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 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.
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.
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.