Selling ‘The Garden’ in Eighteenth-Century Print Culture // Adam J. Smith

Selling ‘The Garden’ in Eighteenth-Century Print Culture
’In the first of two posts postgraduate researcher Adam J Smith discusses the impact that eighteenth-century print culture had upon conceptualisations of the garden.’

A few weeks ago Jane Withers introduced us to Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery; an ‘Idiot’s Guide’ to getting the most out of your kitchen garden first published in 1744. Jane discussed the text’s production and shared with us some of the timeless advice found within (if you haven’t yet read her post it is definitely worth a look, especially if you’ve yet to discover the secret of curing headaches with onions and string). The very existence of the text also intersects with a series of historical narratives crucial to an understanding of the eighteenth-century garden as a pragmatic (and gendered) domestic space, an important component of the popular imagination, and a physical landscape symbiotically connected to the rise, diversification and steady democratisation of print culture.

Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery opens with a prefatory claim that wouldn’t be out of place in the 2014 edition of the Gardener’s World annual (although, I would hope that Monty Don might articulate this point with fractionally more tact and sympathy than his eighteenth-century predecessor):

This little treatise of Kitchen-Gardening is chiefly designed for the instruction and benefit of country people, who most of them have a little garden spot belonging to their house, and at the same time let it lie useless, for want of knowing how properly to manage it; or otherwise, if they do attempt the cropping of it, ’tis at improper season, so that they have not the desire success, which discourages them from making any farther attempts.

Our author is informing us that though many ‘country people’ have ‘a little garden spot’ the majority ‘let it lie useless’ because they don’t know ‘how properly to manage it’ (and, those who have attempted to do something with their garden have made a simple mistake which has put them off trying again).

Although I can certainly relate to the situation being described here something that is harder to imagine is that in 1744 the idea of everyday people (by “everyday people” I of course mean: people who might not have owned a country estate but were certainly well off enough to buy this book which is no mean feat at a time when it is estimated that single-author novels were still out of the affordable price range of 90% of the population) having their own garden was a new idea. Suddenly more people do have ‘a little garden spot belonging to their house’, and, fortunately for the booksellers behind Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery, they haven’t yet figured out what to do with it.

Luckily there are lots of texts which are also suddenly on hand to provide just such advice, and for the price of such a tome new gardeners could find out what it was they were expected to with their garden and how to do it.

Which begs the question: to what extent is print culture creating the garden?

At the same time that more and more people are acquiring these ‘gardening spots’ the eighteenth century also saw the emergence of Britain’s first ever twenty-four hour consumer society and the invention of cheap print. This well-documented explosion of print culture saw the market flooded with books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals and magazines. For the first time the success of such texts was dependent on discerning readers of the public who could now access and buy these texts on the street, rather than the author’s ability to attract and attain the royal patronage of the courts.

Popular culture was born.

And, given the sheer quantity of gardening manuals acknowledged in Jane’s last post, it seems that the people were interested in gardening (or, perhaps more cynically, the market made sure readers were increasingly aware that they were interested in gardening).

Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery couches itself a response to an urgent need: there are gardens out there that are not being used. But, to what extent is it creating this need? Are texts like this prescribing and inventing the garden that we know today in order to sell books which prescribe and invent the garden we know today? To what extent is our idea of what a garden is and should be the consequence of an eighteenth-century commercial enterprise, in which Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery is just an example of a single participant? And, are assumptions being made in texts such as this (possibly with further commercial motivations) that have subsequently become embedded in our own cultural consciousness?

For instance, a most cursory glance at the title of this example, Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery, reveals a gendering of domestic space. Obviously, as Jane’s post stresses, the title capitalises on biblical associations. The implication is that the reader’s garden becomes an Edenic space, and like Adam and Eve, the garden’s owners will become stewards over their ‘little spot’ of nature (although, given the enduring impact of John Milton’s Paradise Lost 70 years previous it is hard to image that the target audience could have imagined Eden without also associating it with the fall of man).

The title does more than this though. It situates Adam (the first man) in the garden, and Eve (the first woman) in the Kitchen; a divide which is emphasised further within the text, as the first half of the book instructs male readers on the labour necessary to create and sustain the garden where the crops will be grown and the second telling male readers what their wives must do in order to transform these crops into food.

Not only do such texts prescribe such assumptions, but as we tend to access the past through the written word they can also propagate preconceptions in our minds about what the eighteenth century was like. Just because the text genders the garden in this way (possibly for no other reason than that the readership it targets is one of fairly affluent men) was this necessarily reflected in lived reality? And if readers did not strictly adhere to the behaviour prescribed to them by print culture and market forces, how can we ever really appreciate the role of the garden in the eighteenth century?

One solution might be to access the period through texts which were not written for sale or publication, such as private letters, diaries or journals (if you haven’t seen it yet Thomas Flint is currently examining just such a journal in a series of posts examining the private writings of Parson Woodford).

In my next post I will be reflecting on the utility of findings made by the recent Nostell Priory Library Project when addressing exactly these questions. The project, which was a collaboration between the University of Sheffield’s School of English and the National Trust (directed by Dr Hamish Mathison and Dr Joe Bray), sought to contextualise a selection of medical and veterinary texts stored within the house’s magnificent and extensive eighteenth-century library using letters, receipts, invoices and other forms of ephemera. As a researcher on the project I was privileged enough to catalogue much of this material, and next time I will share some of the correspondences of two of the house’s eighteenth-century owners, Sir Rowland and Lady Sabine Winn, with a view to better understanding (and complicating) our notions of the eighteenth-century garden.

Creevela Works – Barn

Originally posted on Walkley History:

The farmhouse in 2001. Jim Rylatt.

The farmhouse in 2001. Jim Rylatt.

The barn. Jim Rylatt.

The barn which may be demolished. Taken in 2001. Jim Rylatt.

There is currently a planning application to demolish one of Walkley’s oldest buildings, a former barn known as the Creevela Works on Parsonage Crescent. Below is archaeologist Jim Rylatt’s brief history and architectural description of the barn. Details on how to object to demolition follow Jim’s description.

Creevela Works old OS

The results of my studies have indicated that the structure now known as the Creevela Works is the second or third oldest building still standing in Walkley. The oldest building is the Heavygate Inn and the other structure is Primrose House, on the opposite side of Parsonage Crescent.

These are the only three surviving buildings in the whole of Walkley that predate the formation of the first Freehold Land Societies in 1849 and 1850.

Primrose House was a relatively substantial farmhouse and the ‘Creevela Works’ represented…

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Jane Withers // Microhabitats – a symposium report

‘Last week one of our researchers, School of English MA student Jane Withers, ventured down to Furnace Park to attend the“Microhabitats Symposium.” It was Jane’s first time at the Park, and today she shares with us her thoughts, responses and photographs.’ - Adam J Smith

There’s a little plot of land, just a stone’s throw from the University that I had never seen before. Its sharp metallic fence looks unimposing amongst the many other buildings in the area, surrounded by the same silent guard.

I peek through the bars expecting a wasteland, the tired remnants of the industrial era, packed neatly away behind functioning garages and shops; but there’s colour. A bright fence separates the sloping levels. Happily painted tyres – ones that look suspiciously like those stacked in the car dealership behind me – line a wood chipped path up to the top tier. I walk on, gazing through the brittle branches of slumbering bushes and the cold blue steel of the fence; more colour. A makeshift den stands at the back of the plot, interspersed with old planks of wood and plastic bottles to create bursts of light and dark. Oversized benches swathed in purples, reds, and yellows takes centre stage around a makeshift coffee table. A strange triangular object, pieced together with half a breeze block, some twigs, a brick, some wire, and many other things besides, stands on its own, a little from the seating.


My eyes move past this puzzling object to the raised planters behind, bursting with life. Familiarity washes over me. I considered all the research I had done on the 18th and 19th Century kitchen gardens as I looked at those planters. I imagined the people of Sheffield (some of whom may have lived or worked in this very spot) who used their allotments or gardens as a den: an escape from the real world of smog and smoke and that plants they would have grown there. I saw them in the planters before me, the swaying sheaves of wheat, and the curled leaves of the rhubarb. It was as if I was watching their phantom hands carefully tilling the soil, and breathing a sigh of relief that the rain hadn’t caused too much fuss, followed by their silent prayer for a bit of sunshine.


This was the first time I had visited Furnace Park, and seen the driving force of the project; the planters.  Whereas before I had only sat in front of books and journals, reading of the history of allotments in Sheffield, and the types of fruit, vegetables and herbs to be grown there. There I was, stood in front of those very same fruits, vegetable and herbs growing in the 21st century. The two married together in my mind, and the project seemed to grow tendons flesh and skin over its academic bones.


The reason for my visit to Furnace Park was for the Microhabitats symposium held at Bradley’s Café in the Nichols Building in Shalesmoor. The symposium was organised by Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson of the University of Sheffield, through the Occursus group in collaboration with Art in the Park. The event brought together many minds from many different walks of life, from lecturers at both Sheffield Hallam, and from the University of Sheffield, to poets, photographers, artists and the chief executive from Art in the Park itself.

inside the park

The day’s discussions all concerned the idea of ‘microhabitats’. We discussed the idea of worlds within worlds, covering topics such as sheds and dens, to bunkers and hiding places. Sat on the quaint sofas, cushions piled around us with our hands wrapped around our mugs of tea, the talks were insightful and interesting, differing vastly from speaker to speaker. Although each speaker warrants their own in-depth description, this short blog wouldn’t do justice to the brilliant projects that we were given an insight into.

In very brief summary, each of the speakers discussed the instinctual need for every person, young or old, to have a den, or a hideaway; a world of their own within the wide world that we all share.


All of these talks made me ponder Furnace Park, and the purpose of this strange little plot of land in a highly developed area of the city. The park in itself is a hideaway, protected and enclosed by its blue steel fences, giving you a sense of security and ‘other-worldliness’ in the middle of the city. Then the structures within the park give you worlds within the world of Furnace Park, within the wide world – that’s a lot of worlds. I can see the appeal of the park, it’s a malleable space, a clean slate ready to be built on, and then swept away and rebuilt. A space not dedicated to industry or business, but purely to being a space for imagination and creation to run wild amongst what is at first view, a barren wasteland. I can now see that the imposing blue steel fence that I speculatively peered through on my approach protects the park, not from people, but from development, from builders and industry-men, fighting for new ground to build offices, factories, more and more money for more and more business. Do not get me wrong, business is essential to keep a city like Sheffield alive and vibrant, and the city is one with a proud industrial background that many of its residents would be eager to tell you about. This piece of land is different though, not one of the manicured parks, nor the levelled plots with cranes towering above, ready to sketch a piece of architecture from stone and mortar. It is a material representation of an idea, able to be manipulated, used and formed in whichever way the users need or want; and at the end of the day, the gates are locked, the park is put back to sleep, ready for another day, another fresh idea to be formed on its eager ground.


Furnace Park reminded me of the allotments that I had pored over in my journals and books. The allotment, an idea of its humble owner, realised in sweat and soil. Able to be ploughed, planted and reaped, and then ploughed again, turning over new soil, for new plants, for the reaping of new crops. The allotment, a world away from the trials and tribulations of lower class life in the 18th and 19th centuries, a world within a world. The gardener’s den and hideaway. I can see their longstanding appeal; I can understand why Furnace Park is the perfect place for the recreation of the gardening heritage of the city and country; an idea grown from the history of the people themselves on land protected for the people.


If you ever do get the chance to visit this little retreat in the big city of Sheffield, I strongly urge you to. To me it was food for thought, causing me to reassess what this space means to not just me, but to the city as a whole. It made me realise that we all need that place to escape to, a place that’s open for our imaginations to run wild within, unleashed from the constraints of work and day to day life. I thought of my little dens and hiding places that I had used throughout my life, and I smiled at the memories. Furnace Park was a happy place for me that reminded me of fond memories, and the promise of new experiences. If you visit Furnace Park, what will it mean to you?

Note: All images were taken by myself and are of Furnace Park and the surrounding area.

Further Reading

Micro-Habitats: Bunkers, Sheds & Space Capsules

Originally posted on lukebennett13:

“Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. SO like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside we will lose our interior watchfulness.” St Anthony the Great, c. 300AD

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Here are my slides for my presentation at today’s Occursus/University of Sheffield symposium on ‘Micro-Habitats’. As my title will already have revealed, I used the opportunity to talk again about bunkers. This time my focus was on bunkers as micro-worlds. Through a clip from Lost I highlight the two faces of ‘the bunker’ in popular culture – the space-age bachelor pad and the abject, dank crisis space of last resort. I also took the ‘bunker as womb’, ‘bunker as shed’ and…

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Hannah Proctor and Aaron Peters on contemporary psychiatry and the post-traumatic subject

Hannah Proctor is interviewed by Aaron Peters on the excellent Resonance FM on the subject of contemporary psychiatry and the post-traumatic subject.

Listen to the podcast

There’s also a really interesting article by Hannah Proctor and Michael Runyan on Mute - ‘Changing Our Minds: A Journey to the Centre of the Brain’.

Humans make their own history, but contemporary philosophy seems to be adapting the neo-colonial perspectives of neuroscience to dismiss the idea this could ever be a conscious and system-antagonistic process, argue Hannah Proctor and Michael Runyan


New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies // Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin

A free download (courtesy of the Open Humanities Press) of this excellent collection of essays and interviews with and by key thinkers associated with speculative realism and anti-correlationist thought.

Matter can receive a form, and within this form-matter relation lies the ontogenesis.

Gilbert Simondon

new materialisms

Eddy Dreadnought // The New House

They changed our address one rainless summer,
Steep garden walls made an exercise yard.
Clay spoil-heaps of throwing ammunition
Good for ballistic puffs of impact dust.
I made a dug out of wall foundations
With a roof of perforated iron,
Lined inside by a ‘borrowed’ travel rug
Soil woven into its Fair Isle pattern.
In truth a hideout not that inviting
Mainly a target for earth bombardment.
I wheeled a barrow as armoured vehicle
Incessant crossing would grind this quadrat
To dust that coated every flexure.
By aiming my gaze fixedly downwards
To screen out the incongruent present
Anachronisms and all that shouting,
My blinkered gaze became TV programme
An arid western or a desert war.
Humming incidental background music
With whistles, exploding cries, then silence.
Zooming in and out, retreat, invasion.
For days on end my hair was matted
Though it might seem I was becoming earth,
I was really becoming battlefield.

Of course later on were social bunkers
Clubrooms for bonding and early smoking
Some youths I knew then would go down the pit.
But this lone primeval den was different
Sun rays of dust in Brownian motion.
Working-through, or was it dirty protest
Against the indoor despairing fury.

Eddy Dreadnought, 2014

This work was submitted by artist Eddy Dreadnought in response to the Microhabitats symposium on March 28th 2014.