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Chimney Pots and French Gardening

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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Chimney Pots and French Gardening

Last week we finally moved some furniture from Dad’s house and suddenly the Ugly Bungalow is looking a bit more like a home and less like a transit camp. Over the last few weeks we have worked like dogs to try to get a few walls painted, electrics done, shelves up, boxes moved, (again and again and again) and finally emptied…At last Chris has Dad’s old desk instead of a picnic table to work on and I have some shelves and I’m hoping the 60’s style glass fronted bookcases will come galloping back into fashion very soon.

As well as furniture we also brought back the two old chimney pots which were a present from me to Mum many years ago. They are not the fancy beautiful twisted ones but are quite plain and square. However they do have a known history, being the old Post Office pots from the village where I used to live.

One of my relocated Chimney pots. Now the right way up.

For some reason these poor things spent their life upside down at my parent’s house..something to do with “practicality” and the sizes of plant pots and I don’t think my father liked them very much. He though it odd to use chimney pots as decorative items… maybe for forcing rhubarb…but his rhubarb never seemed to need forcing. 

I haven’t got round to rhubarb yet but when I do  "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia", has this useful advice and a photo.

The Garden - Small Holdings For Women By A. C. Marshall, F.r.h.s.,

Ordinary chimney pots costing Is. 3d. apiece may be used for forcing early rhubarb, and are as effective as rhubarb pots costing 3s.

“Ordinary chimney-pots costing Is. 3d. apiece may be used for forcing early rhubarb, and are as effective as rhubarb pots costing 3s”

This is of course Old Money…about 6p in today’s currency. Now they cost just a bit more.

I have always admired chimney pots, with their mixture of practicality and design. A great example of “form following function”. The whole subject, the varieties and their manufacture, is endlessly fascinating. Many are very beautiful and decorative and there is one called “a beehive”.. a good plain speaking and practical design.

Here is a Yorkshire “Beehive” chimney pot from Leeds. Excellent I think for rhubarb.
Leeds beehive pot

The image is from the American Company where you can find many beautiful repro and original pots. 

Lance Bates in the UK is a chimney pot lover, spotter and collector and owned  the Museum of Chimney pots up in Burslem.. In 2009 Lance appeared on the BBC talking about his passion and here he is with some of his 2,500 pots at an exhibition at Ceramica in 2010. I think they are magnificent.

"I liked the shapes, and the fact that to produce a chimney you need a combination of art, science and engineering," ..


I know the Museum had to close (due yet again to the joyless ones) and was hoping to reopen with some funding. I wish him well and do hope he succeeds in finding a home for his fabulous and enviable collection. He compiled this sheet of images for the chimney pot spotter. The designer in me loves it!

Lance Bates chimeny pot guide

If you are a real enthusiast and are rich you can maybe find a copy of "Chimney Pots and Stacks - An Introduction to Their History, Variety and Identification ", written by Valentine Fletcher. It is the standard work on the British domestic chimney pot. Published in 1969, it is now very expensive! He made a collection of over 150 chimney pots from all over the world, which you can now see at Bursledon Brickworks. Here are a few ….


Photo from CleanerChimneys  who are helping the museum identify them.

It seems that chimney pots appeared in the UK in the 13th Century .. here, from those early days: “This cheeky chimney pot (or, more properly, a smoke-vent) once belched smoke from a merchant’s house in the High Street of fourteeth century Oxford.

Image and more info at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford.

Wonderful things chimney pots!

French Gardening

Reading down further in the article : The Garden - Small Holdings For Women By A. C. Marshall, I came across this fascinating insight into “French Gardening” which somehow immediately conjures up visions of saucy frolicking in the veg patch.

In dealing with market gardening for women, the writer has so far refrained from approaching the subject of Intensive Cultivation, or French Gardening. Briefly, the system is to force along very early crops by means of bell-glasses and immense quantities of manure, or else by a system of hot water pipes running beneath the ground. It is a style of gardening that has been much discussed, and there are in this country lady gardeners who are finding it most remunerative. At the same time, the adherents of French gardening who are reaping striking benefits are they who have actually studied on the Continent or under Parisian exponents. Certainly the system is one demanding great financial resources, and the lady with slender capital and only a beginner's knowledge of the rudiments of horticulture should leave French gardening severely alone. After all, we cannot war against our fickle climate; and the Frenchman, with his thousands of cloches, or bell-glasses, has not only the experience of generations on his side, but the sunshine as well.

Oh dear…as a poor creature of “slender capital “ and, sadly not having studied “under Parisian exponents” I guess it’s not for me. But I don’t think we do too badly for sunshine.

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Anonymous greenman said...

Chimney pots it's a new world to me. Very interesting.
How is the weather where you live?? Here in Portugal we are living a serious drought. Almost no rain since November...
Everything is dry and sad.

13 March 2012 at 20:14  
Blogger Jennifer Barnes said...

Fascinating. I will look at chimney pots with added respect now.

13 March 2012 at 23:08  

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