Chasing Silk’ bowl in Mulberry
Part of The New Craftsmen’s ‘Bowls of Britain’ collection, a carved and sand-blasted bowl in Black Mulberry, imported by King James I to launch the British Silk Industry.Read More
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Black Mulberry trees apparently became firmly established in Britain when King James I attempted to kick-start a native silk industry.
The King wanted to wrest the monopoly of silk-making from the French by cultivating mulberries – the sole food of silkworms. He had a four-acre mulberry garden planted in an area to the north of present-day Buckingham Palace, tended by the King’s Mulberry Men, and there is still a street called Mulberry Walk, just off the King’s Road, Chelsea. Ten thousand trees were imported from all over Europe, and the King required landowners “to purchase and plant mulberry trees at the rate of six shillings per thousand”.
But James made the mistake – some say he was deliberately wrongly advised – of ordering the black mulberry instead of the white version. The latter is the natural food of silkworms but grows less well in England. Within a few years the silkworm project failed, though the mulberry garden survived and became a pleasure ground before being swept away in the rebuilding of Buckingham Palace. The descendants of this brief Jacobean fashion for mulberries can still be found in the gardens of some stately homes, including Syon House and Charlton House in Blackheath near where this particular Mulberry tree blew down.
Black Mulberry (mours nigra)
Wipe with damp cloth
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