TRANSACTIONS BEER AND BOTANY The Suffoik years of Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) MEA ALLAN
THE recent demolition of the old brewery at Haiesworth has raised hardly a sigh in East Anglia. Though one man, watching a bulldozer race across the garden behind, crunching and crushing everything in the path of its half-track, cried out indignantly: " T h i s is sacrilegeâ€”this was a H O O K E R garden!" He was Standing by a small van stuffed with dug-out plants, and he was busy roping to its roof a pile of precious shrubs which next day would have been mashed into the mud. Permission to remove them had been given readily. No one eise wanted them. " I ' m saving t h e m , " he told me, and he drove off with the air of one who has rescued the victims of a Lucknow or a dozen fair damsels from the coils of a dragon. T h e demolition men have gone, but a little bit of Hooker history remainsâ€”in the house where lived the man who for twenty wearying years was to fight for and save Kew Gardens for the nation, and where was born his son Joseph who was to succeed him as second Director of the Gardens, Joseph the intrepid climber into the unscaled heights of the Himalaya who brought us the splendid species rhododendrons which turned a new page in garden planting and landscaping. William Jackson Hooker was born in Norwich in 1785. His father, a confidential clerk in the service of the Baring Brothers of Exeter, came to Norwich as a young man to set up a bombazine business. In his spare time he collected succulents and exotics. His mother was Lydia nee Vincent in whose family there was an artistic strain which was to Harne into genius with George Vincent, one of the best of the Norwich school of painters and famed for his landscapes of the Norfolk countryside. T h u s William Jackson Hooker inherited from his parents the love of plants and the artistry which later made Olof Swartz the botanist exclaim: " I can hardly say what I admire more in his works, his pencil or his pen. His talents are inimitable indeed." He was knighted for his services to botany. When he died in 1865 he left us the Kew we know today, 300 acres of the most famous and best-loved garden in the world. And most useful. For it was William Hooker who first became aware of how closely man was related to the vegetable world around him, of how urgently he
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depended upon it for much of the food he ate and for the timbers which built his houses, his furniture, his factories, and his ships*. He called it Economic Botany and at Kew in 1847 he opened a Museum, the first of its kind, to show manufacturers, traders, and craftsmen, as well as the public, the useful products of the vegetable kingdom and where they came from. T h e Museum became Kew's most populĂ¤r feature, attracting thousands, including the Queen herseif. How badly it was needed. There was great confusion, for instance, in the timber trade. T h e same tree might be known under half a dozen names in as many different countries. Hooker stabilised the names and timber merchants were able to see the actual woods in the Museum and in a series of exhibits the variety of uses to which they could be put. It was William Hooker too who established Kew as a great plant exchange, sending out plant-hunters to collect seeds, raising and acclimatising them in the Kew nurseries, exporting them to the young Colonies who were in need of new foods, grains, and timbers. He it was who clothed barren Ascension Island with a mantle of Vegetation. Yet this was the Hooker who wrote despairingly from Haiesworth: "If you hear of anyone who can employ a poor botanical Author and give him something for his work bear me in mind . . . " He was penning his letter from the Brewery House and was supposed to be making good as a gentleman brewer. Times were against it, for the shadow of Napoleon was long. With the war's end had come the inevitable trade slump, and with cheap com flooding into the country the Government devised sanctions to protect the home product by allowing no more in until English wheat reached 80/- a quarter. Near starvation resulted, those in the Eastern Counties, England's wheat belt, being hardest hit. At Haiesworth the brewery carts stood idle. T h e r e was no money for beer. It was very worrying for William, for in 1815 he had married Maria, the beautiful eldest daughter of Dawson T u r n e r of Yarmouth, banker, antiquarian, and naturalist, who was not only William's father-in-law but his patron. Dawson T u r n e r was not so worried. He took a long view of things. Having persuaded William to sink most of his capital (a legacy from William Jackson his godfather) in a fourth share in the Haiesworth brewery, he declared that times would improve. Breweries were like banks: they must in the end prove profitable, and meanwhile there was plenty for Mr. Hooker to occupv himself with. T o d a y so-called ' m a n - m a d e fibres' have superseded m u c h of w h a t used to be culled direct f r o m nature, such as cotton and jute, but how many people know that the first experiments in making rayon were carried out at Kew?
177 There was indeed. First and foremost there was Dawson Turner's Historia Fucorum for which William was doing the illustrations. There was William's Recollections of Iceland, saga of his tour there in 1809, a botanical survey made for and paid for by that great man Sir Joseph Banks. There was his history of the Btitish Jungermanniae. There was the Muscologia he was writing in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Taylor of Dublin; and another mossy project, their Muscologia Britannica, which was published in 1818. There was also the new edition of Curtis's Flora Londinensis being edited by Thomas Graves. And always there were more illustrations to be done for Dawson Turner's Fuci. Indeed, of the 258 plates in its four volumes William Hooker did 234, other artists twenty-four. Hooker laboured at these illustrations from the January of 1806 tili the book's publication thirteen years later, and it is hardly credible that Dawson Turner gave him no credit for his work. But for the tiny inscription W.J.H. Esqr. del<. we would not know that he had drawn or coloured a Single plate. Not that Dawson Turner was not proud of him: in letters to his botanical friend William Borrer he was lavish in his praise of Hooker's work. And indeed, looking at Hooker's paintings of the seaweeds it is difficult to believe they are not actual specimens laid upon the page, so fresh they are, as if but a moment ago they were in their rocky homes in the sea. BEER AND BOTANY
At Brewery House were born four of thefiveHooker childrenâ€” William Dawson in 1816, Joseph Dalton the following year, Maria in 1819, and Elizabeth in 1820. The tragic little Mary Harriet was not born tili 1825 when the family had moved to Glasgow whence Hooker was called to take up the chair of botany at the University. Tied to his brewery and to his wife and increasing family life could have been dull at Brewery House but for the fact that William had now won the respect and affection of fellow botanists throughout the world. He could not go to see them: they came to see him, all the great botanists of the dayâ€”Robert Brown, Augustin-Pyramus de Candolle, Professor C. Mertens of Bremen, Charles Lyell, Dr. Francis Boott of Boston, Massachusetts, and many others. And it was to Brewery House that a youth of eighteen came, seeking encouragement and help, John Lindley, son of a nurseryman at Catton, near Norwich. Hooker sent him to Sir Joseph Banks, and soon the young man was his assistant librarian. He rose to be a shining light in the Horticultural Society of London and with George Bentham organised the successful series of exhibitions offlowersand fruits which were the forerunner of 'Chelsea' and the Fortnightly Shows of the now Royal Horticultural Society. He was the energetic author ot many books, and it was at Brewery House that he wrote hisfirstwork, Observations of the Structure of Fruits and Seeds, a translation of L.C.M. Richard's Analyse du Fruit.
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Brewery House could have been called Botany House. It was here, in his little Stove in the garden, that William Hooker flowered the first Cattleya labiata, the plant which has received more horticultural awards than any other orchid. It was sent to him from Brazil by its discoverer, William Swainson, and is outstandingly featured in Hooker's work on the Exotic Flora which was serialised between the years 1823 and 1827. Incidentally it was given its name by John Lindley in honour of William Cattley, the Barnet horticulturalist to whom Banks had introduced him in 1820. While brewing flagged, botany prospered. As often as he could William went on botanising expeditions. Even as a boy living in Norwich with his parents he was fully acquainted with the local tlora, and of course it was his discovery of a certain little moss in a iir plantation at Rackheath, Sprowston, three miles f r o m the city, that put his feet on the ladder of fame. At twenty, then, he must already have been a considerable botanist, for the plant was a lowly one, a mere inch high. He took it to Dr. j a m e s Edward Smith whose house at 29 Surrey Street was the mecca for any botanist wishing to compare specimens, Dr. Smith being the owner of the great Linnaeus's herbarium. T h e result of William's interview was a whoop of joy from Smith who, writing about the event, declared he had been 'ready to dance about the room!' For the moss, Buxbaumia aphylla, was new to Britain. Smith lost no time in proclaiming that here was a young botanist of promise. He introduced him to Dawson T u r n e r and both of t h e m armed him with letters to Sir Joseph Banks who never failed to further the cause of promising young naturalists and searchers after truth. Jealously William guarded the small patch of his moss, sparing when he could a specimen for this one and that, and being careful that the patch did not shrink to nothing. A whole new world of friendship had opened out to him, and he found himself, to his surprise, accepted as a professional. T o his own surprise because he was innately modest. H e remained so to the end of his days. But long before the discovery of the moss he loved to wander among the fields and in the woods and by hedgerows, finding plant materials for the herbarium he was gradually building up. He knew well the Wortwell Meadows carpeted with rare wildflowers, still today a botanist's paradise. He was then living at Starston Hall as a pupil of Robert Paul, learning farm management because of the inheritance he was one day to enjoy. Paul did everything to encourage him in his botanical pursuits, and many were the excursions William went on, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by his brother Joseph who was destined to die young in life f r o m pulmonary tuberculosis. He also botanised with the Rev. William Kirby who was m u c h inclined to turn William into an entomologist. T h i s was not surprising, for here again William had made a discovery. In dedicating a species of Apion, Kirby did so
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in these words: " I am indebted to an excellent naturalist, M r . W . J. Hooker, of Norwich, who first discovered it, for this species. Many other nondescripts have been taken by him and his brother, Mr. J. Hooker, and I name this insect after them, as a memorial of their ability and exertions in the service of my favourite department of natural history." This was in 1805. An amusing StĂśry is told of William and K i r b y who with William Spence, Kirby's collaborator, set off one day to secure a specimen of a rare Marchantia growing near Nayland, some miles distant from Kirby's house at Barham. T h e y decided to entomologise 011 the way and after dinner proceed to the hedgebank where it grew. A trampish threesome they looked as they entered the inn yard on foot, with dusty shoes and with no other baggage than their insect nets. N o wonder they met with a cool reception. But on Kirby's demand to be shown the best dining-room and he having ordered a good dinner and wine, Mine Host's suspicions melted. T h e y emerged refreshed to find the rain had come on. Kirby ordered out a post-chaise and told the postilion to drive a short way along a certain road. By the time they arrived at the gate of the field where the bank was, the rain was pelting down, so, calling to the postilion to stop and open the door they scampered out of the chaise, shouted back to him to wait there, clambered pell-mell over the gate and, determined to get their specimen before they were soaked to the skin, ran oft as if the devil were after them. Of course the postilion j u m p e d to the obvious conclusion: three rascals bilking his master of good dinners and the chaise hire. Oh, no! Mounting his horses he lashed them to a gallop along the road side of the hedge, determined to catch u p with them. H e could hear t h e m laughing and was thoroughly astonished when, ordering t h e m back to the chaise (.He would hand them back to his master for settlement, that he would!) they were only too pleased to come. For long the story was told at the inn of the mysterious three who did not hesitate to pay their dues but who never explained that their lunacy in running about in the rain was scientific involvement with a cryptogamic alga. DĂźring Hooker's time at Haiesworth, 1809-1821, entomology often competed with botany for first place in his affections. Kirby urged him one way, Dawson T u r n e r the other. In May, 1809, he wrote to his f u t u r e father-in-law: " I believe it impossible for any dabbler in Entomology to pass a week with so excellent a man and so good a naturalist as M r . Kirby without wishing to be more like h i m . " Dawson T u r n e r must have noted with satisfaction that young Mr. Hooker regarded himself as a mere entomological dabbler. In fact William's brother Joseph was the entomologist and on his death his collection of insects was bought by the British M u s e u m . This was in 1816. William went to Norwich for the auction. His brother's cabinet fetched ÂŁ36.
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Five years earlier he had told Dawson T u r n e r : " I am Willing to sacrifice every expense but that of Botany . . . " T h e reference to expense concerned his longing to travel, which near-disaster on the return voyage from Iceland in 1809 (when his ship went on fire) had quite failed to quell. He wanted to go to Ceylon and spent months in London acquainting himself with the Indian flora by copying more than 2,000 of the 'Roxburgh' drawings. They were exact reductions and are now at Kew. T h e y fill ten duodecimo volumes. Then he wanted to go to 'the Brazils', and each visit to Sir Joseph Banks' house in London fired him anew. T i m e and time again he begged his banker friend to relax the purse strings. But Dawson T u r n e r regarded travel as a grave interruption of serious study and kept William as securely pinned to the Seaweeds book and to the brewery and his own botanical work as a butterfly to a setting-board. He may have crushed William Hooker as an explorer-cum-planthunter, but were it not for the disciplinary years at Haiesworth we would certainly never have had Kew. Banks dreamt of making Kew a great plant exchange. As director of Kew's eleven acres of royal pleasure-ground he had stocked it with plants from all over the world until with increasing age and infirmity he could no longer go there. He often despatched William Hooker to Kew to report back to him, and he it was who inspired his protege to take the torch from his hand. It was Banks too who secured for him the appointment to Glasgow, where incidentally Hooker raised the University's botanic garden to a status second to none in Europe, and almost from the moment he set foot in Scotland William was dreaming of Kew as a great national garden which must come into being. Through his efforts and the contacts he forged, through his love of plants and undying sense of duty to the world of botany he served, his dream became reality. He was the man of the moment, and each everyday excursion from Haiesworth had made him so. His eyes were like ferrets. He would write about the humblest plants as excitedly as if he had discovered a new sun or moon. His letters rang with news about them. There was 'a great heath between Henham and Southwold which Struck me once in passing as being a favourable spot for Jungermanniae'. And so on. By the time he left Haiesworth to become regius professor at Glasgow he knew all the plants of his native East Anglia, where grew three-quarters of Britain's flora, a knowledge completed by energetic Walking tours with Dawson T u r n e r and Borrer in Scotland, with Taylor in Ireland, and Lewis Weston Dillwyn in Wales. T h e house where he lived in Haiesworth is not obviously noticeable. It has a green door you can easily pass without noticing before you join the main road into the town. But behind it for the twelve formative years of Sir William Jackson Hooker's
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life, history was in the making. A plaque in Haiesworth C-hurch records the fact that he, the first Director of Kew, lived in the town and that Joseph Dalton Hooker his son who succeeded him was born there. But not all those interested in botany or in Kew may find it. The corner is shadowy and the number of those who like to wander into churches to look at screens and fonts and windows is not so great. I approached Halesworth's Urban District Council with the suggestion that they might like to put a plaque on the house, so that all might see and pause for a moment to read the name Hooker. Nothing has come of it so far. I now suggest to the members of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society that they might think of it.