Hugh Plat


He was baptised at St. James's, Garlickhythe, on 3 May 1552, he was third son of Richard Plat or Platt, a London brewer; his father owned property in St. Pancras, London, bequeathed much of it to the foundation and endowment of a free school and six almshouses at Aldenham, Hertfordshire, and was buried at St. James's, Garlickhythe, on 28 November 1600. Hugh's mother, Alice, was daughter of John Birtles, of Birtles, Cheshire. Plat matriculated as a pensioner of St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college's alumni include nine Nobel Prize winners, six Prime Ministers, three archbishops, at least two princes, and three Saints....

, on 12 November 1568, and graduated B.A. in 1572. Soon afterwards he became a member of Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. Although Lincoln's Inn is able to trace its official records beyond...


He resided from 1594 at Bishop's Hall, Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green is a district of the East End of London, England and part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, with the far northern parts falling within the London Borough of Hackney. Located northeast of Charing Cross, it was historically an agrarian hamlet in the ancient parish of Stepney,...

, later moving to the neighbouring Kirby's Castle. Both at Bethnal Green and in St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane is a street on the edge of Covent Garden in Central London, which runs from the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, after which it is named, near Trafalgar Square northwards to Long Acre.A narrow street with relatively little traffic, St...

. he maintained gardens, where he conducted horticultural and agricultural experiments. For research, he often visited Sir Thomas Heneage's estate at Copt Hall, Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, and other large properties.

In consideration of his services as inventor, Plat was knighted by James I at Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

 on 22 May 1605.


Amply provided for by his father, he devoted his early years to writing. In 1572 he made his first appearance in print as the author of ‘The Floures of Philosophie, with Pleasures of Poetrie annexed to them, as wel plesant to be read as profitable to be folowed of al men,’ London, 1572; dedicated to Anne Dudley, Countess of Warwick
Anne Dudley, Countess of Warwick
Anne Dudley Countess of Warwick was a writer during the sixteenth century in England, along with her sisters Lady Margaret Seymour and Lady Jane Seymour....

. ‘The Floures of Philosophie’ comprises 883 short sentences from Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

; ‘The Pleasures of Poetry’ is a collection of miscellaneous poems. This work was followed by a similar undertaking, entitled ‘Hvgonis Platti armig. Manuale sententias aliquot Diuinas et Morales complectens partim è Sacris Patribus, partim è Petrarcha philosopho et Poeta celeberrimo decerptas,’ London, 1584; new edit. 1594.

Plat developed an interest in natural science: mechanical inventions, domestic economy—and especially in agriculture, to which he devoted most of his later life. He corresponded with lovers of gardening and agriculture, and investigated the effects of various manure
Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are trapped by bacteria in the soil...


In 1592 Plat exhibited to some privy councillors and chief citizens of London a series of mechanical inventions, and next year printed, as a broad-sheet, some account of them in ‘A brief Apologie of certen new Inventions completed by H. Plat’ (licensed to Richard Field
Richard Field (printer)
Richard Field was a printer and publisher in Elizabethan London, best known for his close association with the poems of William Shakespeare, with whom he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon.-Life and career:...

 in 1592). In 1594 there appeared ‘The Jewell House of Art and Nature, conteining divers rare and profitable Inventions, together with sundry new Experiments in the Art of Husbandry, Distillation and Moulding. By Hugh Platte of Lincolnes Inn, Gent.,’ London, 1594; dedicated to Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, KG was an English nobleman and a favourite of Elizabeth I. Politically ambitious, and a committed general, he was placed under house arrest following a poor campaign in Ireland during the Nine Years' War in 1599...

. The volume consists of five tracts with separate title-pages, viz.: (1) ‘Divers new Experiments;’ (2) ‘Diverse new Sorts of Soyle not yet brought into any Publique Use;’ (3) ‘Chimical Conclusions concerning the Art of Distillation;’ (4) ‘Of Moulding, Casting Metals;’ (5) ‘An offer of certain New Inventions which the Author proposes to Disclose upon reasonable Considerations.’ The second of these tracts, which was also issued separately, contains notes by Plat on manures, and the last tract deals with miscellaneous topics, like the brewing of beers without hops
Hops are the female flower clusters , of a hop species, Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart a bitter, tangy flavor, though hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine...

, the preservation of food in hot weather and at sea, mnemonics, and fishing. Another edition appeared in 1613, and a revised edition, dedicated to Bulstrode Whitelocke
Bulstrode Whitelocke
Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke was an English lawyer, writer, parliamentarian and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.- Biography :...

, was prepared in 1653 by ‘D. B.’ (i.e. Arnold de Boate), who added ‘A Discourse on Minerals, Stones, Gums, and Rosins.’

In 1595 Plat gave further results in ‘A Discoverie of certain English Wantes which are royally supplied in this Treatise. By H. Plat, of Lincolnes Inne, Esquire,’ London 1595 (reprinted in the Harleian Miscellany
Harleian Miscellany
The Harleian Miscellany was a collection of material from the library of the Earl of Oxford collated and edited by Samuel Johnson between 1744 and 1753...

, vol. ix.). In the same year he issued ‘Sundrie New and Artificiall Remedies against Famine. Written by H. P., Esq., upon thoccasion of this present Dearth,’ London; new edit. 1596; and his ‘Newfounde Art of Setting of Corne’ appeared about the same time without date. Other editions followed in 1600 and 1601.

Plat collected recipes for preserving fruits, distilling, cooking, housewifery, cosmetics, and the dyeing of hair. Much of the information was already in his ‘Jewell-house.’ A more complete work was Delights for Ladies. The first part of the volume reappeared posthumously as ‘A Closet for Ladies and Gentlemen, on the art of Preseruing, Conserving, and Candying. With the manner how to make diverse kinds of Syrupes: and all kinde of Banquetting Stuffes,’ London, 1611.

In 1603 Plat gave an account of an invention of cheap fuel—i.e. coal mixed with clay and other substances, and kneaded into balls—in a tract called ‘Of Coal-Balls for Fewell wherein Seacoal is, by the mixture of other combustible Bodies, both sweetened and multiplied,’ London, 1603. Richard Gosling reissued in 1628 an account of Plat's device, and developed it further in his ‘Artificial Fire,’ 1644.

His major work on gardening appeared in 1608, as ‘Floraes Paradise beautified and adorned with sundry sortes of delicate Fruits and Flowers … with an offer of an English Antidote … a Remedy in violent Feavers and intermittent Agues.’ The preface is dated from ‘Bednal Green, 2 July 1608.’ An appendix of ‘new, rare, and profitable inventions’ describes among other things, Plat's fireballs and his experiments in making wine from grapes grown at Bethnal Green. In his description of gardening experiments, Plat states the name of his informant in all cases where he had not done the work himself. He quotes repeatedly Mr. Andrew Hill, Mr. Pointer of Twickenham, ‘Colborne,’ and Parson Simson. ‘Floraes Paradise’ was reissued with some omissions and rearrangements by Charles Bellingham, who claimed relationship with Plat, in 1653, with a dedication to Francis Finch. It then bore the title ‘The Garden of Eden; or an accurate Description of all Flowers and Fruits now growing in England. … By that learned and great observer, Sir Hugh Plat, Knight,’ London, 1653, called the fourth edition; another edition, 1659; 5th ed. 1660. Bellingham issued a second part drawn from Plat's unpublished notes in 1660, and both were issued together in 1675, in a so-called sixth edition. Another edition followed in the year 1685.

Plat left unpublished notes and tracts on scientific topics. John Evelyn
John Evelyn
John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener and diarist.Evelyn's diaries or Memoirs are largely contemporaneous with those of the other noted diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, and cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time John Evelyn (31 October 1620 – 27 February...

sent to Dr. Wotton in 1696 ‘A Short Treatise concerning Metals’ by Plat.

Family and legacy

Plat married twice. His second wife, Judith, daughter of William Albany of London, was buried in Highgate Chapel, 28 January 1636. Plat left two sons and three daughters by his second marriage, and other children by his first. William, the fourth son of his second marriage, was buried in Highgate Chapel on 11 November 1637, beneath an elaborate tomb. He left land to St John's College, Cambridge, where he had been educated as a fellow-commoner. In 1858 William Platt's estate was merged in the general property of the college, and the three Platt fellowships, which then represented the endowment, became ordinary foundation fellowships.
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