West Ham Park was once known as the Kew Gardens of the East. Dr John Fothergill’s botanical garden was second only to the Royal Gardens at Kew. Visit our new, permanent, exhibition in the Rose Garden, to discover the fascinating history of the park land in the 18th century.
John Fothergill was born in Yorkshire in 1712 into a farming family, who belonged to the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). At 16 he was apprenticed to an Apothecary, someone who would examine ill people, and make medicines for them but who was not trained at a university. He was also a keen botanist, a supporter of the cause of American rights and an educational reformer. He bought the Upton Estate, now West Ham Park, in 1762 in order to create a garden of plants from all over the world for scientific and medical study.
When Dr Fothergill died in 1780 his estate was sold including the plants, the illustrations and his library. Empress Catherine II of Russia bought the collection of botanical illustrations, probably in a private sale in 1781, and they were donated to the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) by Catherine or her son.
Today the collection of trees, flowers and plants in the garden is inspired by Dr Fothergill and some of the plants he would have grown all those years ago.It is not always possible to grow exactly the same species, but plants from the same family or area in the world can be found in the South Africa border, the new American bed and the rose garden in which you are standing.
Our new exhibition celebrating the park’s amazing botanical history is has just been installed in the Rose Garden and we will be holding an Event shortly to celebrate this….
Watch this space for details!