The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: From London to Sheffield in the Spring of 1839

Birmingham Botanic Gardens

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The Towns, it is almost unnecessary to say, have been wonderfully improved since 1806, and the progress of Birmingham, even since 1831, when we last saw it, is astonishing. The public buildings have been appropriately noticed by Mr. Humphreys, Mr. Godwin, and others, in the concluding volume of the Architectural Magazine, and therefore we shall confine ourselves to noticing the great increase in the number of the villas, in that part of the neighbourhood of Birmingham which surrounds the botanic garden. There is a great improvement in their exterior architecture, and more choice plants are conspicuous in their gardens. The botanic garden has already had a considerable effect in improving the general taste of the Birmingham people for plants. Very little change has taken place in Lichfield, as it is neither a place of commerce nor of manufacture; but the little town of Walsall exhibits some very handsome small villas and street houses, erected within the last seven years, which are not surpassed by any suburban villas in the neighbourhood of London. Dudley has had the approach from Birmingham widened; but we were sorry to hear, when in this town, that the lime-works are being extended under the old castle in such a manner, that the fall of that venerable and picturesque group of ruins is anticipated by the townspeople. The park at Himley is undergoing the same subterranean operations, and the noble mansion there, it is said, will, in all probability, be pulled down in consequence. Derby has improved rapidly. There are now building, an athenï¾µum, post-office, banking-house, and hotel, which will form a splendid continuous elevation. There is also a handsome Catholic church erecting from a design from Mr. Pugin, side by side with an ancient Protestant church; which is as it ought to be in a liberal and enlightened country, where thought is free as well as taste. In the neighbourhood of Sheffield many villas have been erected since we last saw that town in 1826; and the botanic garden and general cemetry are very great public ornaments. In this town Derby, the exhibitions of are very great public ornaments. In this town and Derby, the exhibitions of the mechanics' institutions display a great many interesting objects, highly creditable to all concerned. But what, perhaps, was more gratifying than anything else that we saw during the whole of our tour, was the marked improvement that we observed in the construction of the roadside cottages, wherever any had been recently built; and the greater display of fine flowers in the front gardens, both of new and old cottages. There is hardly one of these gardens that does not contain some of the fine plants sent home by Douglas and Drummond, or plants of Mexico and South America.