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View in the Garden of Acclimatisation, Teneriffe.

View in the Garden of Acclimatisation, Tenerife. The plant with yellow flowers in the left corner is a species of Sonchus, behind which rise the crimson spikes of an Aloe ; and at the back is a fine American Wigandia, with broad leaves and large clusters of blue flowers.

Marianne North’s botanical drawings on display at Horntye

An exhibition of botanical drawings by Marianne North, who travelled the world practising her skill, will be held at Horntye Park during this year’s international chess congress. Nick Terdre reports. All illustrations by kind permission of the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew.

Marianne North is one of Hastings’ most famous daughters – a prolific biologist and botanical artist, she was notable for her plant and landscape paintings, her extensive foreign travel, her writings and her plant discoveries.

Born in 1830, the daughter of the popular local MP, Fredrick North, she grew up in Hastings. After her mother died in 1855, she took up flower painting, and when her father lost his seat in Parliament in the mid 1860s, they decided to go travelling, visiting Switzerland and Syria and journeying along the Nile.

Hedychium Gardnerianum and Sunbird, India.

Hedychium Gardnerianum and Sunbird, India.

When her father died in 1869, she provided a seat on Fairlight Down – North’s Seat – as her memorial to him. They had often walked that way and it was a favourite spot for sitting and admiring the views, says Heather Grief of Hastings Local History Group, which has arranged the exhibition. She then sold the house, which she had inherited, and went off on a series of trips around the world to paint botanical specimens in their natural environment.

Her journeying first took her to the US, Canada, Jamaica and Brazil, where she spent a year. In 1880, at Charles Darwin’s suggestion, she travelled to Australia, where she also stayed for a year before moving on to New Zealand. Later she visited South Africa, the Seychelles and Chile, until ill health forced her to call a halt to her foreign trips. She died in 1890.

Marianne is the only person to have her name used in the name of four plant species, says Heather.

Illawarra, New South Wales.

Illawarra, New South Wales.

The exhibition will be held over the turn of the year, during Hastings International Chess Congress. Organized by Teri Sayers-Cooper, it was first held last year as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project. It’s very colourful, and contains local information about Marianne’s Hastings connections, says Heather  – she spent much of her childhood here in the family home at Hastings House (now converted into flats; and Sacred Heart Primary School was built in the garden).

Her collection of botanical drawings is housed in a purpose-built gallery at Kew Gardens, which she had built to her design, and at her expense; it has recently been refurbished and the paintings conserved (she used oil paints on paper, for ease of transport – some of these plants were in very out-of-the-way locations).

The collection might have been housed in Hastings, Heather says – but when Marianne offered it – along with the money to build a gallery – to Hastings Corporation, they turned her down. Hastings’ loss was Kew’s gain.

Painting of Marianne North.

Painting of Marianne North.


Exhibition of Paintings by Marianne North, Botanical Artist and Explorer Saturday 28 December-Sunday 5 January 2020, 10am-4pm. Horntye Park Sports Complex, off Bohemia Road (turning between the fire and police stations).

Free entry. Free parking inside Horntye Park gates and at weekends in car park outside the gates. 




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Posted 18:43 Sunday, Dec 22, 2019 In: Visual Arts

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