NEWS - Clarence Bicknell in Parma, October 2018

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

The Meli Lupi Loop

Would Clarence Bicknell have been a rock guitarist?


The Meli Lupi Loop with Gallery of photos

How have rock music, a modern day Italian marquis, an 18th century typographer and the Victorian polymath become entwined in a rich flurry of culture in Parma this week?

The story starts in the Charlie Chaplin film lot in Hollywood, California, in February 1977... that was the head-quarters of one of the most dynamic private record labels of the 70s and 80s, A&M Records, master-minded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. A&M’s underground rock band Supertramp is about to burst onto the international stage with Even in the Quietest Moments released in April 1977. Band members are around the offices meeting record company executives and promoting the new LP.

Fresh-faced Marcus Bicknell, 29 years old, was appointed to the new post of CEO, A&M Records Europe, in January 1977 and was spending induction time on the lot with the A&Mers to understand the company’s business ethics and to prepare the establishment of their new office in Paris. John Helliwell, Supertramp’s ingenious and characterful sax-player and front man, struck up a conversation with Marcus which has continued for nearly 42 years. As Supertramp’s massive hits rolled out across Europe, John was most frequently the Supertramper who travelled round the continent to promote upcoming records and concerts to the radio stations and journalists, Marcus pulling the strings. Their friendship and extra-mural activities flourished; in 1982 John and his wife Christine joined Marcus and his wife Susie on 1000cc Honda motorcycles in a tour of France, the four of them sporting white leathers provided by Patrice Blanc-Francard’s France Inter radio station and in-helmet CB radio walk-in-talkies.

Years later, as John’s music career develops into jazz with his Creme Anglaise and on tour round Germany with Excalibur he accepts the invitation from Italian guitarist Raimondo Meli Lupi to play in Parma. For October 2018, Raimondo has also invited Chris Thompson, the voice on Manfred Mann’s Blinded by the Light, to play both rock classics (including a couple of Supertramp’s hits from Quietest Moments) and some mellifluous jazz-influenced tunes.

John and Marcus get talking about the 2018 Clarence Bicknell centenary, which is already packed with 40 events - film projection, book launches and talks - in 5 countries. Hmm... John mentions his friend Raimondo who is at the core of Parma’s cultural firmament, involved not just in music but in the Meli Lupi Foundation, charities and sports promotion. What about a Clarence Bicknell event in Parma. Raimondo seizes the opportunity, contacts his friend Professor Marcello Tomaselli of the School of Botany at the Università degli Studi di Parma. A date is set for 10th October for the projection of the film about Clarence Bicknell, a botanist above all the elements of his career, and presentations by Gisella Merello, Giuseppe Bessone of Bordighera and me, Marcus Bicknell, always credited as Clarence’s nephew. Oh, and on the 12th and 13th October, John Helliwell, Chris Thompson, Raimondo Meli Lupi and his musician friends will play the concerts in Parma... we will all get to experience the music too.

This plan is too much for Valerie Lester back in Boston. The biographer of Clarence Bicknell is also the biographer of Parma’s greatest son, Giambattista Bodoni, the prince of typographers, a man who as printer to the royal court was the Rupert Murdoch and the Mark Zuckerberg of middle Italy in the 18th century, the man through whose printing presses all communication flowed. Valerie had spent many months on 5 visits to Parma’s archives between 2008 and 2013 and had fallen in love with the place. Her Bodoni was published in 2016. She was not able to travel to Bordighera and Tende for the July 2018 Clarence Bicknell celebrations so she booked the flights to Parma. We added her to the list of speakers and Parma cocked an ear.

By a remarkable alignment of the planets, Helliwell, Meli Lupi, Bicknell and Lester are united this week in Parma. As I write, we are revelling in the acclaim for the Clarence Bicknell film and seminar on Wednesday; our ears are still buzzing with the roof-raising music of the Friday night concert.

The City of Parma enjoyed the Bicknell event; the dynamic council member fo the Environment and Culture, Tiziana Benassi, came to the event and welcomed us all from the podium... “we have an obligation to preserve and promote culture”. In the meantime Il Marchese Raimondo Meli Lupi di Soragna (for, yes, it is he) has been spoiling us rotten with elegant dining at his country home (indeed, Parma ham) plus visits to Parmesan cheese factories and art galleries. Valerie took us to the Bodoni Museum where she spent so much time studying and where we saw the collection of type matrices and fonts, press, printing equipment and print samples, normally closed to the public. Next door, the Teatro Farnese is the world’s biggest theatre made entirely from wood, a mind-blowing space.

No, Clarence was never a rock guitarist. But the culture of the 21st century is as vibrant as that of the 19th century. We can look back on this week, as on Clarence’s life’s work, with pleasure and pride.

We also learn (thank you John Helliwell, Raimondo Meli Lupi, Professor Marcello Tomaselli, Tiziana Benassi, Giuseppe Bessone, Gisela Merello Folli and Valerie Lester) that one of the greatest privileges of life is the willingness to say “Yes”.

Marcus Bicknell 12 October 2018, Parma

RESEARCH - Clarence Bicknell and folklore

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

supernatural john kingWas Clarence a spiritualist in later life? It was so fashionable in Victorian parlours, was it not?  When he gave up his activities in the Anglican Church in 1879, on arrival in Bordighera, he continued to be passionate about religion in general; he had even preached about his eucumenical principles and the need to respect those who worship a different god. I quote from Valerie Lester's biography of Clarence... MARVELS... below.

Now a notebook written by Clarence in 1907 has come to light in the Bicknell collection. The motivation to publish it has come from my cousin Renchi Bicknell who feels many personal links with Clarence and is preparing to talk in Glastonbury on 15th November about Clarence's "other" beliefs. Did his interest in other beliefs extend to spiritualism, the supernatural and to "the other side". Well yes... Giovanni Russo of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera, expert on Clarence's books, has noted several titles written by others, but on these very subjects. The complete list is on this web site (click on The Man, then on Bibliography) and I have listed a few of the more interesting ones below.

In the meantime I have scanned the notebook and am hoping that Renchi will transcribe it so that we can read it more easily on the internet. For the time being you can download the scan in pdf and have a look. Just 17 pages, in pencil; it looks like a notebook he would use when he could not think of anywhere else to write his experiences.

Download Clarence Bicknell Folklore in pdf here


Excerpt from Valerie Lester's MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, page 48, on the moment when Clarence antagonised his congregation with talk of other faiths

"In May, Bordighera was in a frenzy of excitement over the celebration of St Ampelio’s day. (Clarence’s spelling of Ampelio/Ampeglio varies.) A week before the actual anniversary on the 14th, Clarence attended a service in the parish church where the parishioners ‘were keeping a Novena for S. Ampeglio, his arm bone being on the altar in a [case], surrounded by candles . . . a litany sung & hymns & then the kneeling congregation . . . were blessed by the relic . . . I thought it all very horrible & was glad to be out again.’ This revulsion did not dim Clarence’s enthusiasm for the saint. On the Sunday before the anniversary, he gave notice of the feast of S. Ampelio to the congregation of All Saints, ‘to the astonishment of Protestants & Anglicans who are so anti-Roman or so insular that they cannot understand how we can love to rejoice with them that do rejoice, & confess the unity of all without holding to strict doctrines of one kind or another.’

"On 14 May itself, a crucial day in Clarence’s religious journey, he wrote in his diary, ‘S. Ampelio – Hermit of the Thebaid, blacksmith by trade, wafted in his westward wanderings to the Italian shore, to Bordighera where in a cave on the shore he is said to have lived & taught & died – We had our Chapel decorated & H.C. at 8. when I said a few words about the festival & why we sd. keep it right joyously, in order to rejoice with those who rejoiced.’ The celebration of St Ampelio did not sit well with the conservative faction at All Saints."

Copyright © 2018 Valerie Lester. ISBN 978 1 7890 1494 5 hardback


Some books which belonged to Clarence Bicknell and which are now in the Biblioteca Civica Internazionale in Bordighera. With thanks to Giovanni Russo of the Museo Bicknell for his research and the list:

Rêve blanc / Henri Ardel. – Paris : Plon, 1895. – 281 p. ; 18 cm                                Coll. ARD., BIB 32807. C. Bicknell

The devil in Britain and America / by John Ashton. – York : Ward and Downey, 1896. – x, 363 p. ; 23 cm              Coll. 235 ASH, BIL 6809, 13639 barrato. C. Bicknell

The Hebrew prophet / by Loring W. Batten. – London : Methuen & co., 1905. – x, 351 p. ; 20 cm             Coll. 296 BAT, BIL 6880, 13734 barrato. C Bicknell 1907

A buddhist catechism : an outline of the doctrine of the Buddha Gotama in the form of question and answer / by Subhadra Bhikshu. – London : Redway, 1890. – 92 p. ; 18 cm                     Coll. 294 BHI, BIL 6952, 13766. C. Bicknell

Complications sentimentales / Paul Bourget. – Paris : Lemerre, 1898. – 358 p. ; 18 cm.                   Coll. F. BOU, 32791. C. Bicknell

The manners, customs and condition of the North American indians / by George Catlin. – London : published by the author, 1841. – 2 v. : ill. ; 26 cm                      572.9 CAT, BIL 1881-1881, 13747-13748 barrato. C. Bicknell

The supernatural : its origin, nature, and evolution / by John H. King. – London : Williams and Norgate ; New York : Putnam’s sons, 1892. – 2 v. : ill. ; 22 cm.                    Coll 133 KIN, BIL 6997-6998, barrato 13773-13774. – C Bicknell       Photo of the cover embedded in this article

Apparitions and thought-transference: an examination of the evidence for telepathy / by Frank Podmore. – London : Scott, 1894. – xiv, 395 p. ; 18 cm. – The contemporary science series ; 26                Coll. 133 POD, Bil 6869, 13724 barrato. C. Bicknell

Modern spiritualism : a history and criticism / by Frank Podmore. – London : Methuen & co., 1902. – 2 v. ; 23 cm                        Coll. 133 POD, BIL 1555-1556, 13614-13615 barrato. C. Bicknell 1907


NEWS - MARVELS reviewed in Venue magazine

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

venue review of marvels autumn 2018Delighted to say that Valerie Lester's MARVELS: the Life of Clarence Bicknell has had a review in another useful publication, VENUE magazine, Arts for the East of England based in Cambridge. The review will come out in their autumn edition. There are some really nice compliments in the revue.

For a pdf print copy of this image please click here.

By the way, I have professionally-printed copies of the A4 flyer for MARVELS with the revue in Country Life (August 15, 2018) on the back. If anyone would like a stock of these flyers for display or giving to friends then please let me know and I will mail them. I attach this flyer for your info, in two files, recto and verso.

NEWS - Ode to Clarence and Valerie in Hingham

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

valerie and flowers sept2018valerie hands clasped sept2018ode to clarence and valerie hingham sept2018The USA launch of MARVELS, as previewed in the Hingham Journal, took place in the Hingham Public Library on Wednesday 12th September.

Valerie Lester, the author, addressed her home crowd about the 5 year research and writing of MARVELS and introduced the film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell. Susie and Marcus Bicknell then presented on Clarence's art. The question and answer session was particularly lively as several VIPs were there including Bruce Kennett (author, scholar on arts and crafts design especially W.A. Dwiggins), David Godine (owner and publisher, David Godine) and Sue Ramin who works for him.

Marcus Bicknell, the editor of this website and chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association was moved to verse in honour of Valerie's triumph there. Download the Ode to Clarence and Valerie at Hingham in pdf here.

Events - Clarence Bicknell Centenary Talks in Bordighera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

biblio bic oct 2018There will be three talks in the International Civic Library (Biblioteca Civica Internazionale) of Bordighera as part of the 2018 Clarence Bicknell Centenary:

6 October at 16:30. Clarence Bicknell Centenary Talk by Fulvio Cervini: Photographing the Ideal Landscape; Ezio Benigni's Liguria

13 October at 16:30. Clarence Bicknell Centenary Talk by Giovanni Russo: His personal collection at the Civic Library; the books of Clarence Bicknell

18 October at 16:30. Clarence Bicknell Centenary Talk by Gisella Merello: Clarence Bicknell's first encounter with Bordighera


NEWS - Exhibition in Ventimiglia open 8 September

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

guerzoni mar ventimiglia sept 2018 cOpening in Ventimiglia, Italy, this Saturday, an exhibition of drawings by Andrea Guerzoni inspired by the memory of Clarence Bicknell, in the splendid Museo Civico Archeologico "Girolamo Rossi" which runs till the end of September. See the flyer to the right for opening times.

Andrea Guerzoni's artwork and his exhibition at the Museo Civico Archeologico Girolamo Rossi, Ventimiglia, in September 2018 are a great tribute to Clarence Bicknell whose centenary has been celebrated round Europe in 2018. We find this a creative and exciting way to bring Clarence's botanical drawings and Andrea's work to life. We find it fascinating and we are grateful for the tribute he pays to Clarence.  The Bicknell family congratulates Andrea and our association is proud to be working together in any way.

We have translated the comments Andrea wrote about the exhibition and you can download it here

With thanks to Dssa. Daniela Gandolfi and the staff of the Museo Rossi for their efforts for the Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary.

NEWS - Revue L'Alpe covers Clarence and the Merveilles

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

les merveilles de clarence bicknell article lalpe screen grabWe are very pleased with the article Les Merveilles de Clarence Bicknell by Jean-Loup Fontana in the monthly magazine Revue L’Alpe numéro 81 of July 2018. You can see the whole magazine at

As the text is difficult to read online (they would like you to buy copies of the magazine) we are making available a pdf of this article alone, which you can download here:

Les Merveilles de Clarence Bicknell in pdf

This pdf version is not available to the public so please do not share it widely.

News - MARVELS reviewed in Boston USA, event preview

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

hingham aug2018 5384Review of MARVELS and preview of the USA book launch on September 12th... in the Hingham Journal, clearly one of Boston's leading, and best-informed, newspapers!

Hingham author Valerie Browne Lester’s recently-published biography about the life of the multi-talented botanist/archaeologist/artist Clarence Bicknell coincides with the 2018 centenary of his death, but it is also the captivating story of his remarkable life.

“Bicknell was absolutely charming, witty, and genial -- devoting his life to the enrichment of knowledge,” she said.

Hingham Public Library will host an “Evening with the Author” event Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., when Lester will present “Marvels: The Life of Clarence Bicknell,” featuring a film screening of a movie about Bicknell’s life introduced by his great-grand nephew -- London-based Marcus Bicknell. Both will be available to answer questions at the end of the presentation. Lester, who does much of her writing at the Hingham library, was in the United Kingdom in June for a similar launch of the book at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University. She was born in England.

“I think Hingham Public Library and its programs are stellar,” she said. “I also love living in Hingham because of its proximity to the water, the beach, its historic architecture, and World’s End.”

hingham aug2018 5383Research ...

Lester spent five years researching Bicknell’s life, poring over hundreds of newly-discovered letters, diary entries, arts-and-crafts designs, and botanical watercolors in a number of archives, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Natural History Museum, Genoa University, and the Conservatoire Botanique in Geneva.

“Marcus had inherited lots and lots of material about Bicknell -- photos, sketchbooks, stories, and correspondence,” which were invaluable in her research, Lester said.

The book, which features more than 200 images (photographs and drawings), provides valuable insights into how and why Bicknell -- a product of the late-Victorian Enlightenment -- strove for perfection in every subject he tackled. He desired to understand the world and to express what it’s all about in a creative way. Bicknell’s time in Bordighera on the Italian Riviera and Casterino in the Maritime Alps near the Vallee des Merveilles, now in France, provides a compelling backdrop for the story of this life and achievements. Interestingly, after graduating in mathematics from Cambridge University, Bicknell decided to enter the Church of England to become a priest.

“After about 12 years in the church he lost his faith and moved to the Italian Riviera, where his religious energy was turned toward nature,” Lester said. “Then he became a botanist, and like so many Victorians, a list-maker.”

Thousands of watercolors ...

Bicknell went on to write two books about the flora of Liguria, “painting literally thousands of watercolors of flowers and also creating designs which he made into albums,” Lester said.

Then he started going to the mountains -- becoming an archaeologist and writing about the rock carvings he discovered there.

“Bicknell copied the carvings by doing rubbings and also wrote a definitive book about the rock carvings of the Maritime Alps,” she said.

Lester, an independent scholar, writer, and translator, is descended from Bicknell’s grandparents. She is also the author of “Fasten Your Seat Belts!”; “Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin,” (she is a former Pan Am stewardess); “Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens,” a biography of Hablot Knight Browne, Dickens’ main illustrator, who was also Bicknell’s uncle and Lester’s great-great-grandfather; as well as other books, poetry, plays, and articles -- with more to come!

“I always wrote letters, but I started writing seriously at the age of 40 -- poetry at first, then a couple of plays and an as-yet-unpublished novel that I’m still working on, the Pan Am book, and then I started writing biographies,” Lester recalled.

For the Bicknell biography, Marcus Bicknell assembled “Team Bicknell” composed of an amateur botanist, an archaeologist, a landscape architect, and an arts and crafts specialist.

“Marcus was the driving force and I was the principal writer,” Lester said. “They would all feed me information on their subjects and also material to incorporate into the book.”

Amazing discovery ...

For instance, the botanist discovered a cache of 690 letters in a botanical museum in Geneva written by Clarence to another botanist. The two men became friends over time. One of Lester’s favorite parts of writing a book is traveling to other countries to gather information. “I love doing research,” she said.

“Bicknell was quite a combination of talents,” according to Lester. Not only was he an archaeologist, botanist, and artist (sometimes his botanic art was tinged with whimsy), he was also an author, traveler, Anglican priest, humanist, philanthropist, and Esperantist. (Esperanto is constructed language based on roots from the main European languages, devised in the late 1880s as an international medium of communication.) “Clarence Bicknell was a man of peace, becoming an Esperantist shortly before World War I. He believed that people who spoke a common language would be less likely to wage war against each other.”

hingham aug2018 5386‘A wonderful book’ ...

Bruce Kennett, author of W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design” -- who recently introduced this fascinating book about the late longtime Hingham resident during an earlier “Evening with the Author” -- has high praises for “Marvels.” “Lester describes Bicknell’s active life in vivid detail, giving her readers a sense of his sweet disposition and drive to discover, and a good taste of the places and time in which he lived,” Kennett said in a review of the book. “In addition to the fine narrative, the book is filled with photographs and drawings that enrich the story. A wonderful book.”

Lester says she hopes readers of “Marvels” will have a “really pleasant armchair travel experience and come to understand the life of this talented Victorian bachelor. We know all the big Victorian names such as Darwin, but there are so many [unknown] people like Bicknell who led fascinating lives while contributing so much to the general [good],” Lester said. “Because he was wealthy he could lead a life devoted to the enrichment of knowledge.”

Copies of “Marvels” will be available for signing at the event and may also be purchased through Amazon and at, which commemorates the life and work of Bicknell.

“Clarence might be the forgotten genius of 19th-Century science, arts, and crafts,” the website states. “Our activities aim to put that right.”

News - MARVELS reviewed in Country Life

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

country life review of marvels 15 august 2018The new biography of Clarence Bicknell, MARVELS, has been reviewed in Country Life this week. If you can't read it from the jpeg then it is here in a reformatted text form. Click here.

This is a great breakthrough in our efforts to get Clarence in front of a wider public; this is the first mass media coverage of his work. Coming on top of the four exhibitions still running (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge; Musée des Merveilles, Tende, France; and Museo Bicknell, Bordighera, Italy) and the strong response to MARVELS the book, we can hereby declare the 2018 Clarence Bicknell Centenary ... A SUCCESS.


Buy your copy now from, from Amazon or from retailers.




country life 15 august 2018 cover

NEWS - Marvels, The Life of Clarence Bicknell - info sheets

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

marvels front cover small

You might want to provide information about Valerie Lester's Marvels: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, Botanist, Archaeologist, Artist to a friend or contact. Here are two versions which you can download, forward as a link or print out:


One page info, pdf


Details, 5 pages, pdf


To copy the web link using your PC, right click on the link above and select "Copy Link Location"

NEWS - Clarence linked from the British Institute in Florence

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Florence British Institute website May 2017














Nice to see that our talks about Clarence and projections of the film leave a permanent trace in the world wide web. Here is a permanent web presence of our visit to the British Institute of Florence in May 2017. Even the film itself can be played from their web site...

NEWS - Clarence centenary exhibition in Bordighera on television

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Clck on this link to see the news video from Riviera Time:

A Bordighera Bicknell inedito per il centenario dalla scomparsa
Di Sara Alessandri - 2 agosto 2018

L’Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri ha curato una mostra per onorare il centenario dalla scomparsa di Clarence Bicknell, ricercatore lungimirante il quale, innamoratosi della Riviera, decise di trasferirsi a Bordighera per portare avanti un’immensa opera di catalogazione archeologica e botanica e fondare il primo polo museale della Liguria occidentale, un riferimento inestimabile ancora valido al giorno d’oggi.

L’importanza particolare di questa mostra è la presentazione al pubblico di un lotto di materiale inedito appartenuto a Bicknell, recuperato, non senza fatica, dal mercato antiquario nel quale era finito per circostanze poco chiare.

Numerose le fotografie e le lastre originali dell’epoca. Altrettanto numerosi gli appunti di viaggio e corrispondenze.

La mostra sarà aperta per tutto l’anno, fino alla conclusione ufficiale dell’anno bicknelliano prevista per il 7 gennaio 2019.

Thank you Daniela, from Marcus and Susie

In Clarence's Time - his trip to Ceylon in 1908

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

We propose to publish occasional excerpts from Valerie Lester's wonderful biography of Clarence Bicknell. This will serve to increase Clarence's presence and "searchability" on the internet, and will give exposure to the book. Because of my recent contacts with the Peradeniya Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka, the first such excerpt is about Clarence's trip with Luigi Pollini there in early 1908.

Click here to download the complete excerpt in pdf.

403 Peredeniya Ceylon garden laid out to please european tourists"Like everyone arriving in Ceylon, he was immediately struck by the magnificence and omnipresence of palm trees, commenting to Burnat that the Cocos nucifera everywhere were truly superb. After a week spent in Colombo and along the east coast of the island, Clarence and Luigi took the train to Kandy. In the first part of the journey, they travelled past paddy-fields, banana groves, palm forests and acres of waterlilies and lotus before beginning the climb up terraced hills, followed by ridge after ridge into the hill country. At last, the train entered a narrow gorge before it reached the final pass, and then, after all the uphill chugging and puffing, it ran merrily down into Kandy. From the station, Clarence and Luigi ascended a steep 100 feet to the town, where they had their first view of its lake and the famous Queen’s Hotel nestled on its shore. He expressed his delight to Burnat: ‘How wonderful it is to see Convolvulus and Thunbergia everywhere, and an infinity of plants that I know only in our greenhouses, and then ferns and Nymphaea [water lilies] . . . After a week we hope to climb the Pic d’Adam, visit the high, cold [hill station] Newera Ellya [Nuwara Eliya] and after that the ruins of ancient cities.’

"The Peradeniya Garden is vast, and fulfilled Clarence’s dreams of tropical vegetation: acres of towering bamboos, palms and yet more palms, banyans, spices, cataracts of allamandass and bignonias flowing down from the tallest trees, and wisteria winding their way up. The scientist in Clarence appreciated the research facilities and the experimental station and its leaf insect breeding programme.viii The director (and author), J.C. Willis, made every facility available to visiting men of science, including the herbarium with its competent curators and the library of botanical books and periodicals."

Click here to download the complete excerpt in pdf.

NEWS - comment on the Cambridge exhibitions

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

independent turner societyClarence's exhibitions in Cambridge continue until late September. Catch them while you can.

In the latest newsletter of the Independent Turner Society, from Selby Whittingham..."Margaret Burr continues to expand her invaluable turnerintottenham site devoted to Turner's important patron B.G.Windus. Another important purchaser of late Turners was Elhanan Bicknell, a neighbour of the Ruskins and one of whose sons married a daughter of David Roberts RA. Peter Bicknell (to whom our late Vice-President Stanley Warburton wrote a warm tribute in Turner Society News in 1996) with Helen Guiterman published Roberts' very revealing memories of Turner's last years (still not fully absorbed by the Turner biographers). Another son, A. Sidney Bicknell, poured cold water on the idea of preserving Turner's Chelsea cottage (see my Mrs Booth of Margate).

"A third son of Elhanan was Clarence Bicknell, whose biography, Marvels, by Valerie Lester had its launch, which I attended, at the Fitzwilliam Museum on 20 June. This impressive and well-illustrated work has been instigated by the Clarence Bicknell Association masterminded by the nephew of Peter Bicknell, Marcus. Clarence was attracted to the Oxford Movement and ordained, but, for various reasons including the developments in biology and geology of the time, which had similar effects on John Ruskin and maybe also his friend William Kingsley, abandoned the church, though he remained of a more benign Christian disposition than exhibited by his brother Sidney. His legacy lies in the Museo Bicknell at Bordighera and the delightful watercolours he made of wild flowers, some of which are exhibited at the Fitzwilliam and his alma mater, Trinity College Cambridge till September 2018."

NEWS - Clarence's two exhibitions in Cambridge, 100 years on

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

fitzwilliam floral fantasies1 june2018fitzwilliam floral fantasies2 june2018Clarence Bicknell features in two exhibitions in Cambridge which opened this week (5th June 2018). Both have been timed to join in the celebrations of his centenary. He died 17th July 1918 on the terrace of the Casa Fontanalba in the mountains 3000 feet up and 50kms from Bordighera. You can access the exhibitions more easily! The Fitzwilliam and Trinity are an easy walk, one from the other, down Kings Parade and Trinity Street. Do please make the effort to go now, before 4th July when the Trinity one closes.

Both exhibits feature albums by Clarence never before seen in public, from the Fitzwilliam's archive where they were rediscovered in 2016 (two photos, right) and from the Bicknell family collection.

Exhibition 1
Floral Fantasies, including Clarence Bicknell at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
5 June - 9 September 2018

fitzwilliam floral fantasies3 june2018fitzwilliam floral fantasies4 june2018Susie and I (Marcus) were in Cambridge on Tuesday for the first day of THE EXHIBITIONS which we have been enthusiastically anticipating. Clarence Bicknell is honoured to be in such select company as Walter Crane whose two albums (photos, right) are alongside Clarence's. We are very pleased that Clarence's work, discovered in the Fitzwilliam archives, has such noble acknowledgement. We are grateful to Henrietta "Hettie" Ward, the curator of Floral Fantasies for her work on the exhibition and for showing us (and Georgie Kemsley-Pein of Varsity magazine) round the exhibits, photo below right.

fitzwilliam floral fantasies5 hettie june2018"The Fitzwilliam Museum’s exceptional collection of botanical watercolours and drawings depict an array of posies, bouquets and elaborate floral arrangements. Magnificent roses, hyacinths, magnolias, peonies, fuchsias and irises jostle for attention in the works of Gerard van Spaendonck (1746-1822) and Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). The floral motifs seen in the designs and illustrations of Walter Crane (1845-1915) and Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) similarly draw their inspiration from garden flowers as well as those found in the wild. A selection of Bicknell’s beautiful albums will be on display for the first time. Complemented by floral miniatures, jewellery, Sèvres porcelain and children’s books from the wider collection, the watercolours in this exhibition reveal how artists’ everlasting passion for fitzwilliam floral fantasies poster compressedflowers has manifested itself into a variety of creative forms.

Walter Crane's "A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden" can be seen in the photo above. Hettie Ward took part of this title as the title of the exhibition Floral Fantasy. Clarence owned books by Walter Crane ( and may of course been influenced by him. Or was Clarence ploughing his own furrow?

The Fitzwilliam Museum Trumpington Street Cambridge CB2 1RB
Free admission
Open: Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00 - 17.00, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays: 12.00 – 17.00;
Closed: 24-26 & 31 December, 1 January, Good Friday"

On Wednesday 20th June 2018 there will be a screening of Marcus Bicknell’s short film (directed by Rémy Masséglia) The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell followed by a joint talk with Graham Avery, The Botanical Art of Clarence Bicknell. 1.15-2pm. Admission is free-of-charge, by token, one per person, available at the Courtyard Entrance desk on a first-come first-served basis from 12.45 on the day of the talk or from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

On Wednesday 20th June 2018 at 11am Valerie Lester will present her MARVELS – The Life of Clarence Bicknell (Matador, 28th June 2018) in the Courtyard Café of the Fitzwilliam Museum. RSVP This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be certain of your place. Books on sale in the shop.

For media enquires please contact the Fitzwilliam Museum Press Office: Emma Shaw | +44 (0) 1223 332941 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Exhibition 2
A Botanical Watercolourist at Trinity: Clarence Bicknell. The Wren Library, Trinity College.
trinity college expo1 june 2018trinity college expo4 june 20185th June - 4th July 2018

Check opening hours at

A second exhibit opened in Cambridge on the same day, 5th June. The Wren Library of Trinity College, University of Cambridge (where Clarence was an undergraduate reading maths but thinking religion from 1861 to 1865), honours Clarence with a complete display case alongside extraordinary medieval parchment treasures and an exhibition of their "livres d'artiste" by Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982).

Catch this exhibit quickly because Clarence Bicknell is on for 4 weeks only, closing 4th July 2018.

trinity college expo2 june 2018trinity college expo3 june 2018The display features Clarence's "Book of Guests in Esperanto" and the "Children's Book of Wild Flowers" in their resplendent arts-and-crafts watercolour, and original plates from his "Flowering plants and ferns of the Riviera and neighbouring mountains" with in each case a whimsical kaleidoscopic version painted also by him but 30 years later. Many thanks to Dr Nicolas Bell, Librarian, Trinity College (and Syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum), who had already discovered Clarence Bicknell and seen the film "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" on The Trinity exhibit promotes the Fitzwilliam Museum "Floral Fantasies" exhibition nicely.

trinity college expo5 bell june 2018Nicolas Bell's own blog is well-written and well-illustrated. Click on this link:

Nicolas is with me in the photo left, laying out the exhibits

trinity college expo6 susie june 2018Susie Bicknell admires her handiwork, photo, near right. She selected the exhibition items and wrote the text and captions in cooperation with Nicolas Bell. Very satisfying to see Clarence in such august surroundings.

NEWS - AGM of the Clarence Bicknell Association

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

We hereby give notice that the Annual General Meeting of the Clarence Bicknell Association will be held on Friday 13th July 2018 at 11am in the Musée des Merveilles, Avenue du 15 Septembre 1947, Tende 06430 France courtesy of the museum's director Charles Turcat and the Département des Alpes-Maritimes.

This meeting is open to members and honorary members of the association. You can join at >association. The meeting will be in English but questions from the floor can be accepted and answered in French and Italian. The museum's exhibition "Les Merveilles de Clarence", jointly curated by Susie Bicknell, opens the same day and there will be visits hosted by one or more Bicknell at 14h30 and 16h00 on Friday 13 July 2018. See other events in our list at but note that the events organised by the Mairie de Tende 15,16,17 July remain unconfirmed.

This meeting is provided for in the statutes of the association which you can read at   Other relevant documents can be consulted on the same downloads page. The 2017 accounts will be posted before 13 July.

Please note that "Officers will normally serve a term of two years other than the Chairman who a) till the end of 2018 shall be a family relation of Clarence Bicknell and b) shall serve a term of four years. The Chairman may be reappointed for further terms." Marcus Bicknell (chairman), Susie Bicknell (secretary) and Graham Avery (vice-Chairman) have agreed to stand for a further term (4 years in the case of the Chairman and 2 years in the case of other officers (statutes III.4).

Proxy votes...

The only decisions known in advance are the re-elections of officers (committee members). If you are a member and would like to vote by email please send your vote to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. naming the officers for whom you would like to vote. The present committee is:

Chairman  Marcus Bicknell   Clarence relation, researcher, member of the board of SES in Luxembourg till April 2018 and of other companies in media and technology. Student of all things Clarence and webmaster. Based northwest of London, UK
Vice-Chairman  Graham Avery   Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and Honorary Director-General of the European Commission, Brussels. His interests include archaeology, mountain-walking, botany, researching and writing on those topics. Based Oxford
Treasurer  Geoff Bicknell   Chartered accountant and international business man. From January 2015
Secretary  Susie Bicknell   Writer, researcher. Based northwest of London, UK
Committee member  Christopher Chippindale  Archaeologist, writer, researcher. Based Cambridge
Committee member  Valerie Browne Lester  Clarence relation, writer, researcher. Based near Boston USA.
Committee member  Maria Pia Luly-Jones  Nature artist, based Bordighera
Committee member  Helen Blanc-Francard  Writer, researcher, garden expert. Based north of Paris.
Committee member  Titus Bicknell  Exhibitions, conferences, new media professional, Washington DC. From January 2015.

If you would like to stand, to propose a candidate or to propose an item for the agenda, please email or phone us.

13 juillet 2018. Tende: 11h Assemblée Générale de l'Association Clarence Bicknell, ouverte aux membres, en anglais, dans la salle des conférences du Musée des Merveilles. Tende: Ouverture de l'exposition Les Merveilles de Clarence au Musée des Merveilles, Tende (jusqu'à la fin septembre). 14h30 et 16h00: Tours guidés “Un Moment Avec Bicknell” assurés par la famille Bicknell (Org Musée des Merveilles).



Marcus Bicknell, Chairman

Association Clarence Bicknell
Clarence Bicknell Association
Associazione Clarence BicknellCBA logo

Homefarm Orchard, Kirby Close, Threehouseholds, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks HP8 4FF, UK
phone 01494 872751 - mobile 07748 111444 - Skype mbicknell


Chateau de Castellaras, 333 Allée du Domaine, Mouans-Sartoux,  06370 France


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