Gnome Alone: ‘Lock up your gnomes’ warns insurer as just over a fifth of UK homeowners report garden thefts

August 21, 2014

The Co-operative Insurance reveals the safest place in the UK to be a gnome

With a fifth of UK homeowners claiming to have had items stolen from their garden, a leading insurer is warning homeowners to look out for their gnomes, as nearly one in ten households report the theft of a garden figurine or gnome.

Research from The Co-operative Insurance found that the South West of England is the riskiest place to be a gnome, with almost a fifth of homeowners (16%) reporting the theft of a friendly garden figurine, twice as many as across the UK on average. Gnomes in the North West can however sleep easy tonight, with just 2% of gnome owners in the region reporting the theft of their garden figurines.

The research also revealed Yorkshire and the Humber to be the gnome capital of the UK, with a gnome residing at almost a third of homes (31%). The Northern Irish were however found to be least likely to possess a gnome with a fifth (20%) of homeowners having a garden figurine guarding their home, lower than the national average for UK gnome owners (26%).

Perhaps due to their size, garden thieves are more likely to target garden gnomes or figurines than other portable items including expensive potted plants or BBQs. However, in spite of a fifth of households falling victim to garden theft, over half (51%) fail to move garden items indoors at night and just under half (45%) don’t move their garden items indoors when they go away.

Whilst very few people move garden items indoors for safekeeping, the Welsh and those in the East Midlands are the most protective of their gnomes with 5% of home and gnome owners moving their treasured garden ornaments indoors or into their garage when they go away. For those that do lock up their outdoor equipment, bad weather (40%) was cited as the most common reason for moving garden items indoors, whilst going on holiday (28%) and thefts in the local area (16%) were also a key reason for locking up garden belongings.

“Though gnomes are much lower in value than other garden items, often it is those belongings that are one of a kind or sentimental in value that cause us most distress if they are stolen,” said Caroline Hunter, Product manager for the Co-operative Home Insurance. “With as many as one in five households reporting thefts from their garden, it’s better to be safe than sorry and we’d always advise homeowners to  lock away any items that can be easily stolen at night or when you go away.”
Research was conducted online by 72 point on behalf of The Co-operative Insurance questioning 2000 respondents across the UK between the age of 18 and 55+. 

Little Gnome Stats

What Who / where Stat
Most / least likely to own a gnome 

Over 55’s
25-34 year olds 
Northern Ireland 
Safest / most dangerous place to be a gnome  North West
South West
2% report gnome thefts
16% report gnome thefts

Most / least likely to lock up gnomes  Wales / East Mids

Little Gnome Facts

1.    2013 was the year of the gnome

2013 saw the Royal Horticultural Society lift a ban on gnomes by allowing them entry into the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time. The event saw gnomes finally get the respect they deserve, with 150 gnomes lined up on parade for inspection by the Queen. Sadly for gnomes this was a one-off occasion and the ban was back in force in 2014.

2.    Northampton is home to the world’s oldest garden gnome

Brought over to the UK by Sir Charles Isham in 1847, Lampy is thought to be the world’s oldest gnome and was originally housed with 21 other gnomes in a rockery at Lamport Hall, Northampton. According to legend, after Sir Charles’ death his daughters shot the gnomes with air rifles but a sole survivor Lampy was discovered after WWII. He is estimated to be worth £2million and can still be viewed in the Hall today.

3.    Also gnome as a Gartenzwerg

Garden gnomes or Gartenzwerg as they are known in their native land are thought to originate from Germany. Baehr and Maresch of Dresden are credited with stocking the first ceramic examples in 1841. It is also thought that male gnomes are often designed to wear red caps because that was the style of German miners.

4.    Lucky charm or old fashioned burglar alarm?

Gnomes have many associations but most importantly are thought to be a good luck charm, with many people believing that they protect our homes by warding off evil spirits. Due to being derived from the Greek ‘genomos’ meaning ‘earth dweller’, legend also has it that gnomes can walk through the earth or soil as easily as we walk through air.

5.    In the 1980s Gnomes went global

In the 1980s, it is rumoured that a movement called the Gnome Liberation Front stole gnomes and sent the owners photos of them from landmarks around the globe. In 1997 a court in northern France handed three GLF ringleaders a suspended sentence and fines for the theft of over 150 garden gnomes.

Research conducted by 72 Point on behalf of The Co-operative Insurance questioning 2000 UK adults with a garden in August 2014.


For further information please contact:

Lauren Hoult, Senior Public Relations Officer The Co-operative Group T: 01617674256 M: 07702505626 Email: