gardener for vegetables. Such items as the following are of frequent occurrence: "Sallating for the hall in grass week, strewings and 'bow pots' for the hall in Easter and Trinity terms."