Garden Gnomes For Sale – Where They Came From


“Garden Gnomes For Sale”

I saw the sign as I was driving to work. I forgot about it but later in the day it popped into my mind, so I decided to find out where they originally came from. Interesting!

Garden gnomes first came on the scene in Germany in the early 19th Century and appeared in England in around 1840. Folklore held them to be beneficial to the growth of garden produce, as well as attractors of good luck.

The 10th Baronet of Lamport Hall, Sir Charles Isham, was apparently the first person to bring a garden gnome to England. He liked them so much that he actually brought 21 from Germany to decorate his garden. Only one is left – “Lampy” – and he’s insured for a million pounds!


The original statues were hand crafted from terracotta, which remained the material of choice right up until the 1960s. These clay garden gnomes were often cherished, collectible ornaments that stayed in the family and were passed down through the generations.

The first mass-production of garden gnomes was started by two Germans – August Heissner and Philip Griebel – back in 1872. So successful were they that Heissner Gnomes rapidly became world famous.

These early figures were often beautifully detailed, and were sometimes quite large – up to a meter high. Although designed as garden ornaments, the more wealthy owners (who presumably could afford better quality) would sometimes give them a life indoors. Rumor has it that well-bred gnomes thought this whole house-nonsense to be beneath them, and preferred to live outside.

Hundreds of years ago (their history actually goes back that far) gnomes were usually pictured as short, mis-shapen old men with leathery, wrinkled skin, a white beard, and almost always wearing red hat and brown pants

In the olden days, all gnomes were a pretty somber bunch, and it wasn’t until “Snow White” came along that things changed into what we see today.

The film was produced in 1937 but unfortunately, two years later, World War II pretty much wiped out gnome production right across Europe.

Production didn’t really take off again until resins and plastics came to the fore in the 1960s, enabling the mass production of the cheap, bright and cheerful gnomes we see around today.

Nowadays, almost all of the old fashioned clay gnome makers have disappeared, and nearly all gnomes are made from plastic, in factories in Eastern Europe and the Orient.

Gnomes are very popular with suburban gardeners, with many feeling that having gnomes dotted about creates a good overall impression of their garden, adding humor and panache to the design.

Problem is, many gnomes are stolen (or “liberated”), which is a shame. Maybe because of the recession they turn up on Ebay?!

Garden gnomes have been with us for over 150 years, and are likely to stick around, so, like them or not – they’re here to stay!

Closing thoughts:

Gnomes are banned from the Chelsea Flower Show because the organizers claim they detract from garden designs.

Garden gnomes have been banned from cemeteries by the Diocese of Bath and Wells (in England ” where else?) because leaders say they are “unnatural creatures”. Along with plastic flowers and other decorations such as teddy bears, they have been called “inappropriate and tacky!

In France there is even a French Liberation Front of Garden Gnomes


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