The Origin of the Garden Gnome

“Garden Gnomes For Sale”  – I saw the sign as I was driving to work. I forgot about it but later in the day it popped into my mind, so I decided to find out where they originally came from. Interesting!

Garden gnomes first came on the scene in Germany in the early 19th Century and appeared in England in around 1840. Folklore held them to be beneficial to the growth of garden produce, as well as attractors of good luck.

The 10th Baronet of Lamport Hall, Sir Charles Isham, was apparently the first person to bring a garden gnome to England. He liked them so much that he actually brought 21 from Germany to decorate his garden. Only one is left – “Lampy” – and he’s insured for a million pounds!

Up until the 1960’s, terracotta was the usual material for making garden gnomes. The early figures were often seen as highly collectible and frequently remained in the family for generations.

Philip Griebel and August Heissner started mass producing garden gnomes in around 1872. Within a short time Heissner Gnomes became famous around the world. Far from the tacky image of todays gnomes, these were considered to be works of art which brought luck to the owners.

A huge amount of work was often put into these early statues and some of them were quite big – as much as a meter tall. Although made for the garden, they were meticulously crafted. Having said that, many of the more beautiful examples ended up in the homes of wealthy people, as house ornaments (although I rather think that the gnomes preferred to be where they belonged – in the garden).

Gnomes actually go back a looooooooooooong way – hundreds of years ago they were generally portrayed as short, very old men with wrinkles and white beards, wearing red conical hats and brown trousers.

Back then gnomes looked pretty serious, and stayed that way until Disney’s “Snow White” broke the mold and gave us a far cheerier version to think about.

The film was produced in 1937 but unfortunately, two years later, World War II pretty much wiped out gnome production right across Europe.

Production didn’t really take off again until resins and plastics came to the fore in the 1960s, enabling the mass production of the cheap, bright and cheerful gnomes we see around today.

Eastern Europe and the Far East are now the centers of plastic gnome production, while most of the older ceramic gnome makers are no more.

Gnomes are very popular with suburban gardeners, with many feeling that having gnomes dotted about creates a good overall impression of their garden, adding humor and panache to the design.

Problem is, many gnomes are stolen (or “liberated”), which is a shame. Maybe because of the recession they turn up on Ebay?!

Gnomes have been around for a century and a half, so they’re probably here to stay. Better get used to them!

Last points:  Gnomes are banned from the Chelsea Flower Show because the organizers claim they detract from garden designs.  Garden gnomes have been banned from cemeteries by the Diocese of Bath and Wells (in England ” where else?) because leaders say they are “unnatural creatures”.  Along with plastic flowers and other decorations such as teddy bears, they have been called “inappropriate and tacky!

About the Author: If you are looking for garden gnomes for sale to add some panache to your garden, then go now to to see what you can find!

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