“Oh it really is a werry pretty garden…

…And Chingford to the Eastward could be seen

Wiv a ladder and some glasses

You could see the ‘Ackney Marshes

If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.”


Sung by Gus Elen (1862-1940)

Written and composed by Edgar Bateman & George Le Brunn

Image: (visitlondon.com) “Old Spitalfields Market, 16 HORNER SQUARE LONDON E1, nestled in the cobbled streets between Brick Lane and Bishopsgate. Built in 1876, it is one of the finest surviving Victorian Market Halls in the capital. A market has operated on the site since the 1600s.” Nearest station: Shoreditch High St. (London Overground)

The Gentle Author wrote in the Financial Times of AUGUST 7 2020:

“After a decade of struggles and setbacks, my tiny Spitalfields garden reached its zenith this summer with towering, luscious reddish-black hollyhocks and pale Aimée Vibert noisette roses tumbling off the front of the old house in extravagant profusion.

I love the anachronistic quality of a verdant cottage garden flourishing secretly in the midst of the grimy inner city. Yet perhaps it is not such a contradiction since Spitalfields — squeezed today between the City and the East End of London — was the very first suburb, and for centuries this side of the capital was known as the garden of London.

My house sits within the former nursery of Leonard Gurle, an arboriculturist who supplied fruit trees to Charles II. I delight in counting myself within this horticultural tradition that has thrived at the edge of the ever-changing metropolis, where — as London emerges from the coronavirus pandemic — a new generation of plantsmen and women are finding ingenious means to evolve and prosper…”

From: An Economic History of the English Garden (2019), by Roderick Floud:

“In 1664, Captain Leonard Gurle, a nurseryman who was later to become the king’s gardener, received an order for sixty-five fruit trees. In pride of place were twenty different varieties of peach and five of nectarines, in which Gurle specialised, but there were also apricots, figs, plums and grape vines. Gurle’s nursery, where the young trees were growing, was not, as one might expect, deep in the English countryside, but in Shoreditch, only a few hundred feet outside the old walls of the City of London. It covered 12 acres of what is now the Brick Lane or *Banglatown area of east London, with its south Asian restaurants and shops selling brightly coloured saris.

Peaches and nectarines were recent introductions to English orchards and the walls of kitchen gardens. Shakespeare does not mention ‘peach’ except as a colour, but some of the other plants that Gurle supplied were the luxuries that Queen Titania, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ordered her fairies to give to her enchanted lover, Bottom, with his ass’s head:

Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,

With purple grapes, green figs and mulberries.

Gurle’s trees were to be supplied, however, to a more mundane customer, William Alington, 3rd Baron Alington…each specimen of the most expensive varieties of peach, a Province, a Lion, a Violett Muscatt and a Persian Peach, cost 5 shillings, a large sum at the time. Gurle’s customers were of the highest quality and he ended his career as the royal gardener at St James’s…

…Captain Gurle, who had founded his nursery in 1643, faced increasing competition, particularly – towards the end of his life, in the early 1680s – from the great Brompton Park Nursery…His peaches and nectarines, his apricots and figs, the eight orange trees ‘in boxes of ye biggest sort’ and seventeen ‘of the next sort’ – valued altogether at £97,750 (£49 10s) in his probate inventory of 1685 – were luxuries, to be afforded only by the few…”

*(Wiktionary): “Part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets with a large Bangladeshi population.”


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