Wyrtig

For gardeners with a sense of history
 

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
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Darenth Villa, Kent
 

One of the largest villas in Kent, Darenth started out as a home and evolved into a manufacturing center where woolen cloth was prepared for market through a process known as fulling.

Inhabited from about 100 CE until the late 300s, the main residence evolved into a rambling, asymmetrical winged corridor villa. At its peak in the 3rd century, the villa had more than 60 rooms. From its central entry, it looked out on a large farmstead, some 414’ x 370’ in area, that included an aisled hall, a bath suite, a number of other substantial outbuildings, gardens, and an ornamental pool.

Darenth villa

The courtyard was framed on three sides by the villa and measured 42’ by 90.’ It is believed to have been a garden.

Lion waterspout, Pushkin Museum, photo by Shakko, Wikimedia CommonsA 3-foot deep, tiled pool, measuring 11 feet by 84 feet,  bisected the garden. At the end nearest the villa, archaeologists found a small bronze fountain spout molded in the shape of a lioness’ head. At the other end of the pool was a shallower, semi-circular, lead-lined pool with pipes that allowed water to flow both in and out. The buttressed walls of this pool were incorporated into the south wall of the courtyard. Large pools such as this are found at a number of villas in Britain, including Eccles and Gadebridge Park.

The view from the main range of the villa looked south over the pool to a roofed well. Further south was a substantial gateway. A guest walking through that gateway toward the house would have encountered an impressive garden scene.

To the west is an area that showed no sign of paving or partition walls, and is likely to have been a walled kitchen garden. It measured 48 feet by 192 feet. Archaeologists found several tools, including an iron hoe and pruning hooks, that may have been used in the gardens.

Darenth is located just 60 feet from the banks of the River Darent, an ideal location because abundant water is essential to fulling, a process in which woolen cloth is cleaned, conditioned, and felted. A long, floorless building south of the kitchen garden contained tanks and gutters used in fulling. A bath suite was housed in a separate building near the south end of that building; at one point, it was also used for fulling, but was later converted back into a bath house.  m,

The location of the villa in the floodplain made drainage particularly important, and substantial cisterns, drains, and gutters were used to collect, store, and carry water away from the farmstead, the gardens, and the fulling operation.

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt

 

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