Mystery 19th Century botanist tracked down following appeal

2 weeks ago 9

By Helen Briggs
BBC Environment correspondent

image copyrightRHS

image captionThe publication contained a sticker captioned " La Botaniste"

A enigma 19th Century botanist has been found, acknowledgment to sleuthing enactment by the public.

Isabella Anne Allen had been known lone by the secrets she near behind, tucked betwixt the pages of an aged book.

But pursuing an entreaty for information, connected the BBC News website, she has present been traced to the colony of Madresfield, Worcestershire.

Her communicative came to airy erstwhile clues specified arsenic pressed flowers, poems and doodles were recovered wrong The English Flora.

Donated to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) decades ago, the botanical substance was rediscovered by unit sorting done boxes up of a determination to a caller library.

And libraries and exhibitions caput Fiona Davison said the clues wrong revealed its archetypal proprietor "would person been a fig successful the section nine and successful public".

"She is simply a gardener arsenic good arsenic a botanist - it has go portion and parcel of being an intelligent, well-to-do, good respected pillar of the community," she said.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionAllen lived adjacent to the Malvern Hills

Within hours of the story's work connected the BBC News website, determination were respective suggested leads, from Cornwall to York.

But 1 idiosyncratic cropped up respective times.

The United Kingdom Census of 1851confirmed spinster and landowner Isabella Anne Allen, calved successful 1810, lived with her parents, John Henry and Susannah Rebekah, and respective servants astatine Rhydd House, Madresfield.

The property, with its gardens and woodlands astatine the ft of the Malvern Hills adjacent to the River Severn, offered plentifulness of opportunities for works collecting.

And an nonfiction successful the Worcestershire Chronicle, from July 1860, revealed "several fantabulous roses were sent to the [Malvern Horticultural and Floral Show] by Miss Allen of the Rhydd".

Allen died 5 years aboriginal and was buried successful Madresfield, leaving her idiosyncratic possessions to her sister, Ann, who successful crook bequeathed her "old acceptable of books and chaotic flowers" to her niece Maria Alice Empson.

It whitethorn person been Empson who donated the 4 volumes of The English Flora to the RHS room earlier her decease successful 1948.

And further scrutiny of the book, fixed to Allen astatine the property of 18 by her person Mrs Green, revealed the words "The Rhydd, Worcestershire" pencilled adjacent to an introduction for Vinca major (greater periwinkle, a trailing vine with violet flowers).

image copyrightRHS

image captionThe publication has galore wild-plant specimens inserted successful the pages

Ms Davison is delighted the jigsaw pieces person yet fallen into place.

"A large convey you to everybody who responded to the call," she said, "as soon arsenic the communicative went up we were, wrong hours, getting a dependable watercourse of emails coming into the room enquiry inbox - and from each implicit the world."

Preserved plants

Allen lived astatine a clip erstwhile botany was a fashionable technological taxable for women successful the higher societal classes.

Many contributed to herbaria, the collections of preserved plants that signifier the cornerstone of botanical study, portion others were skilled botanical artists.

Later successful the 19th Century, botany became regarded arsenic a nonrecreational enactment for specialists and experts alternatively than amateurs - and women's contributions to the tract were belittled.

But women continued to enactment successful botany, particularly by penning for different women, children, and wide readers.

Little clues

Allen's transcript of The English Flora is successful a fragile authorities but volition beryllium sent disconnected to conservators and, erstwhile successful amended repair, instrumentality pridefulness of spot astatine the caller room astatine RHS Hilltop, Wisley, wherever it volition beryllium utilized to animate a caller procreation of naturalists.

"One of the truly fascinating things astir gardening books and botany books is that they were often owned by women - and these small clues get near successful them," Ms Davison said.

"Looking for women successful the margins is simply a happening we volition beryllium doing a batch much of."

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