Wanted: Eccentric Hermit For Garden Ornament Every so often we come across a news item or blog post that takes us by total surprise. This week it was the discovery that the humble garden gnome used to be a real-life human being. Before the days of the ceramic garden gnome, a human being often played the role of stern, robe-wearing guardian. The human would preferably be a grizzled old man who didn’t mind being a hermit, living in seclusion, and forgoing even basic personal hygiene. The whole point of these "gnomes" or hermits? To show off the wealth and status of the landowner. The men would agree to live in the landowner's estate grounds for a span of time (about seven years) and add a touch of romantic melancholy to the place - much like the building of a folly was supposed to do. One advert for a hermit placed by Charles Hamilton in the 1740s ran thus:
…he shall be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, beard, or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton’s grounds, or exchange one word with the servant.
However, while the ornamental hermit might have done a good job of “reminding all passersby of our shared mortality”, we can't say that we've found that's something the modern garden gnome does. Usually the only thing they remind us of is that we desperately need to mow the lawn because once again their pointed hats have disappeared behind a jungle of grass! If you'd like to read the full blog post on 'The Mysterious Lives of 18th Century Garden Hermits' you can click here.
Recommended Viewing For Poldark And Austen Fans