The Grahamstown Botanical Gardens were founded in 1853 by Deed of Grant on the slopes of Gun Fire Hill.
It was the second botanical garden to be established in the Cape Colony, the first being in Cape Town
in April 1849. As early as August 1846 a prospectus was compiled by George Jarvis and William Shaw
and proposed the establishment of a small garden which would lead to the growth of Horticultural Society
and Botanical Garden. However, the outbreak of the 7th Frontier War (1846-47)
delayed the establishment of the garden. At the close of the war Jarvis
approached the Cape Colony Governor, Sir Harry Smith, both for financial
support and land. Smith gave Jarvis a twenty-pound subscription and promised
that he would examine the land Jarvis had asked for and give it to Grahamstown.
There was an impressive drive for support and Jarvis managed to obtain
a hundred –pounds in subscriptions. However, before any further action
could be taken, the 8th Frontier War broke out. At the close, Jarvis and
other citizens approached Smith’s successor – Sir George Cathcart
– for a site on which to establish a botanical garden. Cathcart
agreed to give them whatever Smith had promised and so, on 19th October
1853, a grant of 3 morgen 444 square roods and 72 square feet of Government
ground was made to the Committee for establishing a Botanical or Nursery
Garden. It was advertised in the Graham’s Town Journal, calling
for subscriptions and donations. It informed the public that all donors
would be considered as share-holders to the extent of their donations.
Annual subscribers would be entitled to select from the stock in the Garden
to the full extent of their subscription.
According to the Story of Settlement
published in Grahamstown in 1884, the Botanical Garden was originally
laid out as a garden for the Lieutenant-Governor or Officer commanding
the garrison residing at Government House close by.
A second, larger grant of land was made by Cathcart to the Botanic Garden
Committee in 1854 in condition that the land would be used exclusively for
a Botanical or Nursery Garden and that the Bridle Road and public right of
way leading from the back of the Drostdy Barracks to the swimming bath should
The objectives of the Committee
for the establishing a Botanical Garden included procuring from England
and elsewhere fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs, vegetable and
flower seeds to improve and add to frontier stocks. The garden would have
nurseries to cultivate these and make them available to subscribers and
the public. The grounds would have to be laid out attractively and made
suitable for recreation. Income would come from annual public subscriptions
and from the sale of plants. Subscribers of one-pound or more would be
able to select plants or seeds to the full amount of their annual subscriptions.
The first curator of the Garden
was Thomas Draper. He was employed from October 1855 to 1860. In 1861
Mr Baum succeeded Draper, and in 1864 Mr W Tuck was appointed in his place.
In November 1870 Mr Edwin Tidmarsh was appointed and became the man to
serve for the longest term of office of over 40 years. There was a large
staff under him and prison labour was supplied when ever required. This
proved indispensable in drought years when so much watering was needed
to be done. It was Tidmarsh’s iron bands, ties and railings that
supported the giant oak, planted in 1820 adjacent to what became the Beaufort
Street entrance to the Gardens, giving it an extra 50-years of life!
When it finally felled by a storm in 1960, Mr J D Cameron, then Superintendent
of the Gardens, planted one of its seedlings in the same place...
|The Garden's Sundial
donated by the British Government