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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

This Day In ... 1858


Police Sergeant John Harrison was one of Waterfurlong's longest-standing and most dedicated Victorian gardeners and whenever trouble brewed (on or off the plots) he seemed to be at the ready with handcuffs and truncheon.

On 19 November 1858 the Mercury entertained readers with a blow-by-blow account of the previous Saturday's drunken rampage by Stamford labourers Francis Pridmore, Robert Blades and William Waterfield, which ended in John Harrison and his constable dishing out rough justice.

'[The defendents] entered the New Salutation and called for some beer, which was supplied to them in a pitcher with some drinking glasses. They broke the glasses and refused to pay for them, and Mr Bird refusing to let them go away without paying for the damage they had done, Pridmore immediately struck him on the face; and on George Allen, who is ostler at the inn, going to the assistance of his master, he also was struck by the defendant a violent blow on the face and knocked down...

Blades was then charged by Mr Potter, landlord of the Seven Stars, with entering his house on the same day about dinner time, and upsetting the table with the dinner on it, breaking crockery, and damaging the eatables to the amount of 1s.1d. The defendant, who, it appears, with several others, was going about the town in a beastly state of intoxication, assaulting people and damaging property, went into the Seven Stars and called for some drink, which Mrs Potter refused to draw, Blades being at the time drunk. He then asked for some dinner, which was also denied him, whereupon he exclaimed, "Then I will give you some," and took hold of the table, at which were sitting two women, and upset it, throwing the contents on to the floor among some sand, spoiling the victuals, and breaking the dishes and plates. The defendant said he went into the house and asked for some beer, when one of the girls put her arms round him and asked him to stand a quart, and in his endeavours to free himself from her grasp he turned the table over. He (the defendant) supposed there was some ill-feeling existing between himself and Potter, because he would not go and steal some fowls and rabbits for him, and that was the reason he had brought him before their Worships. He also stated that the two girls in the house were kept for prostitution, and that he himself could prove it.

In consequence of complaints having been made during the day of assaults, [PC Briggs] received information to proceed with sergeant Harrison to take the drunken fellows into custody. They went to a public house in North-street called the White Horse, where the parties were drinking, and apprehended the ringleader, Blades. While they were conveying Blades from the house, Waterfield put out one of his legs, caught hold of Briggs' arm, and attempted to throw him down. Sergt Harrison then took Waterfield into custody, but he resisted and became so violent that Briggs, after he had seen his prisoner in safe keeping, returned to assist Harrison, when he received a kick on the legs from the defendant. Waterfield, in defence, said he did not put his leg out to throw Briggs down; he was merely swinging his leg backwards and forwards, and was taken aback to receive a tremendous blow from sergt Harrison between the eyes and nose, which nearly knocked him off his chair. When he got part of the way to the station he refused to go any further, thinking that he had been very ill-used and had done nothing for which he ought to go gaol: sergt Harrison then came up and beat him about the head with his staff. He called witnesses to prove the truth of his statement. Sergeant Harrison denied striking him, and said that no more violence was used than was necessary.' Pridmore, Blades and Waterfield were all heavily fined with the default of 14 days' imprisonment with hard labour if unable to pay.' (1)

The Old Salutation pub was in St Peter's Street but I have so far been unable to find a record of the New Salutation. The Seven Stars was on All Saints Street where Harrison and Dunn is now situated. Ironically, in the 20th century the Blades family took on several Waterfurlong plots, one of which may well have been previously gardened by John Harrison!

Read more about John Harrison on our gardeners' biography pages.

(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

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