October 21st, 2010 / 10:01 pm
Excerpts & Random


Before the advent of mechanical lawnmowers a commonly-used way to keep grass trimmed was to allow livestock, usually sheep, to graze; a ha-ha allowed them to trim the grass of large estates while keeping them out of view from the house.

The ha-ha is a feature in the landscape gardens laid out by Charles Bridgeman, the originator of the ha-ha, according to Horace Walpole (Walpole 1780), and by William Kent and was an essential component of the “swept” views of Capability Brown.

The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonized with the lawn within; and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prim regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without.

Walpole surmised that the name is derived from the response of ordinary folk on encountering them and that they were, “…then deemed so astonishing, that the common people called them Ha! Has! to express their surprise at finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walk.”

An unusually long example is the ha-ha separating the Royal Artillery Barrack Field from Woolwich Common in southeast London. This deep ha-ha was installed around 1774 to prevent sheep and cattle, grazing on Woolwich Common as a stopover on their journey to the London meat markets, from wandering onto the Royal Artillery gunnery range.

Ha-has were also used at Victorian-Era lunatic asylums such as Yarra Bend Asylum and Kew Lunatic Asylum in Australia. From the inside, the walls presented a tall face to patients, preventing them from escaping, while from outside the walls looked low so as not to suggest imprisonment.

* This is just an abbreviated version of the current Wikipedia entry for Ha-ha, I didn’t write any of it.

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  1. Janey Smith

      Reynard? Check this out: “After drinking, we took a walk through foggy streets, with Mendacious in the lead. Since the episcopal nature of his vestments gave people the impression that he was probably an honest man, no one except the doctor and myself noticed that he was unhooking the shop signs with his crosier, as if inadvertently, and giving them graciously to Bosse-de-Nage to carry, the latter thanking him with a single word: “ha ha,” for, as one knows, he was opposed to all idle verbiage.

      from Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician. Alfred Jarry.

  2. Nicolle Elizabee

      this post is because i sent blake n00dz

  3. reynard seifert

      every time a butterfly flaps its wings an angel gets reamed

  4. reynard seifert

      i used to comment on here as alfred jarry years ago

  5. Owen Kaelin

      A ha-ha, eh?

      Speaking of animal-mowing: I like those old Norwegian houses with the grass on the roofs. When it’s time to mow the roof, they hoist a couple sheep onto it.

  6. Adam Robinson

      Two books called “The Ha-Ha” are by David King (a novel) and David Kirby (poetry).