More than 250 meticulously painted botanical watercolours, dating from over 100 years ago, have been brought out of the archives at the National Trust’s Arlington Court, to help gardeners and rangers restore lost wildflower meadows on the Devon estate. They provide an important insight into species of wildflowers that our ancestors would have seen on an everyday walk around the estate.
The watercolours, housed across nine albums, were painted around 1917 by Rosalie Chichester (1865 – 1949) whose family owned the estate for over 500 years. Rosalie was passionate about the natural world and her paintings illustrate the abundant wildflowers that once grew around her home – some of which are rare in the landscape today.
Now, the illustrations, which note the name and location of each flower, are helping the team map where each species flourished in Rosalie’s lifetime, and to create an initial 8.9 hectares of wildflower meadows as part of a wider project to restore grasslands in North Devon.
Meadows around the regency house are being cared for to encourage the wildflowers depicted in the albums. From 27 May – 30 June, visitors can follow a wildflower trail highlighting some of Rosalie’s paintings, and the wildflowers she knew and loved, including meadow buttercup, red clover, knapweed and yarrow.
Inside the house visitors can see some of Rosalie’s albums, on public display for the first time.
Senior Gardener Hannah Phillips said, “The watercolour paintings have given us a really important insight into what kind of flowers would have been commonplace 100 years ago. We’ve been planting 10 of the species Rosalie records in her paintings, including yellow rattle, meadow buttercup, knapweed, yarrow and ox-eye daisy, and plan to plant more in the coming months and years.”
Collections Assistant Hannah Chandler said, “It was a real treat to re-discover this archive of flowers. We’re really pleased to be displaying some of the books during June so visitors will be able to see Rosalie’s work up close – and maybe try and spot some on a walk around the estate.”
Ranger Paul Price said, “The meadow and album display are a reminder of the challenges facing the natural world – the general decline in wildflowers was the driving force behind a wider grassland project across the Trust’s North Devon portfolio, with large areas of wildflower meadow being created. Once established, these can be harvested and seed spread to help introduce floral diversity to other areas.”
From 27 May – 30 June, visitors can follow a wildflower trail highlighting some of Rosalie’s paintings, and the wildflowers she knew and loved, including meadow buttercup, red clover, knapweed and yarrow.
Inside the house visitors will be able to see some of Rosalie’s albums, dating from c.1914, on public display for the first time.
For more information visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/Arlington-Court