Fern Fever (or Pteridomania, to give it its official name), was popular in Britain between 1837 and 1914.
Although in previous centuries ferns played an important role in customs and folklore, it was only in this period that they were coveted for aesthetic reasons. The fern craze started to gather momentum in the 1840s; books and magazines maintained that fern growing was a hobby that anyone could enjoy, as ferns would grow in the glazed fernery, garden, shady yard, window box or even indoors in Wardian Cases.
The mania also spread from the living plant to depicting it in architecture and the decorative arts. Even roads, villas and terraced houses were named after the fern.
Dr Sarah Whittingham is an historian who specialises in the social history, architecture and gardens of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, The Victorian Fern Craze, was published in 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. The first edition sold out, and it has been reprinted.
The Victorian Fern Craze looks at the how the craze developed, the ways in which ferns were incorporated into garden and home, and the spread of the fern through Victorian material and visual culture.
In writing her book Sarah Whittingham undertook substantial research into the Danesbury Fernery before the FODF began the work of restoration, and her book was published some six years before restoration started in 2015.
Learning subsequently of the work of the FODF, and with great generosity, Sarah Whittingham offered the FODF her list of sources, several of which had been unknown to us, and unknown too to the Welwyn & District History Society.
The FODF are grateful to Sarah for her generosity. Future research on this website will benefit from her work. Copies of Sarah Whittingham’s book can be obtained from online booksellers and it is a highly recommended read.