Saga Insurance sets the record straight on the garden gnome

Friday 2 June 2006

Saga Insurance sets the record straight on the garden gnome

The great British Gnome has a proud history that leads all the way back to Ancient Rome.

Garden aficionados who want to ban the brightly coloured ornaments are turning their backs on classical history - Andrew Goodsell Saga's chief executive said today.

"Everybody seems to be talking about gnomes at the moment but nobody is pointing out that the garden gnome has strong historical roots - derived from the Roman god Priapus."

The most famous depictions of this God are found at Pompeii, not only in the form of statues but also in the form of frescoes, which some say, look very reminiscent of modern garden gnomes.

Wherever they settled the Romans left small statues of Priapus - sometimes made of bronze - in their gardens to boost their fertility. The obvious reason for this is that Priapus was very well endowed. The modern version may have lost some of the erotic symbolism - but he still brings a smile to many a garden visitor.

Saga Insurance, this year's sponsor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show suggests that next year the RHS might reconsider its ban on the garden gnomes from the show ground given its illustrious historical origins.

The modern version of the British garden gnome can be dated back to 1847 when Sir Charles Isham brought 21 terracotta figures back from a trip to Germany where they had been popular since the early 1400s.

Sir Charles placed them around the gardens of his home, Lamport Hall, in Northamptonshire but today only one of the original survives: Lampy as he is known, is on display at Lamport Hall, and is insured for one million pounds.

Mr Goodsell urged gnome-owners to consider insuring any valuable garden ornaments. "Lampy may be an outstanding example but gnomes can be expensive to replace - and Roman statues of Priapus, the original gnome, can cost you anywhere between £200 and £400."

As well as being a fertility symbol there are references in Latin poetry to Priapus deterring thieves by threatening them with assault. Which is probably not a course of action that would be condoned by your local chief constable. So even with a statue of Priapus in your garden you'd be better to stick with an alarm, a night light and a gravel path. And of course, good insurance cover.

Saga Garden cover provides up to £3,500 of cover including £1,500 for statues and other garden ornaments.

For more information about Saga Garden Cover visit or call 0800 068 8719.


For further press information please contact the Saga Press Office on: 01303 771529.

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