The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 12 Historical Gardens

Brewers Garden

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The site of another benevolent institution near is fulfilling a useful and delightful task, although the old houses attached to it have disappeared. It was a row of almshouses founded by a member of the Brewers' Company, named Baker, about 150 years ago, for widows. The garden was much too large for these decrepid old women to cultivate, so the place was taken in hand some twenty-five years ago by the Rev. Sidney Vatcher, who built the beautiful church of St. Philip, Stepney, hard by, and he became the tenant of the Brewers' Company. This charming garden was at first more or less opened by him to the parish, but lately it has been put to the most suitable use of giving a quiet place for rest and recreation to the nurses of the London Hospital. The almshouses were pulled down about four years ago, to make way for the laundries of the Hospital. Here, indeed, is one of those sudden and surprising contrasts to be found in London. A high brick wall encloses this oasis, and the nurses and some privileged people have keys to the door, which opens, from a side street close to the noise of the Mile End Road, suddenly into a peaceful, picturesque garden. The idea in the formation was a willow-pattern plate, and the little bridge over a miniature stream is reproduced. Plane trees in a formal array are kept trimmed to give a dense shade, and the hammocks hung from them in summer provide the most ideal resting-places for the worn-out nurses. At one time animals were kept here in cages, as a kind of small "Zoo" for Whitechapel; but since the last alterations the animals have been relinquished, and the bear-pit makes a delightful rock garden, and the various other cages form summer-houses. One thoughtful addition of the vicar was placing a small stove in one of these shelters, with an array of kettles, teapots, cups and saucers, so that any of the nurses resting can have their al fresco cup of tea-and what could be more grateful and comforting? A French writer who recently gave her impressions of L'lle Inconnue was charmed with the peace and repose of this little East End Paradise. After seeing the Hospital and all its wonderful appliances, "You will now see our Eden," said the guide. "Icil! I'Eden ! m'ecriai-je, apres le peche alors !" Then, when she had for a moment looked within those mysterious high walls, "N'avais-je pas raison d'appeler ce jardin I'Eden?" said the friend. "Oui, repondis-je, c'est I'Eden apres la Redemption." Certainly any one who sees this little garden, and realises the devoted lives of those who made it and those who enjoy it, must agree with this writer.