On moving to North Side, Clapham Common in 1794 George Hibbert set about designing and planting a Botanical Garden which in a few years was considered to be finer than the Royal Collection at Kew: later known as Kew Gardens, presided over by Sir Joseph Banks.
Hibbert's House stood on 6 acres with a further 5 acres of what was described as Meadow land on the Wandsworth Rd. In the Quarter of a century of Hibberts ownership the rare and exotic plants contained in the Gardens were regularly drawn and painted by the leading artists of the day including P-J Redoute, and James Andrews 1801-1876, to whom Hibbert paid £30 a plate.
Much of the Hibbert collection can be found in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine which was first published in 1787…..In edition 592 of October 1802 is the following…
“Introduced by Mr Nevin into the garden of Mr Alderman Hibbert, a gentleman whose munificence and urbanity leave to no lover of science a regret that so extensive and invaluable a collection should be the property of a private individual”
Hibberts passion was Proteas, which were collected on his behalf by James Niven 1776-1827 a Scottish plant collector sent to South Africa in 1798 to collect and dispatch unknown plants to Hibbert for propagation in England.
In nearby Hammersmith was the Vineyard Nursery of James Lee and Lewis Kennedy where Hibbert was a silent partner. Lee & Kennedy commercially propagated many of Hibberts plants. But Proteas were not available to the general public for sale, these Hibbert would only give or swap with George III and Empress Josephine of France.
The relationship between Hibbert and Josephine was close…when Napoleon bought Josephine Malmaison in 1799... .It was to George Hibbert that Josephine turned for advice on the layout of her gardens. Hibbert dispatched Kennedy to advise on the layout of Malmaison in the English Style... all this while England was at war with France.
Hibberts Botanical Knowledge and Interests were so extensive that he was elected fellow of the Linnaeus Society in 1810. The Genus Hibbertia and Hibbertii are named after him. In 1806 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Jamaican Botanical Gardens at St. Thomas-in-the-East, with Sir Simon-Haughton Clarke as the first President.
Cutis’s Botanical Magazine.
James Lee and the Vineyard Nursery Hammersmith. E. J. Wilson.
Napoleon, the Empress & the Artist. Jill Duchess of Hamilton.
Sex, Botany & Empire: The story of Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks. Patricia Fara.
The Terror before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the Secret War. Tom Pocock.
George Hibbert, of Clapham - 18th Century Merchant and “Amateur Horticulturalist”. By Ken Cozens