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.

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This Day In ... 1914

TOM SANDALL CONTEMPLATES GIVING UP HIS BELOVED GARDEN

As this centenary year draws to a close, it is poignant to read about the Great War's impact on one of our older gardeners, waiting at home for news from France and facing a difficult decision of his own ...

Born in 1839, Thomas Sandall was a Waterfurlong tenant of many decades. Tom followed in his father's footsteps as a banker and spent most of his career with the Northamptonshire Banking Company, managing and living in what is now Lloyd's on Stamford High Street. He was also Borough Treasurer, Churchwarden of St John's (which contains a memorial window to his beloved wife, Connie), sponsor of the young Malcolm Sargent and benefactor of the town in numerous ways. I have been thrilled to discover Tom's lengthy hand-written memoir and journal in Stamford Town Hall's Phillips Room and have nearly finished transcribing it.

It is New Year's Eve 1914. Tom is retired from the bank, has been widowed for nine years and is living with unmarried daughter Sophy at Rusholme Lodge (the white corner house at the St Paul's Street and Brasenose crossroads). July had brought a harrowing telegram from Brazil announcing his seventeen year-old granddaughter Mary's death from diphtheria, and Tom is anxiously waiting for news from the front of sons Eddy and Cecil and grandson Tommy. At the age of 75 he has been trying to keep both mind and body occupied:

During 1914 I planted about a dozen trees in St John’s Church Yard (after having had some straggling & neglected laurel bushes & box trees removed) and also planted a good many small shrubs, converting what was an unsightly, uncared for graveyard into a much more seemly “God’s Acre” & I trust for some years at any rate it will remain a monument and memorial of my interest in St John’s.

However, Tom's painful 'gouty eczema' has been worsening since autumn and his doctors have advised a long programme of rest, so it is with a heavy heart he writes the following entry about his Waterfurlong plot:

Christmas-time George Stapleton asked me if I ever thought of giving up the garden to give him the refusal. On consideration of the matter as I now seldom get as far I have agreed to give the garden up to him, though it means parting with a spot which is associated with many happy memories.

Tom Sandall (centre) with Connie (beside him), family and friends abt 1903.

Once I have completed the transcription of Tom Sandall's memoir I will publish it on the website. In the meantime, you can discover how his family fared as the war progressed in the brief biography I wrote before stumbling across the memoir.


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