Box topiary: slim-fit for the more slender gentleman, and the more willowy figure


A recent post (note 60) has caught the eye of Mr E of Cambo.

In a lengthy disquisition on his own  practice when amongst his vegetables and in the light of the four necessary houses in the east pleasure ground at Wallington Hall, he has asked where a gentleman of the 18th century might go to relieve himself.

Mr E, yours is a question too often over-looked. Surely these pleasure grounds, clean and sweet-smelling, were the perfect places for a netty – and surely those that survive, at Aberglasney, at Castle Bromwich, at the Swiss Garden, Old Warden, at Felbrigg – surely these were put up for the gentry and their guests. It seems inconceivable that Wallington’s, so carefully placed at the heart of the formal design, should have been reserved for the gardening staff (who are more likely to have made do with a dock leaf and a spade).

And where there was no netty, then what was the shrubbery for? – the late Mavis Batey has pointed out that chamber pots were banned in St John’s, Oxford at the same time as the shrubbery there was developed. Does this not make the point? She will have known Maurice Bowra, who led members of the senior common room of Wadham College out into the gardens to relieve themselves in the shrubbery after dining in hall every evening. It cannot be irrelevant to add that the clipped cones and cylinders of the 17th century privy garden have a shape unmistakeably reminiscent of a French street pissoir. The variety of shaped topiary will have accommodated gentlemen of every description.

What else did William III do in his Privy Garden?