Trickery & Triumph installation

Walled Garden Project Officer, Gibside

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Deborah Hunter-Knight - Walled Garden Project Officer

This is the first art installation as part of ‘Gibside’s Walled Garden: Redesign. Renew. Revive’. Here, Walled Garden Project Officer, Deborah Hunter-Knight reveals all...

A golden pineapple

Pineapples are not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Gibside however, this new evocative art installation might make you think otherwise...

Trickery & Triumph by Artist Imogen Cloet explores the idea that while Mary Eleanor was once described as the most eligible (and richest) heiress in Britain, just as the pineapple would have been almost impossible to grow in England - therefore both could be considered a golden prize.

You can come and see the wonderful large golden pineapple, a nod to theatricality and excess that Georgian Society was famous for,

As part of the installation, in the nearby greenhouse, there was a magical harvest. Rows of golden pineapple plants nestled in troughs of bark chippings hopefully evoking in a playful way the sense of wonder and curiosity that Georgian Society must have felt on first encountering this strange and fabulous fruit. This section is no longer available to see.

" The National Trust now has proof that pineapples were being grown at Gibside. It's amazing to think that these Georgian gardeners were cultivating such an exotic fruit right here at Gibside over 200 years ago - and in the cold North East of England too!"
- Deborah Hunter-Knight

The beautiful landscape garden at Gibside was created by Mary Eleanor Bowes, an extremely well-educated and a keen botanist.

But just as the pineapple had to be tricked into thinking it was in a tropical environment made possible by advances in glass house design and engineering so Mary Eleanor was tricked into a terrible marriage. And, just as the pineapple triumphed in the hothouse, Mary Eleanor triumphed in gruelling landmark legal trials to extract herself from her wicked husband.

Imogen knew the pineapple was a Georgian status symbol and this knowledge inspired National Trust volunteers to carry out further research. They discovered that the original cash books kept during the 18th Century, when Mary Eleanor Bowes owned Gibside, confirm that pineapples were indeed being grown here.

One record in the books dated 30 September 1797, shows payments for bark, which the gardeners would have used to retain the heat in the hothouses to encourage the pineapples to grow. Another on April 1781, is for the delivery of pineapples to various locations, including London and Seaton Delaval Hall.

By kind Permission during the exhibition the Avison Ensemble, allowed a playing as a backdrop to this unexpected sight is the music of Charles Avison, evoking the 18th Century fashion of attending pleasure gardens such as Vauxhall where society would parade in the latest fashions to admire the gardens and listen to live music of the era.