Behind the Grade 1 listed red brick garden wall shielding Hogarth’s House from one of the busiest roads in West London, lies a garden, at the heart of which grows an old mulberry tree.
This gnarled tree, bent over with age, and propped up by two branches, but still growing strong, is at least 300 years old and is thought to be one of the few to survive from the 17th century when these trees were brought to England in an attempt to breed silk worms.
When the 18th century satirical artist William Hogarth lived there he and his family are believed to have made mulberry pies from the tree for the Foundling children who stayed with them.
Pictured left a view from the 1870s showing the mulberry tree and the nursery gardener’s small glasshouse, garden tools and cold frame. Pictured right the garden at Hogarth’s House is currently being restored and is due to reopen to the public in July.
The triangular shaped garden was once larger, with an orchard and a nut walk, recently reinstated, and it is remarkable that this ancient mulberry tree still survives from the original planting.
It had a narrow escape in WWII when it and the house were damaged by the explosion of a parachute mine nearby in September 1940. Fortunately, the tree was brought back to good health by arboriculturists from Kew Gardens and continued to produce fruit. Indeed, after the house’s restoration it re-opened on 24 September 1951, to coincide with the Festival of Britain and mulberry pies were given to children at the Hogarth’s School nearby, in remembrance of Hogarth’s own practice.
This notable tree will be the subject of a live Zoom Midday Modern Conversations, with mulberry expert Dr Peter Coles and Hogarth’s House John Collins on Friday 21 May from 12-1pm. They also have a free Mulberry Tree Rhyme Time for under 5s urbantreefestival.org/mulberry-rhyme-time
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See also: History of Hogarth’s House
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