Garden Gnomes For Sale
So said the sign I passed on my way to a business meeting. For some reason, when I got home, I decided to read about garden gnomes and found there was a fascinating history!
Early in the 19th century the first garden gnomes appeared, in Germany. In around 1840, the idea spread to England. Having a gnome on the garden was generally thought to bring good luck, as well as a bountiful harvest.
Apparently Sir Charles Isham, the 10th Baronet of Lamport Hall, brought around 20 garden gnomes from Germany – the first to arrive in England. He proudly set them up in the rockery in his garden. Unfortunately only one remains – “Lampy” – and it’s a sad sign of the times that he has to be insured against theft – for a million pounds.
The original statues were hand crafted from terracotta, which remained the material of choice right up until the 1960s. These clay garden gnomes were often cherished, collectible ornaments that stayed in the family and were passed down through the generations.
Philip Griebel and August Heissner started mass producing garden gnomes in around 1872. Within a short time Heissner Gnomes became famous around the world. Far from the tacky image of today’s gnomes, these were considered to be works of art which brought luck to the owners.
A huge amount of work was often put into these early statues and some of them were quite big – as much as a meter tall. Although made for the garden, they were meticulously crafted. Having said that, many of the more beautiful examples ended up in the homes of wealthy people, as house ornaments (although I rather think that the gnomes preferred to be where they belonged – in the garden).
Gnomes actually go back a looooooooooooong way – hundreds of years ago they were generally portrayed as short, very old men with wrinkles and white beards, wearing red conical hats and brown trousers.
Early gnomes were somewhat serious fellows, and remained so right up until Walt Disneys Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs gave us a glimpse of what was to come.
Ironically the new versions only had a run of a couple of years, since World War II came along and stopped production in all of Europe.
It wasn’t until the 60’s that the advent of cheap plastics kick-started mass production again. and millions of brightly colored gnomes started invading gardens again.
Today, there are few remaining ceramic gnome manufacturers, with most being made from plastic in Eastern Europe and the Far East.
Modern suburban gardeners seem to like gnome statues. They think (and I agree) that they make for interesting, humorous gardens!
Problem is, many gnomes are stolen (or “liberated”), which is a shame. Maybe because of the recession they turn up on Ebay?!
So, Love em or hate em, garden gnomes have been around for about 150 years and they look like theyre going to be around for another 150.
*Gnomes are banned from the Chelsea Flower Show because the organizers claim they detract from garden designs.
*Garden gnomes have been banned from cemeteries by the Diocese of Bath and Wells (in England ” where else?) because leaders say they are “unnatural creatures”. Along with plastic flowers and other decorations such as teddy bears, they have been called “inappropriate and tacky!
*In France there is even a French Liberation Front of Garden Gnomes