Sheffield Botanical Gardens — Alison Hunter — 4th December 2017.

Courtesy of Sheffield Botanical Gardens

In 1833 a peti­tion was sent to the Master Cutler (Thomas Dunn) by the Town Trust regard­ing the estab­lish­ment of a garden for the people of Sheffield. This was approved by the newly formed Town Council in 1843.
A share hold­ers’ scheme was set up and shares sold to the public. Unfortunately the scheme went bust in 1897 and they were bought by Frederick Mappin who was the leader of the Town Trust. Eventually the Sheffield City Council became owners in 1951 and are still the present man­agers.
Robert Marnock was the first cur­ator and he designed the gar­dens into a nat­ural tree landscape-many trees being planted on mounds which are still in evid­ence today.

The main gate. Courtesy of Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

The main gate­way was designed by Ben Broomhead Taylor in1848 when the curator’s house was also built.
Samuel Osbourne (chair of the Sheffield Town Trust donated Osbourne Fields to enlarge the gar­dens in 1934.


The old bear pit . Courtesy of Sheffield Botanical Gardens

A fea­ture of the gar­dens is the Bear Pit. It was never used for bear bait­ing but for a public attrac­tion where the bears had a large tree trunk in the middle of the pit to climb up.

The FOBS ( Friends of the Botanical Gardens)was formed in 1984) This is a volun­teer group of nearly 100 mem­bers who play a vital role in man­aging the gar­dens and, after spend­ing many years in a prefab build­ing, got a new pur­pose built centre cost­ing 2 mil­lion pounds. The money being raised by public dona­tions and char­it­able trusts.
The new build­ing was opened by the Duke of Devonshire in 2017.

Don Williams was cur­ator during the 80’s and 90’s leav­ing in 1990. Much of his good work was neg­lected and the gar­dens deteri­or­ated.
After a big reor­gan­isa­tion they were re- designed and and opened by Michael Palin in 2008.
The gar­dens also fea­ture a statue of “Pan” (donated by Charles Clifford) and a memorial statue to the Crimean War.

The con­ser­vatries. Courtesy of Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

In WW2 the con­ser­vat­or­ies were badly dam­aged, and after  a lot­tery fund­ing of 5 mil­lion plus 1.3 mil­lion raised by the Trust and dona­tions world wide, the con­ser­vat­or­ies were re built.( Most of the glass panels were hand made ) Prince Charles opened the new build­ing in 2003.

With regard to the gar­dens them­selves they are divided into many dif­fer­ent areas.
Nursery area:  Here Sheffield Uni holds plant trials and they devised a plant­ing scheme for the London Olympics.

Prairie garden:   Started in 2004 dis­play­ing swathes of meadow plants and grasses.

Evolution Garden:  Where the fos­sil­ised tree stump(found at Attercliffe) is dis­played and also fea­tures ancient plants ie Ginko and Dawn red­wood.

Mediterranean Garden:  Featuring plants from Australia, Chile and California. These thrive in a micro cli­mate caused by the area being sheltered and south facing.

Himalayan Garden:  Where Chris Chardwell brough back seeds from Himalayan plants which he ger­min­ated and then planted them in the garden.

The garden also holds the National Collection of Weigellias, , Dervilla, and Sarcococca.

The gar­dens are a delight to visit and Sheffielders should be very proud of them and appre­ci­ate all the work that has gone into them over many years.

Alison’s talk was much appre­ci­ated by the club, which was evid­ent by the number of ques­tions she was asked and the round of applause at the end.