In the mid-twentieth century, Bishop Hunkin was one of the leading Cornish horticultural writers. He contributed articles to specialist journals, and wrote in a more easy style for the ordinary reader. Forty charming articles appeared in a church weekly, "The Guardian", and it is these articles that are collected here.
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Joseph Wellington Hunkin was born in Truro in 1887, and educated at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, where he achieved distinction in Mathematics. In 1913 he was ordained into the Church of England, and spent the First World War as a chaplain to the 29th Division. He served with exceptional courage, resulting in the award of the MC and bar. After the war, he became Archdeacon of Coventry, and in 1935 the first and only Cornish Bishop of Truro in modern times. Douglas Ellory Pett obtained his first experience of large-scale gardening as Vicar of Gulval, Penzance, from 1961 to 1966. Later, in the 1980s, he pursued geological and other field studies in Cornwall, and was invited to organize the first professional and voluntary surveys of historic gardens for the newly-formed Cornwall Garden Trust. He was a member of the Garden History Society; author of Creative Gardeners (Alison Hodge, 2005); The Cornwall Gardens Guide (Alison Hodge, 2003) and The Parks and Gardens of Cornwall (Alison Hodge, 1998); co-author of The Historic Gardens of Cornwall (1991), and a regular contributor to The Cornish GardenReview:
Cornwall, with its wealth of history, is regarded by many gardeners as the gardening Mecca of Great Britain due to its temperate climate and its ability to sustain plants too tender for other areas of the country. This book details a small part of its gardening history, giving a picture of their development during the mid part of last century. This charming work is a compilation of gardening articles written by Cornwall's only Cornish-born bishop, Joseph Wellington Hunkin. Originally appearing in the local church magazine, "The Guardian", the articles date from 1943, through the end of the Second World War, to just before his death in 1950. Although they were published in a religious tract, they are horticulturally-based and founded on Hunkin's love of gardening at his home, "Lis Escop", the official residence of the Bishop of Truro. Indeed, he was to become a leading Cornish horticultural writer with his contributions to specialist journals such as the "Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society". Composed during his travels around the diocese and beyond, these writings are those of a naturalist and horticulturalist but aimed at the general reader. Although by their very nature religious, they are not overbearingly so and indeed any religious mention adds to the charm of the writings and places the seasons in context. An introduction by the editor Douglas Ellory Pett and a foreword by the current Bishop of Truro, The Right Reverend William Ind, give the background to Hunkin's life and writings and set the scene for the ensuing articles. The listing of the original memorial plant list has been reproduced courtesy of the County Archive and provides an insight into gardening trends of the time. Published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bishop Hunkin's death, this is a quaint and fascinating look at the gardens and gardeners of the immediate post-war period. Full of local history, horticultural lore and gardening tips, it's a pleasant bedtime read and should inspire gardening visitors to Cornwall to search out the gardens and churches mentioned therein, and maybe to reinitiate the memorial planting that Bishop Hunkin started before his death - to donate plants from Lis Escop to every churchyard throughout the diocese. - Lucy Watson
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