The Georgian love of the decadent pineapple

An image of the design of the Look!Look!Look! pavilion

It’s 1790, it’s a cold dark night deep in Herefordshire. You're staying in Berrington Hall’s corner bedroom and luckily there is a fire lit. You know that you’re a welcome guest that will receive the greatest hospitality because there are two decadent pineapples sculpted into the ironwork on your fireplace.

The Georgians loved pineapples. They were recognised as a symbol of hospitality, wealth and fashion during the eighteenth century. As such, the pineapple and its popularity have inspired some of the design for Heather and Ivan Morison's art commission: Look!Look!Look!. But what was it about the pineapple that the Georgians loved so much?

After finding pineapples in South America in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, explorers were amazed by their sugary taste and perplexing look. It is for this reason they took them back to show the world.

A rather fashionable pineapple
Georgian sketch of a pineapple
A rather fashionable pineapple

Once they had made their appearance the pineapples fame took off and they became a highly desired item. However, they were incredibly difficult to get a hold of. This was because they were difficult to grow in the Georgian period. Although Chelsea Physic Garden had grown a pineapple within its ‘Pineapple stove’ in 1723, unless you had one of these ‘pineries’ they were almost impossible to acquire. You either needed to have a specially built structure to grow them, or to buy them for a high price from a trader with a fast moving ship.   

The difficulty to acquire them made them a symbol of wealth. This was only encouraged as they were favoured by Kings and the greatest nobles alike. King Charles II even referred to them as ‘King-Pines’. It was claimed that this was because he thought they looked as though they were wearing crowns on the top of their head.

" King-Pine"
- Charles II

It was due to this rising fashion that those who couldn’t quite afford to own a real pineapple, but still had the means to buy good clothes would have pineapple symbols woven into their fabrics and included in the design and decoration of their houses. There were even people called ‘pineapple merchants’ who would hire out pineapples for parties. Although all of this seems outrageous to us, it was a traditional element of Georgian fashion.

If you keep your eyes peeled you can discover them dotted around Berrington. They are sculpted into; candelabras, the fireplaces and even onto the dress worn by Anne Bangham. Pineapples are a large part of the Georgian culture and they have been become much more 'everyday' over time.

Fancy a Georgian treat?
Pineapple on a table
Fancy a Georgian treat?

This is one of the elements of Berrington’s culture that Look! Look! Look! draws upon. There are many sources of inspiration for the artists for the Look! project, such as how the gardens would have been used and enjoyed particularly when guests were visiting the main house. If you're intrigued and would like to find out more, why not visit Berrington and see if you can take a Look! in the garden to see the eye-catcher.