by Douglas Ellory Pett

Publisher:  H.M. & G.M. Grose  (2012)
ISBN  978 0 9545337 17


 It was in the early 1980s that the distinguished horticulturist Fred Shepherd VMH appealed to someone to record the history of horticulture in Cornwall and to commemorate the people involved, fearing that this social history would be lost for ever. The challenge was taken up by the late Dr Douglas Ellory Pett who initially studied the Isles of Scilly as a preliminary to the greater task.

Much of the research was done on the Isles in the winter of 1985 with the co-operation of the Scilly Museum. The book is in two distinct sections; first is a comprehensive history of the islands, set out in chapters from ‘the beginning’ to the twentieth century. It records in detail the progression of landowners, tenants, horticulture, agriculture and the way of life for these people.  Detail comes from numerous contemporary accounts and articles such as ‘A Scilly Bulb Field’written in 1884. One thinks of daffodils as the mainstay of horticulture on the islands but this book informs us of the wide range of ornamental and food crops grown as well as animals. From the book we learn of the hardships of making a living off the land in difficult circumstances and how the Scillonians overcame these to create a prosperous horticultural industry. Chapters are well illustrated with historic photographs.

The second part of this book is a most comprehensive subject bibliography of everything you wanted to know about the Isles of Scilly and its horticultural industry; I am very impressed. There are 60 pages of references set out in easy-to-find headings.

Unfortunately, Douglas never saw the work published and it is thanks to the skill and enthusiasm of his widow Mary that this book has come to fruition.

David FJ Pearce