Gardens in Jericho
The long, narrow cottage gardens or yards, so characteristic of the workmen's housing in Jericho, brought the old rural economy into the new suburb. Every family was expected to supplement its wage income by one means or another. Many of the early residents would have kept a pig or a few fowl at the end of the yard; even a horse or donkey. Others had a workshop where the family trade of cobbling, basketwork, china repairs or wood turning was practised; indeed any of the domestic skills which are now so hard to find. Women often took in washing or outwork from dressmakers or did clothes' alterations and repairs. With nearly half the workforce in Jericho in 1871 employed as unskilled labourers who could be laid off at will, some form of supplementary income was essential for survival. Self employment was widespread also, many men having two occupations, as did Richard Mullard, who lived at 10 Cardigan Street. He ran his own hansom cab as well as his business as a coal merchant. His two horses were stabled at the end of the yard in Cardigan Street. Others had their own workshops sustaining complex family networks of employment. Local yards were busy places.
By contrast the middle class villas and houses generally had very little garden space; a narrow strip under the windows in the front, often given over to shrubs or ferns, and a small patch of lawn or flower beds at the back. Such households usually employed a part-time gardener. The present interest in gardening is a twentieth century feature and there are now many hidden glories behind nineteenth century garden walls.
Since Jericho became a residential area, garages have
replaced many of the sites previously occupied by sheds, and yards have
been given over to gardens. The garden illustrated is typical of such
an environmental change with its old ash tree stark against the winter
sky and the frozen ground bare before spring planting. Yet on the tiny
patch of grass stands a bowl of water and breadcrumbs which attract blackbirds
to assert their rights over squabbling starlings. In the hedges robins
and blue tits search the twigs for insects and the shy wrens forage in
the ground litter. On open ground crows and magpies strut, ignoring the
cat stalking pigeons or wagtails and in spring the drake shadows his duck.
The proximity of the canal and Port Meadow brings visitors from rural
areas and there can be few locations so near a city centre in which the
clamour of wild geese can be heard on winter mornings or the cuckoo's
cry in spring.