ASE’s Medieval Backyard | 1 | Introduction | Archaeology South-East

Archaeologist Lorna Webb has been busy this yr rising medieval vegetation in her allotment! Right here she introduces a brand new digital outreach challenge, that includes blogs and movies about her horticultural and historic adventures.


Welcome to ASE’s Medieval Backyard, a brief sequence of movies and weblog posts documenting a season of rising and exploring medieval vegetation in my allotment!

As a veteran of a Medieval Research masters at UCL, an archaeologist at ASE, and a eager gardener, it’s no marvel I’m captivated by what the surroundings appeared like within the medieval interval, and the way individuals used it.

For the previous yr I’ve been writing a lot of weblog posts on the manuscripts, artefacts and archaeological proof courting from round AD410 to the top of the 1400s. These give tantalising glimpses right into a interval of nice change following the departure of the Romans from Britain. Extra not too long ago I’ve been impressed to go one additional than writing… making an attempt a bit of medieval gardening of my very own!

On my half plot allotment within the Essex countryside I’ve been rising vegetation present in medieval contexts archaeologically and described within the written proof of the time. These have included herbs, flowers, greens, and even some weeds! Exterior the boundaries of the allotment I’ll be wanting alongside hedgerows and even carparks(!) to seek out medieval staples rising wild.

By way of the challenge we’ll be exploring these vegetation, lots of that are recognisable to us within the trendy world, and see how they had been used through the medieval interval.

What will we find out about Medieval Gardens?

Gardens as an idea will not be properly outlined within the medieval interval.

Home properties would have had an space for rising greens and different edible vegetation, however set gardens had been uncommon.

My instance backyard is designed round a monastic backyard, particularly that favoured by the Benedictines. Monastic gardens grew herbs and greens and seem on plans and inventories from the time. Gardens from the later medieval interval additionally embody rose gardens and flower gardens.

What proof is there for Medieval Gardening?

Medieval manuscripts

Among the best issues in regards to the medieval interval is the large useful resource of written works in each Outdated English and Center English courting from the time. When researching the vegetation to make use of for this challenge I checked out manuscripts on topics akin to cookery and medication the place plant names happen.

A few of these sources have already been checked out in a few of my earlier blogs together with recipe books akin to The Type of Cury (British Library Add MS 5016).

Different sources embody these describing vegetation for medication and magic together with Bald’s Leechbook (BL Royal 12 D. XVII). Written in Outdated English round AD900 in Winchester, the Leechbook accommodates treatments with a wide range of vegetation from herbs to bushes for an array of illnesses. A few of these I explored in a weblog publish from final yr.

For simply medicinal plant use there may be the Outdated English Natural (BL Cotton MS Vitellius C III). Often known as Pseudo-Apuleius because the textual content is a duplicate from a 4th century Roman author. Written within the eleventh century in Bury St Edmunds this natural has the good thing about having illustrations, giving us the visible prompts to match the vegetation to.

For magic in addition to medication, The Lacnunga (BL Harley 585) presents a people medication various. This distinctive manuscript is an enchanting combine of folks treatments in Outdated English, that are often variations of these discovered within the Outdated English Natural and Bald’s Leechbook. Compiled in AD1000 in Canterbury this group of treatments makes use of magic and charms invoking each the Christian God and Viking gods!

Archaeological Proof

It’s uncommon to seek out the bodily stays of a medieval backyard. As an alternative, archaeological proof for medieval horticulture typically derives from bulk-earth samples taken from our websites. These buckets of soil from archaeological contexts are rigorously processed again within the lab to make sure delicate artefacts and ecofacts are retained, particularly natural materials, that could be simple to overlook throughout excavation.

For our functions, crucial of those are fragments of charcoal and the stays of vegetation. When analysed by ASE specialists underneath the microscope these can inform us what vegetation and weeds had been grown or processed within the surrounding space, and what wooden species had been burnt. Combining this with different archaeological and historic proof from the positioning provides archaeologists one of the best understanding of not solely medieval gardening, however the surrounding surroundings and woodland administration on the time.

The right way to make your individual Medieval Backyard

Fancy your self as a medieval gardener? Right here’s how I arrange my allotment – though you possibly can develop most of those modern-day varieties in containers too!

Mark out and put together your plot (or pots!). My instance backyard is 2.5m by 1.5m with a bark pathway in a “T” form. I marked out my small rising space with string after which dug it over eradicating any weeds. I used bark from my native grocery store to place down a handy stroll method. Beds akin to these had been quite common in monastery and manor home gardens from the center medieval interval.

Plant Out your Crops! That is one of the best little bit of gardening – including in new vegetation! These will be ordered on-line or picked up as plug vegetation from a backyard centre (in case you are lazy like me) or grown from seed. In Early June I put in a variety of herbs, greens and edible flowers as plug vegetation into the beds round my path method. The sorts of vegetation I’m rising principally don’t want any technical assist and for probably the most half I allow them to simply do their factor!

Maintain them alive! Keep in mind to water your vegetation commonly particularly throughout scorching durations. I additionally needed to internet my peas to guard them from hungry pigeons. Not like the monastic gardens which that is primarily based on I’m not on my allotment through the day so prevention strategies like netting is an important in trendy gardening.


My Medieval Backyard has actually proven me how my archaeological pursuits can enrich my horticultural interest! Together with the well being and wellbeing advantages intrinsic to gardening akin to being outdoors, partaking with nature and maintaining lively, this additional historic dimension has given me a brand new perspective on vegetation I’ve grown or identified for years. Hopefully you’ll get a way of this all through the challenge.
Take a look at our first video, and observe ASE on Fb, Twitter and Instagram for extra posts in regards to the Medieval Backyard challenge.

Exterior Hyperlinks

The British library has a implausible assortment of digitised manuscripts together with:
Bald’s Leechbook
The Lacnunga
The Outdated English Natural

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