Friday, 30 October 2015

Botanist Birch Freeman

A very brief post on an interesting Victorian whom I just heard about from Advolly Richmond, who has researched his role in botany and plant cultivation

Thomas Birch Freeman, born in Twyford Hants 1809, began his career as a gardener at Orwell Park near Ipswich until dismissed for  turning Wesleyan, but he trained in horticulture at Kew Gardens and was also ordained as a Methodist minister - one of those of African ancestry that the churches believed were less likely to succumb to tropical diseases. He settled in what is now  Ghana where he established schools and agricultural schemes, travelling the region as both a missionary and a botanical collector.   When the coffee crop in Ceylon fell victim to disease, he was instrumental in introducing the Liberian coffee species there, first sending 400 seeds to Kew.  He left the Methodists, only to return later and died at his home in Accra in 1891.  His portrait by Marshall Claxton was presumably engraved for missionary purposes, and his religious activities were well-documented; according to Advolly this quite over-shadowed his equally indeed more significant role as a botanist in the heyday of heroic Victorian plant-collecting..

here a daguerreotype photo of Freeman, presumably in late 1840s,  from the National Media Museum Bradford

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