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Chelsea Physic Garden, London

The Chelsea Physic Garden has a long and rich history interlaced with the national and international development of medicine, plant collecting, botany, horticulture and agriculture. Its many changing roles have been accommodated on a site of less than 2ha which retains the underlying layout of the early eighteenth century. It was the site of the first English greenhouse and the first rockery. Major pharmaceutical plants have been grown there for centuries. In the eighteenth century it was the clearing house for many plant introductions.

The focus has always been on understanding the use and cultivation of individual plants, but it is a very attractive garden within a crowded urban area in which the mild climate supports plants like olive and pomegranate.

Many of the leading figures of botany, horticulture and botanical art of the past 300 years are associated with it, and its head gardeners, demonstrators and praefecti produced some of the key text books and floras of their time.

acta prepared a statement of significance and analysis of heritage constraints to support a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major restructuring of the garden and the provision of up-to-date education and interpretation facilities

  1. The listed rockery, now used to display plants of arid conditions, has a long and complex history. The materials include volcanic rock brought from one of Sir Joseph Banks’ voyages and rubble from the Tower of London
  2. The garden owes its unique status to the foresight of Sir Hans Soane. A copy of his statue by Rysbrach is the focal point of the site
  3. The garden was the venue for some of the leading botanical artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pomegranate, illustrated here by Elizabeth Blackwell, is still grown at the garden
  4. The gardener Philip Miller and the artist Georg Ehret are probably the two most famous figures associated with the garden. This illustration of bergamot by Ehret was used in Millier’s Dictionary, which ran to eight editions in his lifetime
  5. The layout of the garden has changed very little since this plan was drawn in 1752