In our last exciting instalment of all things knot garden, we left the team with Robin working on the base/tank for his sugar version of the Diana fountain design from the garden of Nonsuch Palace. This would form the centre of the knot garden that was being worked on and he wanted it to look pretty special. As such, he planned to include water and swimming fish in the final design…yes, I thought he was mad!
Just to show us that he meant business, Robin whipped up a tiny test fish in short order….though luck wasn’t on his side and the fish was filleted by an overexcited young helper…back to the drawing board then!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the table… Jeremiah was making a new plinth for an obelisk, egged on it seems by Robert. Most of the obelisks all looked the same, as they should, being cast from the same moulds
but this one was different…though vaguely familiar
Jeremiah and Robert said I was imagining things….nothing to see…move along…and besides, none of the visitors had said anything so clearly there was nothing odd going on…I wasn’t convinced!
By now, work was really cracking on and everyone had really got into their stride. Marchpane hedging was springing up left, right and centre and sugar architectural pieces were filling the work table, as well as every spare surface in the team break room and preparation kitchen. Adrian was working on combining a load of these into a classical temple…lots of columns and some domes that explained why he’d been looking for small bowls all morning the previous day.
Taking a base of wood and sugar, a stoneware drinking jug, the sugar columns, the dome, a bowl of thin sugar paste to use as glue, and not quite enough fingers and hands…he was off. The columns were glued to the base with the jug in the middle to act as a support. While the “glue” was still flexible, small wedges of sugar were inserted to spread the columns apart so they were wide enough to hold the domed roof.
Clearly the dome couldn’t go on now, it wouldn’t fit with the jug there, so I left him to it went to make a coffee!
Now for clarity I should point out that my office (the whole of the Daily Programmes team office really, it just makes me feel better calling it my office 🤣) isn’t where the Kitchens Team are based. When I’m in the office I’m away from the Kitchen and divorced from the work that they’re doing in there. The kitchen for the office is upstairs, and while I was finishing making my coffee I could hear the door downstairs open. It was half term, most people were busy elsewhere and I knew the only other person in that day was definitely downstairs when I came up to boil the kettle…it could *only* be one of the Kitchen Team…would it be good news, or bad?
I came down the stairs, cup in hand, and entered the office to find Marc waiting…”QUICK, bring your camera,…you’ll want to see this” he said and then shot off towards the historic Kitchen. Still none the wiser as to good or bad, I put the coffee down and followed him back to the Kitchen to find
What had been a mould and a few test pieces the day before had turned from that, via some deft colouring to a self supporting feature.
but hang on a minute…what’s that in the background?? JEREMIAH!!
I suppose that’s the trouble when you employ fans and give them creative free reign! On the up side, nobody said anything, so we might just have gotten away with it. As well as the arbour, sat on the side was the temple…the finished temple, roof and all columns fixed in place and pretty solidly dry!
I have absolutely no idea how it all happened in such a short space of time? Perhaps they’d managed something with the TARDIS??
Returning to my now tepid coffee, I left them to finish the rest of the day off making more of all of it, nothing specific, just lots of parts being made and by the close of the day on Friday there were two quadrants virtually finished, or at least it was obvious what they would look like when finished, and a pile of pieces ready for the final push over the weekend.
Saturday was, for me, quite relaxing. Not at work, doing the usual weekend sort of things like shopping and visiting family, but in the back of my mind was the nagging thought that I really should go in on Sunday to see how they ended up and take images of the final result. I also couldn’t help but wonder how the fountain was getting on, as Robin had become a touch obsessed with it by the end of the week.
He had a kit of pieces on the Friday afternoon and mocked up some of it so I could see what he was planning
He was still talking about fish and water, but I wasn’t convinced it would come to much as I thought he’d run out of time…I was wrong, oh so wrong, and late on Saturday afternoon a message popped into my inbox containing a picture
Well that sealed it for me, I had to go in on Sunday to see what else had materialised over the Saturday…I would not be dissapointed.
When I walked into the Kitchen on the final Sunday,I found a slightly saddened Robin…the moisture in the room had ruined the ‘water’ in the fountain and it now looked more like a fountain of chicken soup than water…there’ll be a reason the original confectionery was in the rooms above the pastry department and their ovens, where it would be nice and warm and dry
What had been hedges laid onto paper to create the quadrants, now had the paper covered with sheets of marchpane that Jeremiah was decorating and painting with a woad coloured syrup to resemble pantiles
Where the plan had been to create decorative poles from pulled sugar for the garden, time had gotten the better of them and paper straws had to make do. The intention had been to use the recipe from Harley MS 2378 for Penydes contained in f157v and 158r
This recipe is essentially for making pulled sugar rods that you cut up with shears into the desired lengths. The intention had been to create coloured rods and thus use almost every technique available to Tudor confectioners to make the knot garden. Alas, it was not to be and we’ll have to add that to the next project.
Time ticked on through Sunday and gravel paths started to cover joints between quadrants. A third quadrant had materialise since Friday and was now having the finishing flourishes added to it
The fourth quadrant was always planned to be unfinished in order to show the working and what was underneath. There had been hopes that visitors could have driven the design of this 4th space to really make this a truly collaborative project, but I think the team were so wrapped up in the rest of the work that this laudable plan fell by the wayside. As with the pulled sugar, next time perhaps!?
Then suddenly it was 3.30. I had told the team that they had to finish by now so that they and the visitors could see the final object in isolation. They cleared away all the work tools and ingredients and cleaned the table around the garden. The last touches were added and stray comfit gravel raked into neat paths…voila! The finished knot garden.
The finished garden was all that was planned for and more. 3 completed quadrants and a forth showing the process. Statues, obelisks, temple and fountain…there was even a viewing stump complete with spiral pathway!
I’ll even cut them some slack for the TARDIS as it looked pretty damn good with its woad blue colouring!
They did a fantastic job. They worked like troopers to get this completed from drawing to finished garden in 9 days and it looked like a single finished product, not a collection of separate items posed next to each other. It met the brief and was suitably sized for the room and visually impressive. It showcased the various skills available, not only to Tudor confectioners and cooks, but of the team themselves and they should all be justifiably proud of what they achieved.
I doff my cap to them all, Marc, Robert, Robin, Jeremiah, Zak, Adrian, David and Barry.
So what happened to it afterwards I hear you ask. As much as this might have been amusing…
it wasn’t destroyed in some Godzilla re-enactment; it was however not long for this world. About 4 minutes after I took my last photograph it was gone; dismantled, stored and reclaimed. The architectural pieces are now in store in case they are useful in the future, the gravel and ‘flowers’ were bagged up along with the spare comfits and await a use in the next project. The paper plats have been stored with the rest of the project paperwork and plans while the rest was eaten, taken or binned depending on how many little hands had been all over it.
Why didn’t we keep it all as it was? Several reasons really. First, we just don’t have the space to store it. Second, the longer it’s stored the more ‘tired’ it starts to look unless it’s carefully wrapped or covered. Third, in the main subtelties like this weren’t designed to last; they were designed to be created, admired and consumed. Finally, and most importantly, if we don’t get rid of the things we make, we’re less inclined to have the incentive to progress and improve…we’d find excuses to do new and completely different things because we’d have “done” sugar subtelties. By destroying what’s been made, we never have the actual object to rest our laurels on.
So that’s the sugar knot garden done and dusted. Hopefully that’s given some idea of the work that went into it (despite all the bits I’m bound to have forgotten thanks to taking a fortnight to finish writing this up!)
I can’t say what the next post will be about or when it’ll be…what can I say, just look at the post history and see my laziness writ large. 2020 promises to be a roller-coaster ride of a year…the anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold complete with family festival (9 days of jousts, plays, games, crafts and cookery in the gardens at Hampton Court) and stunning exhibition on the history of that momentous occasion full of fantastic objects connected with Henry VIII and Francis I’s meeting in 1520. There’s Tudor cookery through the year at Hampton Court (check website for details as they say) or if the Georgians are more your thing, then we’ve got your back at Kew Palace Kitchens too….all of which, or none of it, is ripe for blog posting!