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Sheffield Botanical Gardens first curator to be honoured in park

The first curator and designer of the historic Sheffield Botanical Gardens is to be commemorated with the installation of a blue plaque that celebrates his work and achievements.

Robert Marnock, born in 1800, was a Scottish landscape gardener, curator and nurseryman, who over his long career became one of the most sought-after landscape gardeners of the nineteenth century.

In the early 1930’s he won a competition to design the Sheffield Botanical Gardens and moved to the city to oversee their creation, becoming the first curator. He was soon advising on planting and garden design elsewhere in the city too, including the adjacent Sheffield General Cemetery and Weston Park.

The Sheffield Botanical Gardens were formally opened in the summer of 1836, when more than 12,000 people visited.

Now, Marnock’s name and legacy will have a permanent place at the site, with the plaque being installed at the Main Gatehouse on Clarkehouse Road.

Councillor Richard Williams, Chair or the Communities, Parks and Leisure Committee at Sheffield City Council, said:

“Sheffield Botanical Garden’s is one of the biggest destinations to visit in the city. It is renowned throughout the country, and whatever the weather or season, it’s a place to come and admire.

“Robert Marnock is a big reason for this, he was a remarkable individual who curated and designed many sites across Sheffield and its absolutely appropriate he is commemorated and remembered in this way.”

Miles Stevenson, Chair of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, added:

“Robert Marnock was a nationally important garden designer and we felt it was very important to recognise him with a blue plaque. 

“I am sure he would be so proud to see how the gardens he designed nearly 200 years ago continue to delight visitors today."

The installation of the plaque comes as a National Lottery Heritage Funded Education and Engagement Project at the gardens, in partnership with Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust and Friends of Botanical Gardens Sheffield, draws to a close later this Spring.

As part of the project, a range of new interpretation signage is being installed across the gardens to help visitors understand more about the incredible range of plants and flora on site.

The Sheffield Botanical Gardens is home to a variety of gardens within the park – including the Mediterranean Garden, the Rose Garden and the Rock and Water Garden. These gardens are home to plants from all over the world, which from May, will be signposted across the site.   

There will also be a new Plant Adaptation Trail to explore in the Pavilions. This will allow families to learn about how plants adapt to different environments. There will also be some new boards, which will explain some of the Pavilion’s history and how the gardens came into being.

New signage will also include information on the Air Quality Garden, which is part of the educational offer delivered by the University of Sheffield, on site.

Once completed, there will also be a panel about two benches that were inspired by an image of the gardens from the 1840s.

The benches appear in an image that was published in Harwood’s Scenery of Great Britain (1840) and was available as letter-headed paper. It was published five years later by the Gardens’ first curator Robert Marnock in his United Gardeners and Land Stewards Journal and by the third curator at the Botanical Gardens, John Law, in an 1849 catalogue of plants.

These benches have been made in reclaimed tropical timber and carbon finished steel, by local craftsmen Finbarr Lucas and Chris Lenton.