Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hatfield’s Knot Garden and Mazes

This is Hatfield’s knot garden, with its lovely low maze and topiaries.

The site of the garden originally lay under a wing of the house which was devastated by a fire in the early 19th century. The brick paths were handlaid by the prizewinning hedgelayer Larry Laird, from bricks recycled from a demolished bothy in the grounds, by hand. Although the garden was only created in the 1980s, the final result has the feel of a renaissance formal garden.

There is also a much larger yew maze in the east garden, which is a Victorian creation – this garden is only open to the public on designated days.

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Filed under Garden History, Hedge Mazes, Historical Hedges, Notable Hedges

The “hedge-publisher” and the hedge professor

Following my various posts on the use of “hedge-” as a derogatory prefix meaning “humble” or “of low origins” I was interested to find this usage buried in a 1922 book called A Dictionary Of The Printers And Booksellers Who Were At Work In England, Scotland And Ireland From 1668 To 1725 by Henry R. Plomer.

MALTHUS (SARAH), bookseller in London, London House Yard, at the West End of St. Paul’s, i7oo(?)-i7o6. Widow of Thomas Malthus. Her only entries in the Term Catalogues were made in 1704: The Royal Diary (William Ill’s) and Dunton’s New Practice of Piety. [T.C. ill. 397-8.] She was then at London House Yard. Dunton speaks of her kindly in 1703 in his Life and Errors, and as if she was then newly set up in business, and she published the book two years later ; but by 1706 he had quarrelled with her. He accuses her of slandering him in The Wandering Spy ; she attached his goods for debt, and he abused her violently in The Whipping Post, 1706, calling her “a hedge-publisher”, “the famous publisher of Grub-street News”, &c.

(Bold added for emphasis)

As a publisher myself I’d be happy enough to be called a hedge-publisher, though when the book comes out (in May, just being typeset now) I might be presumptuous enough to start calling myself a “hedge-professor” instead…

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The Elephant Hedge at Rockingham Castle

One of the most spectacular and weird hedges I have ever had the pleasure of encountering is the Elephant Hedge at Rockingham Castle.

Perched on a natural escarpment above the Welland Valley, Rockingham was built on the instructions of William the Conqueror and has been owned and gradually rebuilt by one family (the Watsons) for the best part of five centuries, since the crown relinquished it in the sixteenth century. The castle is an accumulation of different periods of architecture, with a heavy dose of Tudor.

Stern battlements give way on one side to a beautiful terraced lawn with views across the Midland countryside below. From there you can observe the typical local patterns of enclosed pastures, with white sheep dotting the green grass and darker hedges marking the field boundaries. It is easy to imagine the lawn hosting croquet games, with cucumber sandwiches and tea served in china cups.

Dividing this lawn from a formal garden area is the massive Elephant Hedge. It is a strange structure made up of smoothly trimmed, undulating curves that could be taken to suggest the monumental curves of elephants’ bodies. It is divided into two parallel sections, with a shaded walkway concealed in between, and an entrance halfway down the lawn side through which you can enter its depths. It is 450 years old, having survived a Royalist siege in the English Civil War, and all the many wars and upheavals that have happened since then.


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Filed under Historical Hedges, Notable Hedges

“Juniper Toffee and Elderflower Delight”

Just a quick plug for John Wright’s lovely book on food from the hedgerow:

He also has a nice wild food website here:

If you happen to be in his part of the world he has a hedgerow ramble coming up, also mentioned on the site.

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Hedge Politics, Hedges and Biodiversity

The etymology of “hedgehog” (and how to cook one).

I’ve previously mentioned the use of “hedge-” as a derogatory prefix, as for instance in the adjective “hedge-born” which means “of low birth” or “born under a hedge”. In past centuries, poor people might seek medical help from a “hedge-doctor”, Irish Catholic culture (and the Gaelic language) were preserved during the period of the repressive Penal Laws by “hedge-priests” teaching at hedge schools. Richard Jefferies also talked of the common people as “the people of the hedges”.

Anyhow, I’ve always tended to assume that hedgehogs are so named because they live in hedges. Of course this clearly isn’t exactly true as they can also be found in any area of low scrubby vegetation and don’t necessarily need a hedge to live in. But I hadn’t thought through any alternative theory.

But the other day it occurred to me that one of the uses of hedgehogs for poor people in centuries past was as a cheap source of meat. Traditionally they were baked in clay, and the soft underbelly could then be eaten while the clay held on to the prickles.

I wonder if “hedge-hog” was derived from their role as a downmarket substitute for pork rather than just referring to the environment in which they lived. The fact that the cooking method I’ve mentioned was often associated with gypsies and travellers would only have helped to make it a dish that became seen as “only for the poor man’s table.”

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Gardening Thoughts, Historical Hedges