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Gardeners collections

Most Local History and Archive collections in the Lothians and Fife have some records about free gardeners in their area. Almost all local authority museums have some artefacts relating to individuals or lodges. Almost all these bodies have contributed material to the SHELF project. LINK

In addition to the resources on this website, much more was surveyed and can be found on Resources for Learning in Scotland, of which SHELF was just a part. Only a proportion of the existing gardeners' records were selected for inclusion because SHELF looked at the whole idea of self-help. The material that was included can lead back to the original collections held in museums, libraries and archives across the Lothians and Fife.

Other significant collections are held in national institutions. Many records have been deposited in the National Library of Scotland. The National Archives of Scotland have the holdings acquired by the Registrar of Friendly Societies and other deposits. For example, records relating to the Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners of East Lothian from 1676-1953 are held under reference GD420. Some university libraries also have material of interest.

However, much is still tucked away in cupboards in homes or lying forgotten in halls and club-rooms awaiting discovery.

The Literature of Free Gardening

A good starting point to discover what is in your area is the survey by Ian MacDougall published as A Catalogue of some Labour Records in Scotland and some Scots Records outside Scotland (Scottish Labour History Society, Edinburgh, 1978). A recent survey of the Free Gardeners was researched and published by Robert Cooper as An Introduction to the Origins and History of the Order of Free Gardeners (Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., London, 2000). Early Scottish Gardeners and their Plants 1650-1750 (Tuckwell Press, East Linton, 2000) by Forbes W Robertson contains a chapter on gardeners societies. Your local library will be able to find copies of all these books.

Some lodges included short histories in their booklets of rules and regulations or have been the subject of a local study. For example, both Dunfermline and Haddington are the subjects of short accounts: History of the Society of Gardeners in Dunfermline by anon (A Angus, Dunfermline, 1816) and the Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners of East Lothian by Charles Martine and WH Brown (ed.) (East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists' Society, Haddington, 1975).

However, rulebooks have only survived by chance and your lodges may have left no record. Many documents relating to Gardeners are catalogued along with material relating to Freemasonry.

Your local press is often a good source to build a picture of Gardeners' business and social activities. Many local papers have been microfilmed and are available in local history centres. Directories and annual registers often list lodges, addresses and office holders.


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