In 2018, the Witch Gardens of Melbourne were a hit with locals and visitors alike, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting each year.
The gardens are the work of artist and educator, Alison Kinsey, who is credited with the creation of many of Melbourne’s most popular gardens, including the Garden at Cribbins in Adelaide, the Gardens of Eden and the Garden of the Gardeners at the University of Melbourne.
She died in 2014 aged 76.
In her last book, The Witches of the Gardens, published in 2007, Kinsey was credited with creating the “Witches of the gardens” as a tribute to her life’s work.
One of the more iconic gardens in Melbourne was the Gardens at Crows Nest, in Melbourne’s inner-west.
The site of the original Gardens of the Givers, Kinseys original garden in the Victorian capital of Melbourne was built in 1866, and was transformed into a Victorian tourist attraction in 1910 by the owners of the Crows House, which was renamed Crows Garden after the owner, Crows.
The original Garden was open from April to November every year, and held a fair of flowers, food and crafts.
A short walk from the gardens entrance was the Cripple of Crows Museum, where the famous Cripples, a popular tourist attraction, is now located.
Today, the gardens are open to the public, but are closed on Mondays and Thursdays to mark the 50th anniversary of the Victorian Government’s decision to allow the gardens to be used for weddings.
However, Kinsellys legacy as a witch is still evident, with her name being included on several of Melbourne city’s best-loved and most treasured garden sculptures.
In addition to being the subject of the book The Witches Of The Gardens, Kinney also created the Gardens in the Fields at Cripplegate, the Witches’ Garden in the City of Melbourne, and the Witches in the Gardens Of Eden, in South Melbourne.
While most of her works have now been sold and forgotten, some of her creations are still in use today, including a garden at Cabbagetown, a garden with a wooden roof at East Melbourne and a garden in Mountsdale.
One feature that remains in use is the Garden Slab, which is a series of slabs built into a garden wall, which are made of painted wood and adorned with wands.
In the 1920s, the garden slab was the site of a witch trial in Melbourne, where a woman accused of witchcraft was forced to lie in a coffin while being burned at the stake.
While this may not be the most exciting story of a woman being burned in a witch-filled grave, it was a popular theme that ran throughout Victorian culture.
It is believed that at least 10 witches were hanged in Melbourne between 1890 and 1915, including several of the leading witches of the day, Anne Boleyn and Mary Berry.
In a book written in 1913, Kinsel told how in the 1920’s a young woman was being hanged in the Cabbages Garden.
The woman had been accused of being a witch.
The young woman, who was dressed in a white dress and black hair, tried to escape the scaffold with her hand, but the rope was too strong and the woman was killed.
It was during the witch trials of the 1920 to 1930s that a number of prominent Victorian women, including Alice Blythe and Anne Bolythe, became known as witches.
Kinsey has been a controversial figure in Victorian folklore and in particular in Melbourne.
Many people who were not aware of her work have taken to describing her as “evil” or “witchy”, which has led to a number attempts to destroy her work.
In 2013, Kinsey was awarded a Victoria Heritage Medal, the highest Victorian award for her work, and in 2014 she was inducted into the Victorian Hall of Fame.
However in 2019, she was denied a Victorian Heritage Medal because of her association with the Victorian Witch Trials.
In 2015, Kinyson was awarded the Victoria State Medal of Honour, which recognised her as a Victoria-wide cultural treasure and her work on Melbourne’s gardens and urban landscapes.
Kinseys legacy as an artist and artiste was also celebrated in a 2017 exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Yarra Park, where she was recognised for her art, her dedication to community engagement and her contribution to the preservation of Melbourne and the history of Victoria.
Her most recent work, The Gardens of Grosvenor, is on display in Melbourne City Hall until September 2021.
Kinselly’s works continue to inspire us with their timeless beauty, the history behind them, and how they bring us into our lives.
The Gardens Of Grosvelle is available to purchase from The Gardens at Grosvies, or online at TheGrosvenors.com.au. A