The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 1 Introduction

Freemen and apprentices of the Gardeners Company

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London four or five hundred years ago must indeed have needed its gardens. The squalor and dirt of its cramped streets, the noisy clamour, the rough and uncouth manners, are unpleasing to realise. The contrast of the little walled gardens, where the women could sit, and the busy men find a little quiet from the noise outside, must indeed have been precious. The profession of a gardener, however, did not seem to soften their behaviour, for some of the worst offenders were gardeners. So serious did the "scurrility, clamour, and nuisance of the gardeners and their servants," who sold their fruit and vegetables in the market, become, that they disturbed the Austin Friars at their prayers in the church hard by, and caused so much annoyance to the people living near, that in 1345 a petition, to have these "gardeners of the earls, barons, bishops, and citizens" removed to another part of the town, was presented to the Lord Mayor. Later on, gardening operations in the City and for six miles round were restricted to freemen and apprentices of the Gardeners' Company, and the sale of vegetables was almost exclusively in their hands. Their guild had power to seize and destroy all bad plants, or those exposed for sale by unlicensed persons. The Gardeners' Company, incorporated in 1605, had a second charter in 1616, and a confirmation of their rights in 1635, and it still remains one of the City companies. ["The Worshipful Company of Gardeners, first mentioned in City Corporation records in 1345, is a survivor from the medieval craft guilds, which 'exercised control over the practice of their particular crafts and ensured a proper training through the system of apprenticeship. In 1605, after existing for centuries as a "mystery" or "fellowship" the Guild was incorporated by Royal Charter. The Charter sets out the operations controlled by the Company.... �The trade crafte or misterie of gardening. planting, grafting, setting, sowing, cutting, arboring, rocking, mounting, covering. fencing and removing of plants, herbes, seedes, fruites, trees, stocks, setts, and of contryving the conveyances to the same belonging .... " Today, the Company ranks number 66 in the order of precedence of Livery Companies in the City of London." Gardeners Company website, 2007]