What’s on : Lectures

“a noble spot of ground” – a history of the Museum Gardens

6 Jun 2017
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Dr Peter Hogarth
Yorkshire Museum Gardens

Event Information

by Dr Peter Hogarth, Department of Biology, University of York

We are all familiar with the Museum Gardens.  The history of the land before the Philosophical Society came on the scene can be pieced together from the surviving remains – St Mary’s Abbey, the Multangular Tower – and historical sources:  a patch of nondescript land outside a legionary fortress was shaped by the Romans, Earl Siward, William Rufus, the Benedictines, and Henry VIII, among others, until it eventually became available for the Yorkshire Philosophical Society to create their botanic garden.  How YPS acquired the first few acres and later expanded their territory, and how they developed and managed the Gardens, emerges from the YPS’s own archives, from numerous pictures and maps, and from a multitude of other sources.  We know who planned the Gardens, where the plants came from, what the gardeners were paid, how the grass was cut, who pruned the rhododendrons, and how the Society dealt with unruly youths (and obstreperous Members).   And we can tell the story of the Gardens through the eyes, and in the words, of those who were there.

Member’s report

This lecture is based on Dr. Peter Hogarth’s research for a history of the Museum Gardens, which is to be published as part of the forthcoming YPS bicentenary celebrations

The landscape, once known as Manor Shore, dates from its Roman origins as a patch of ground just outside the fortress walls. Earl Siward built a church here, and after the Norman Conquest this provided the starting point for the wealthy St Mary’s Abbey. Although many of those buildings were destroyed at the dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbott’s house was saved for use by the King and the Council of the North. In the Civil War siege of 1644, a Parliamentary plan to blow up Marygate Tower and take King’s Manor proved an embarrassing failure. The eighteenth century was a quiet period, with Manor Shore used for grazing, gardening and local recreation. This changed around 1828, when the young Yorkshire Philosophical Society acquired the lease to build a museum surrounded by botanical gardens. Plants were obtained from far and wide, with generous donations from botanical gardens throughout the world. The familiar landscaping was laid out by John Naesmyth in 1847, and the use of the gardens for exhibitions, band concerts and many other events was established. Now managed by the York Museums Trust, the gardens continue to be a much loved part of the city.

Margaret Leonard