The Growing Importance of Gardening

29/08/20162:26 pm23/09/2016 1:34 pmLeave a Comment

A review of The Garden of Scotland, East Lothian’s Community Gardening Heritage exhibition by Susannah Jennings, Museum Assistant and Environmental Resource Management Student.

A new free exhibition has just begun in the temporary exhibition gallery, running from the 13th of August until the 10th January 2017, this exhibition explores stories, objects and photographs from East Lothian’s gardening heritage, and inspires, with displays discussing three contemporary community gardening projects.  As usual, children are catered for, we have colouring activities, garden design and fuzzy felts to keep the little ones entertained.

Personally, I love this exhibition because it combines my interests: heritage, working with communities, gardening and the environment.

WP_20160715_001The exhibition explores the heritage of the area by looking at local Untitled pioneers’ in horticultural knowledge, including Henry Prentice, one of the first market gardeners (famous for peas and potatoes!) Robert Brotherson, who contributed 165 articles on horticulture between 1871 and 1881, and John Abercrombie who wrote his first gardening book in 1767. The exhibition celebrates the people that established East Lothian’s gardening heritage, the portrait on the left is Robert Brotherson and the photograph on the right is of me in a community orchard that I set up in West Lothian.


The exhibition shows objects associated with gardening achievements, such as an invoice from John Gillies, known as the ‘cabbage king’, who once managed to harvest one million plants in a day! There are also formal objects from the Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners, such as the jug shown left.

sm IMG0059How well East Lothian did at gardening is also demonstrated bysm IMG0033 pictures that show local people’s success, such as the group pictured below in Robertson’s Market Garden, on the left as well as strawberry pickers in Ormiston, shown on the right, both pictures were taken in 1935.

As a past Countryside Ranger and an environmental student I have learned that since the Second World War, the environmental damage caused by the intensification of agriculture and industry has had dramatic negative effect on our natural heritage. East Lothian’s traditions and knowledge regarding growing food are particularly useful now. The exhibition celebrates three groups that are ensuring that this knowledge will be available to future generations. These groups are: the New Beginnings plot to pot project, the Glebe Greenspace Community Project (Athelstaneford) and Belhaven Community Garden, which is part of Sustaining Dunbar. All these projects have helped to create beautiful gardens, grow food for local areas, and well as manage a peaceful place for the community.

Tranent_127IMG_20151010_171136Thumbnail Belhaven_138

We hope to see as many people as possible for this exhibition…who knows you might grow some green fingers too!

Written by Katherine Weldon - Modified by FrancesW

3 thoughts on “The Growing Importance of Gardening”

  1. David says:

    Hello Doreen

    Yes, the Gardeners were proprietors of the Gardeners Arms for a good part of the 19th century. It housed their meeting room but was leased to a succession of tenant publicans and operated as a regular Haddington pub.

    We looked at the Free Gardeners a few years ago: (
    Although most of the records are still at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh the Archives here @JGC and the Museum Service collections have some material. Do ask when you come in the see the exhibition!

  2. Doreen Wilson says:

    Sounds an interesting exhibition which I hope to visit!
    Has the JGC an archive of the Fraternity of Gardeners of East Lothian? I believe they owned, or used the pub ‘Gardeners’ in the town as their meeting place.
    Any information would be welcome!

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