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The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries


12 JUNE 2020

The Herb Woman

In the seventeenth century, even the most elaborate and fashionable gardens had areas set aside for growing herbs, fruit, vegetables and flowers for domestic use.  Even modest establishments grew plants which were  vital to the survival of the household and many public spaces used them too!

Liveryman Margaret Willes' new book The Domestic Herbal - Plants for the Home in the Seventeenth Century will be published  on 25 June by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford .  It  takes the reader on a tour of the productive  seventeenth century garden and house to show how these plants were used for cooking and brewing, medicines and cosmetics, in the making and care of clothes, and finally to keep rooms fresh, fragrant and decorated.

It is this last element which is of particular interest to the Stationers' Company which has, in its accounts, notes of  quite large amounts of money (for the time) paid to a herb woman.  Our Archivist, Dr Ruth Frendo, has written here  about those entries and about how Margaret was able to shed light on them.  The herb woman, it would seem, provided herbs to be strewn on the floor  of  the Great Hall  to make it more pleasant for those attending banquets! 

That's one custom from the past that probably will not be making a come back even at our historically themed banquets!