The average park bench or garden seat may not attract a great deal of attention from the general public, but they have a long and fascinating history.
The Coalbrookdale foundry was established in 1709 by Abraham Darby. It used inventive casting techniques to create massive new structures such as a complete cast iron bridge in 1799. By the early Victorian era they were famous for their seats, garden benches, tables and plant stands. Coalbrookdale furniture was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in 1851 and by 1875 their most famous development, the Fern Bench, was appearing in mail order catalogues sent as far away as India!
If you’ve seen Forrest Gump, then you won't be surprised to know that the park bench that Tom Hanks sits on during a large proportion of the movie has become a celebrity in its own right! Although it's made of fibreglass, the weather conditions in Savannah, Georgia, where the film was made, were beginning to damage it, so it is now to be found in Savannah History Museum.
Park benches often bear the names of people whom their friends and family wish to commemorate – usually these inscriptions are simple, but one on Hampstead Heath is positively cryptic. It reads They Could Do With A Bench Here - Lewis Greifer 1915 -2003. Greifer was a celebrated TV scriptwriter who worked on The Prisoner and Dr Who. He had a stroke that left him unable to walk far, and so his trips to Hampstead Heath as part of his rehabilitation were often punctuated by long rests on a park bench. He was often heard to murmur, 'They could do with a bench here' as he stopped to lean on his walking stick and rest. When he died, his family decided that a park bench was the best way to commemorate his life and incorporated his saying into it.
Most local authorities require a small donation to dedicate a bench, some will only dedicated benches 'in memoriam' while others are happy to celebrate weddings and births on benches. Contact your local council to find out how to do it yourself.
If you want a bench in your own garden, here are some things to consider:
Don’t site a garden bench under trees that drop seeds or exude pollen: sycamores and limes are particularly bad in this respect.
Remember to look after your bench; especially if you have invested in a good quality teak bench.
Most benches will get more use if they are in dappled shade, rather that complete shade or full sun. To be chilly or baked doesn’t encourage you to rest at your leisure.
Your garden bench should have a vista – a viewpoint that satisfies the person sitting on it, so don't set it where it faces a blank wall or the dustbin!
If possible, ensure the prevailing wind is behind the bench (blowing into people's backs as they sit) not in front if it where it will hit them face on. Wind chill can lower people's temperatures by seven degrees and because our backs are generally better clad, we notice the wind much less if it strikes us there than if it hits our faces.
Find out more by visiting BlueWorldGardener http://www.blueworldgardener.co.uk or calling us on 0191 375 6661
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