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Monday, December 1, 1997 Published at 20:45 GMT


Gnome expense spared
image: [ Lampy: most treasured father of all gnomes ]
Lampy: most treasured father of all gnomes

A garden gnome, believed to be the oldest in the world, has been insured for 1 million.

"Lampy", the father of the most ridiculed of garden ornaments, is the only survivor of a set of 21 gnomes imported into Britain in the 1840s.

[ image: Lampy comes out of hiding]
Lampy comes out of hiding
Lampy's home for the last 115 years has been the palatial Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire. He was brought over from Germany in 1847 by the eccentric spiritualist Sir Charles Isham who was besotted by these little terracotta people.

But Lampy's survival in a garden crevice all these years owes more to good fortune than to his owner's admiration.

[ image: Sir Charles Isham: gnome-fancier]
Sir Charles Isham: gnome-fancier
Sir Charles' daughters disliked the diminutive figures and had them removed - all except Lampy who remained hidden in the grounds.

Lampy has a lot to answer for. His quirky descendants through the decades have inspired devotion and loathing in equal measure having acquired almost unrivalled reputations for cheeriness or garishness depending on your taste.

But as the 21st century approaches, with organisations like the direct action Gnome Liberation Front in existence - and Lampy travelling the world to attend international gnome conventions - there is no evidence at all of the stone goblin's demise.

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