Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Georgette Heyer: Watering-pots

Watering-pots are mentioned a number of times in Georgette Heyer’s novels - tearful heroines tend to apologize for behaving 'like a watering-pot' - so I thought it would be interesting to look at watering-pots more closely.

Take Frederica. The heroine, Frederica, is discussing her sister Charis with the hero, the Marquis of Alverstoke. Charis, she says, is very sensitive, ‘The mildest scold utterly sinks her spirits!’ Frederica wants to encourage Charis’s paragon of a suitor, Sir Mark Lyncham, who, she thinks, will be very gentle with her.

Alverstoke replies, caustically, ‘Judging him by myself, I should think he would murder her – or seek consolation elsewhere! I can think of few worse fates than to be married to a watering-pot!’


Inside the Garden Museum, next door to Lambeth Palace and once St Mary’s church
I’d always assumed that a watering-pot was a Regency synonym for a watering-can – until last Friday, when I visited the newly-opened Garden Museum in Lambeth and, to my amazement, they actually had an early 19th century watering-pot.

A watering-pot dating from 1800
This is it and you can see that it’s different from a watering-can. For a start, it’s rather squat and made of terracotta. It looks pretty heavy and it’s not a particularly attractive object. The short spout has what looks like an integral rose. Perhaps it unscrews but I suspect that the pot was filled from the hole in the top.

I couldn’t help thinking that it would probably break quite easily – unlike a metal watering-can – which may explain why I’d never seen one before.


Mid-19th century watering-can
The Garden Museum also had an example of a mid-19th century watering-can. It is a lot bigger than the watering-pot – and probably a lot lighter, too. You can understand why they took over from the watering-pot.

The two standing together
The case they were in was somewhat crowded – so apologies for the photo. The bottom of the watering-can is partly obscured by an early glass cucumber straightener! I’ve included this photo to show you the difference in size.  

So, dear reader, when you next read Frederica, and reach the bit at the end where Alverstoke tells Frederica that she’d better consent to Charis’s marriage with Endymion because, ‘You cannot possibly live with a watering-pot for the rest of the summer!’ you will know exactly what a watering-pot is.
Elizabeth Hawksley



Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Gosh one would need to be strong to use a watering-pot, Elizabeth. It looks as if it would be very heavy when full of water, and difficult to aim. But I suppose hoses were not really a viable option then, were they? We take them and running water for granted now

However, as a writer, I could let my heroine use one now to hit some villain over the head when he is up to no good and caught sneaking around her house!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Thank you for this, Melinda/Sarah. Love the idea of watering-pot as weapon of choice!

Elizabeth Bailey said...

Ooh, yes, excellent idea from Melinda there! How amazing to see an actual watering pot as opposed to a watering can. Love this so much! And as I am currently writing a watering pot of a heroine, it is perfect timing to find out there really is one.

Jan Jones said...

Id always assumed a watering can too! And yes, excellent weapon!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Thank you for your comments, Elizabeth and Jan. It just shows that Georgette Heyer did her research properly - I certainly don't remember her ever mentioning a watering-can. Even Wikipedia assumes that they are the same thing. But it's logical, really, that the watering-pot is made of - well - pottery.

Bonnie L/Romance MFA said...

What a fascinating post! I always assumed it was just another term for a watering can. Thanks for doing the research and for sharing!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Thank you for joining in the conversation, Bonnie. I'm delighted you enjoyed the post.

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