Make yourself at gnome the fashionable hermit in the garden

The curious story of garden hermits - from their distant ancestors in imperial Rome to their humble modern counterpart, the dapper garden gnome - will be told at a free public lecture on Thursday 14 May.

The Botanic Garden Lecture, entitled ‘The English Ornamental Hermit’, is based on the most recent book by Professor Gordon Campbell from the School of English, ‘The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome’.

The lecture will explore the mark hermits made on the gardens and the literature of the eighteenth century - and how they live on in the art, literature, and drama of our own day - and will be illustrated by many of the surviving hermitage buildings that remain scattered through England, Ireland, and Scotland.

The eccentric phenomenon of the ornamental hermit enjoyed its heyday in the England of the eighteenth century, when it was fashionable for owners of country estates to build architectural hermitages in their landscape gardens. Landowners peopled their hermitages with hermits, real or imaginary.

Although the fashion for hermits had largely fizzled out by the end of the eighteenth century, they had left their indelible mark on both the literature as well as the gardens of the period - and live on for many as the charming garden gnome.

The free public Botanic Garden Lecture ‘The English Ornamental Hermit’ takes place at 8:00pm in the Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre 3 at the University of Leicester on Thursday 14 May.

The hermitage, Brocklesby Park
The Hermitage at Oriel Temple
The hermitage, Eastbourne