The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

History of London Horticultural Society

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640. The London Horticultural Society was first established in 1802, principally through the exertions of the late T. A. Knight, Esq., of Downton Castle, though the original projector is said to have been Mr. Wedgewood; and the plan could never have been carried into effect without the strenuous co-operation of Sir Joseph Banks. The first meeting of the society appears to have been held on the 14th of March, 1804; and on the 30th of the same month the Earl of Dartmouth was elected president, and Mr. Wedgewood secretary. In 1808 a charter was granted to the society; and Lord Dartmouth dying in 1810, Mr. Knight was elected president on the 1st of January in the following year, and he continued to hold that office till his death in 1838; when his grace the Duke of Devonshire was elected president. For several years after the establishment of the London Horticultural Society its meetings were held in a room, where the papers were read in the same manner as at the Linnï¾µan and other societies. About 1817, however, it was suggested that an experimental garden would be very advantageous to the advancement of the views of the society; and in 1818 a small piece of ground was taken for that purpose at Kensington; but this being found of too limited an extent, another piece of ground of thirty-three acres was procured at Chiswick, and the present garden was formed in the year 1822. From that time the society has advanced with astonishing rapidity; and a few years after its establishment the council determined on giving medals to any persons who might suggest improvements in horticulture; but as these medals were few and of a large size, it was soon determined to distribute another class of medals, in addition to the first, of a smaller size; and the first of these smaller medals having been cast in 1819, soon after the death of Sir Joseph Banks, it was stamped with a profile of Sir Joseph on the obverse side, and is still called the Banksian medal. In 1835, another set of medals was cast, of an intermediate size between the large medals, which bore a representation of Flora attended by the four seasons, and the small Banksian medals; the intermediate ones being stamped with a profile of Mr. Knight, and called the Knightian medals. For several years after the establishment of the Horticultural Society, the medals were given for plants exhibited at the rooms; but as the establishment of the gardens at Chiswick had occasioned a considerable expense to the society, and involved it in debt, the idea was suggested that by holding the exhibitions of new plants at the gardens, and admitting persons for money, a considerable sum might be raised beyond what was wanted to pay the expense of the medals. This was the beginning of the horticultural fetes, which have continued under various modifications ever since. The first fete was held on the 23d of July, 1827. The gardens at Chiswick extend over about thirty-three acres of ground, and are divided into three parts, viz. the arboretum, which includes a lawn and pleasure-ground; the orchard, containing a very extensive collection of fruit trees; and the hothouse department. The hothouses and the arboretum are the only parts of the garden generally visited by the public, and in the latter a magnificent conservatory has lately been erected on a portion of the lawn.