Olympic Park was home to vegetables
Olympic cyclists will do battle over land where spinach and melons once flourished
It’s centre stage of the ‘Greatest sporting show on Earth’ next summer.
But land at Stratford on which the iconic London Olympic Games stadiums and venues are being built and which will welcome tens of thousands of people was once farmland, home to vegetable patches.
This is revealed in a fascinating record of 18th century Essex life which today goes under the hammer at a Bonhams auction.
Covering just over three years from August 1728 to September 1731, the diary was written by Thomas Prat, a farmer and Justice of the Peace who owned homes in Westminster and in Stratford and Chobham farm towards the north east end of the now 2012 Olympic Park.
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According to Simon Roberts, a specialist at Bonhams, the farm is likely to have been on the site of the Velodrome. “We know that Mr Prat had a house in Stratford and that he walked across the marshes to Chobham farm. This would have taken him right through the heart of the Olympic site to where the Velodrome now sits. As far as we can tell he was farming his spinach, cabbages, cucumbers and melons, on the spot where our Olympic cyclists will be heading for glory in a year’s time.”
Like Samuel Pepys, Mr Prat was not afraid to confide his emotions - and his misdeeds - to his diary. This entry for 19 September 1728 shows him making the most of a visit to town, “went to Westminster and lay there - a new dirty Country Cook Wench.”
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He did not, it seems, suffer fools gladly. His brother George is described as “ill-natured – unmannerly – very ungrateful”. Another relative Will Prat fares little better, “Will Prat walks in a silly affected manner before ye door a long while, y’t some body might take notice of him, a profligate vile rascal……..”
Not that he gets it all his own way. On 28 August 1731 he describes being attacked by a Mr Smith who, “without any provocation called me a Knave & he would petition Ld. Chancellour to turn me out because I was a knave, abused me in ye grossest manner w’th out ye least provocation … … said Mr Prat was a knave, a cheating knave several times, said … … Mr Prat was poor not able to pay his Debts, starved his servants, locked up ye bread and cheese and small beer from his servants.”
The record, part of Bonhams Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs London auction was estimated to be sold for around �3,000.