12 JUNE 2020
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!