New exhibition at The Alnwick Garden on the work of pioneering botanist

The Alnwick Garden is hosting a brand new exhibition celebrating a pioneering 18th century botanist.

By Ian Smith
Friday, 10th September 2021, 10:06 am
The Alnwick Garden Pavilion.
The Alnwick Garden Pavilion.

Lady Emma Bennet, née Colebrooke, 4th Countess of Tankerville, created a collection of botanical illustrations which are held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

June Watson has curated the never seen before ‘Tankerville Collection’ which contains the private papers of the Bennet family, Earls of Tankerville, whose family seat was Chillingham Castle, and will be displaying this at The Alnwick Garden this September.

The Tankerville Collection of 648 botanical drawings at Kew is one of their most important collections but remains in a climate-controlled area unseen by the public awaiting costly conservation work.

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The lack of provenance has also blighted the use of the collection.

Many drawings are by important artists of the period such as Georg Dionysius Ehret and Margaret Meen, with many others unsigned.

The drawings represented every flower cultivated by Emma at Walton and were known to be the largest collection in London.

June said: “My research has concentrated on the 21 botanical drawings painted by Emma during a stay on the island of Madeira 1811-1812.

"What was especially exciting to discover whilst examining the drawings at Kew was Emma’s handwriting in pencil on the back of each drawing reporting on the potential economic and medical benefits of each plant and their uses as a food source.

"She signed and dated each drawing, and scientifically classified each one according to Linnaean conventions. This information would enable her to have considerable influence acting as a go-between in metropolitan scientific and political circles.”

Daniel Russell, head of commercial operations at The Alnwick Garden, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to work with June to bring this exhibition to Northumberland.

"When we were approached to host this exhibition we were absolutely delighted to be asked and jumped at the chance.

"It will provide a unique insight into this local figure and will allow June to demonstrate what an unsung hero Lady Tankerville was.”

The exhibition will run from September 19-26 in The Alnwick Garden Pavilion where copies of June’s book will also be available to purchase.

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