The Gardens of the British Working Class

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9780300187847: The Gardens of the British Working Class

This magnificently illustrated people’s history celebrates the extraordinary feats of cultivation by the working class in Britain, even if the land they toiled, planted, and loved was not their own. Spanning more than four centuries, from the earliest records of the laboring classes in the country to today, Margaret Willes's research unearths lush gardens nurtured outside rough workers’ cottages and horticultural miracles performed in blackened yards, and reveals the ingenious, sometimes devious, methods employed by determined, obsessive, and eccentric workers to make their drab surroundings bloom. She also explores the stories of the great philanthropic industrialists who provided gardens for their workforces, the fashionable rich stealing the gardening ideas of the poor, alehouse syndicates and fierce rivalries between vegetable growers, flower-fanciers cultivating exotic blooms on their city windowsills, and the rich lore handed down from gardener to gardener through generations. This is a sumptuous record of the myriad ways in which the popular cultivation of plants, vegetables, and flowers has played and continues to play an integral role in everyday British life.

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About the Author:

Margaret Willes is an enthusiastic gardener and the former publisher at the National Trust.

Review:

"Willes’s range is staggering. . . . Her book is a virtually inexhaustible source of pleasure. Just like a garden, in fact."—John Carey, The Sunday Times (John Carey The Sunday Times 2014-03-23)

‘[A] superb new history of gardening.’—Ian Jack, The Guardian (Ian Jack The Guardian 2014-08-02)

‘Margaret Willes sets out to give voice to working-class gardeners of the past in this magnificent piece of research, wrapped up by Yale as handsomely as a cottage loaf – and to be devoured slice of crusty slice: allotments, flower shows, and folklore. . . More convincingly and more eloquently than any previous garden historian, Willes shows that gardening is 'the popular art of Britain.''—Christopher Woodward, World of Interiors Magazine (Christopher Woodward World of Interiors 2014-10-01)

‘Willes’s book is a careful scholarly consideration of the evidence about Britain’s humblest plots, from medieval times onwards. . .Willes has worked tirelessly to amass evidence, and the illustrations and images included in the text are particularly evocative, and often also very poignant. [They] provide the book’s rich texture and make for delightful and often surprising reading.’—Emma Townshend, Independent on Sunday (Emma Townshend Independent on Sunday 2014-03-23)

‘She has succeeded in letting the individual voices of the underdogs of the gardening fraternity shout or whisper tellingly through its pages.’—Katherine Lambert, New Statesman (Katherine Lambert New Statesman 2014-03-21)

‘A bravura historical survey full of rich detail, facts and anecdotes.’—The Sunday Times (The Sunday Times 2014-03-30)

'What exactly is a working-class garden in image and reality?. . .These questions, and much else, are explored in Margaret Willes's new book. . . Her best material comes from the 19th century onwards, especially in the century from 1860 to 1960.'—Robin Lane Fox, The Financial Times (Robin Lane Fox The Financial Times 2014-03-30)

‘Victorian industrialists and do-gooders. . .shine out like beacons of energy and determination from Margaret Willes’s marvellously illuminating book. . .Fascinating as a work of history, Willes’s book is – above all – a record of the passion that has led England to take pride in having bred a nation of gardeners.’—Miranda Seymour, Literary Review (Miranda Seymour Literary Review 2014-04-04)

‘Margaret Willes’s excellent book demonstrates how enclosure was a defining point in the British attitude to land, community, self-reliance and ownership. . .Willes writes fascinatingly of an upsurge of working-class gardening clubs that promoted gardening not only as a means of supplementing a meagre diet but as a source of delight in both competition and the beauty of flowers.’
—Lucy Lethbridge, The Financial Times (Lucy Lethbridge The Financial Times 2014-04-26)

‘This is a welcome work of serious scholarship, which brings to the fore much that garden historians usually prefer to ignore.’—Ursula Buchan, The Spectator (Ursula Buchan The Spectator 2014-04-26)

‘From the 17th century to today, a magnificent study.’—The Sunday Times (The Sunday Times 2014-06-29)

'Margaret Willes, the hollyhock of garden historians. . .finds a space of her own to raise the theory that it is ordinary gardeners who have made the biggest contribution to the greening and flowering of Britain. . .She has demonstrated that the next best thing to gardening is total immersion in a really good book about how our forebears did it. And why.’—Elizabeth Grice, The Oldie (Elizabeth Grice The Oldie 2014-08-08)

‘Her excellent, scholarly celebration of the humblest of horticulturalists, from medieval times onwards, is a glorious, lavishly illustrated tribute to the redemptive power of gardening – and our faith in the future as we sow tiny seeds, perhaps in our city window box, in the hope that they’ll blossom come spring.’—Jackie McGlone, The Herald (Jackie McGlone The Herald 2014-09-27)

'Margaret Willes’s overview of working-class gardens adds to this growing body of literature, and provides a great introduction to an often overlooked history. . .Thanks to books such as this, historians can no longer ignore the stories of these other gardens, created outside of the estate boundary.'—Clare Hickman, BBC History Magazine (Clare Hickman BBC History Magazine 2014-03-01)

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Willes, Margaret
Editore: Yale University Press (2014)
ISBN 10: 030018784X ISBN 13: 9780300187847
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Margaret Willes
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