Reresby Project

Do you have old Yorkshire species growing in your garden?

Yorkshire’s earliest garden catalogues date from the 1640s. Almost the earliest of these was made by Sir John Reresby of Thrybergh on the very precise date of Friday 11 April 1642. We’re lucky that the catalogue survives, and that it has been transcribed and made accessible to all. But what we don’t know is whether all, or any, of Sir John’s plants are still grown in Yorkshire. Do we still have the Childing Dasie, or Jack an Apes on Horsback? What about the White Pipe Tree, or Barbary Buttons? If you know where any of Sir John’s plants are still grown in Yorkshire, we want to hear from you. If possible we’d like a photograph that we can make public on our website (we will not publish the location or your personal data without your explicit consent to do so). Please contact us at reresby [at]

The inspiration for our project comes from the work of Sally O’Halloran and Jan Woudstra of the University of Sheffield. Sally first drew attention to the notebook in her MA thesis for the University of Sheffield, which in turn formed the bedrock for two articles with Jan Woudstra.

'The Exactness and Nicety of Those Things': Sir John Reresby's Garden Notebook and Garden (1633-44) at Thrybergh, Yorkshire, by Jan Woudstra and Sally O'Halloran, appeared in Garden History, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring, 2008), pp. 135-193. It can be read online here

‘Rather extravagant than curious’: The Ornamental Plant Collection of Sir John Reresby at Thrybergh, Yorkshire, from 1633 to 1646 was published in the Yorkshire Gardens Trust’s collection of essays entitled With Abundance and Variety. Yorkshire Gardens and Gardeners across five centuries, edited by Susan Kellerman and Karen Lynch in 2009.

What caused Sir John to make his plant list? We don’t know for sure, but ideas about why he did so are discussed in the two articles. Sir John was part of a circle of Yorkshire gardeners, which included the Reverend Master Walter Stonehouse, of Darfield, and the Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire, Thomas Wentworth (or, at least, his gardener). The circle exchanged plants and ideas about gardening. Stonehouse compiled a list of his own garden’s plants in 1640, and Stonehouse’s notion of making such a list might have encouraged Sir John to make his own. Sir John placed much reliance on what is generally thought to be the first published gardening treatise in England.

John Parkinson’s Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris: Or A Garden of All Sorts of Pleasant Flowers which our English Ayre will Permitt to be Noursed Vp. With a Kitchen Garden of All Manner of Herbes, Rootes, & Fruites, for Meate or Sause Vsed with Vs, and an Orchard of All Sorte of Fruitbearing Trees and Shrubbes Fit for Our Land. Together with the Right Orderinge, Planting & Preserving of Them and Their Uses and Vertues Collected by Iohn Parkinson Apothecary of London, published in 1629, is a monumental work. It can be accessed online through -

We know that Sir John used Parkinson’s book when making his catalogue because he added the page numbers of Paradisi to his list. Our version of Sir John’s list (here) is a much edited and standardised version of the original in his notebook, as transcribed by Sally O’Halloran (many thanks to Sally for allowing us to use her work in this way). We’ve kept Sir John’s spelling, but have modernised his use of letters (readers used to early modern handwriting will recognise the difficulties posed by the interchangeability of the letters i and j, and u and v). We’ve adopted strict alphabetical ordering of the plants and removed cross references and crossings out in Sir John’s list. We’ve adopted Parkinson’s divisions of plants (these are not represented in Sir John’s list), and our list can be sorted on any of the columns for ease of reference.

Do let us know if anything is not clear.

We will present regular blogs about Sir John’s notebook, and about gardening in early modern Yorkshire, as we proceed.

For the list, see Reresby and Parkinson

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