RESEARCH - Louise Little pressed flower sample mystery

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

louise little IMG 3756We received from Louise Little in January 2018 these photos of a plant sample with a printed label “HERBARIUM C. BICKNELL BORDIGHERA”. Prof Massoni and the year 1876 are referenced.

This sample is a mystery to me and the researchers in the Clarence Bicknell Association, for a couple of reasons. We would be grateful if any botanical expert could give us guidance.

1)    We have never seen this printed label before and we think it unlikely that it was printed by Bicknell himself. It could, however, have been printed by the institution housing the herbarium (that is, the collection of pressed flowers and plants), a collection big enough to have warranted printing of a label. The network of collectors and museums was large at the end of the 19 century, so it would be one of them.

2)    The hand-writing is not Clarence Bicknell’s.

3)    Bicknell was not established in Bordighera in 1876. He first arrived there in 1878 and settled there a year later. We have no previous evidence of Bicknell collecting samples and sending them to other collectors before he settled in Bordighera. The Museo Bicknell, which housed his own botanical collections, was not built until 1888. Therefore, whoever prepared this printed label and the framed pressed flower, most likely back-dated it. It might be that the person framing it did not know at which Prof Massoni received the sample. It is possible that the date reads 1896 in which case this paragraph is not applicable.

4)    The water-coloured frame for the pressed flower is unusually ornate, as if to try to add value to the object. Similarly, the wood of the frame is of a kind called “distressed beach wood” and very popular in modern framing, even available in this form on eBay and other popular web sites. Any thought that the frame is a modern fabrication is offset by the fact that the French-language newspaper on the rear of the frame appears to be a genuine period piece. The text of the newspaper is all in French, but there is no indication of which newspaper it is from. The text is mainly on events in Rome, dated 12 and 15 January 1872. This would seem to confirm that date of 1876 for the pressed flower, not 1896.

louise little IMG 3757louise little IMG 3806louise little IMG 3758







5)    In the top left corner is written Firenze and what could be a catalogue number.

6)     The pressed flower was found so framed by Louise Little in the last few months a local brocante fair in South West France “and was instantly drawn to it due to its colours and age, but at the time was not sure of its historical significance. 

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

Event - Nice, le jeudi 22 mars à 18h, film et conférence

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence bicknell movie poster 2016Clarence Bicknell au Palais d l'Agriculture de Nice,
le jeudi 22 mars à 18h, film et conférence

L’année 2018 marque le centenaire de Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918 ), homme de lettres, artiste, voyageur, botaniste, archéologue, pasteur, humaniste, espérantiste. Né à Londres, Clarence était le 13ème enfant d' Elhanan Bicknell, magnat de l’huile de baleine et mécène. Après des études à l'Université de Cambridge, il devint un prêtre anglican, et à partir de 1879 vécut à Bordighère sur la côte italienne, entre Menton et Gênes. Il mourut dans sa résidence d'été, proche de Castérino dans les hautes montagnes, à la frontière franco-italienne, le 17 Juillet 1918.

Nous fêtons ce centenaire le jeudi 22 mars à 18h avec a) une projection de film documentaire Les Merveilles de Clarence Bicknell (20 minutes, version française) suivi de b) une présentation de Marcus Bicknell, arrière petit neveu de Clarence Bicknell au sujet de 'Clarence Bicknell; sa passion pour les fleurs sauvages révélée dans son art', c) une discussion avec d'autres spécialistes, questions réponses, d) un apéro après la conférence.

A la Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes, 113 Promenade des Anglais, 06200 Nice, France. (+33 4 93 86 58 44 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Le Palais de l'Agriculture est le siège de la Société centrale d'agriculture, d'horticulture et d'acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes (SCAH), société savante fondée en 1860, association loi 1901, reconnue d'utilité publique depuis 1894. Il a été construit en 1900-1901 sur les plans de l'ingénieur des Arts et Métiers Paul Marin, secrétaire général de la Société centrale d'agriculture, d'horticulture et d'acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes. Il a été inauguré le 8 avril 1901 par le Président de la République, Émile Loubet. C'est un témoin de l'architecture de la Belle Époque sur la promenade des Anchristmas rose cglais. Propriété de la SCAH, l'édifice est inscrit au titre des monuments historiques le 28 mars 19911. Le bâtiment a reçu le label « Patrimoine du XXe siècle ». Sa restauration s'est achevée en 2012.

La société a pour objet d'étudier les procédés agricoles et horticoles, l'acclimatation et l'amélioration des animaux et végétaux. Notre association est ouverte à tous celles et ceux qui souhaitent y adhérer et participer à des activités choisies parmi celles proposées : cours de jardinage chaque semaine en salle au Palais ou sur terrain animés par Paul BRELAZ et son équipe, cours de botanique deux fois par mois animés par Marc BOTTIN, cours d'art floral déclinés en ikebana (Evy BLANC) et bouquet occidental (Michelle BERNADAC), visite de jardins historiques ou remarquables sélectionnés par Aude de CHIVRE, voyages culturels proposés par Michèle GARNIER, consultation des livres et journaux de notre bibliothèque sous l'oeil attentif de Guy TRAVERE et Dominique VIGNERON, conférences au Palais sur des sujets choisis.

Vous pouvez télécharger et imprimer ce texte par le lien ici.

Vous pouvez télécharger l'affiche de la SCAH ici

Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

En collaboration avec
L’Association Clarence Bicknell  -  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  -


NEWS - Italian award, Fitzwilliam recognition for Clarence

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

parmurelu panel0

parmurelu panel 8c

Some reflections on 2017's campaign by Marcus Bicknell...

I should update all Clarence Bicknell lovers of the important strides taken by us in Bordighera and Cambridge in 2017. Bordighera, his home for 40 years and the site of the Museo Bicknell he built, has the core of  his following. From here we are spreading the interest in Clarence round Europe and the USA.

2017 Parmurelu d’Oru

We made a breakthrough in May when the Descu Rondu, an independent Bordighera- based cultural association, selected me as the winner of their annual award the Parmurelu d’Oru - that’s a “mini palm leaf”. The honour

is one thing, media attention for Clarence is another, and the opportunity to stage an independent exhibition was a third. Each  previous winner, artist, writer, scientist, has put something on to dazzle their public at the time of the award ceremony, October. In our case, Gisella Merello, President of the Jury of the Parmurelu d’Oru, author on art and architecture and once a researcher in the Museo Bicknell, encouraged us in our idea to present one of Clarence’s lesser-known talents. And I say “us” because my wife and partner in our Clarence campaign (which has been running since 2013), took on the role of curator of the exhibition. More in a moment.

parmurelu panels 2 cparmurelu panels 3 c

parmurelu panels 1 c









 fitzwilliam facadeFitzwilliam Museum

At about the same time, spring 2017, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, “discovered” Clarence. That is to say they realised the importance in their own archive of the 405 watercolours in 7 vellum-bound albums. My uncle Peter, guardian of  the Clarence collection at the time, had given these albums to the Fitzwilliam in 1980 where they had languished in storage. While researching Clarence, we went up to Cambridge and were so struck by the images that we had some of them photographed at our expense. The Fitzwilliam liked many of them so much that they took many more photos and took the decision to feature Clarence’s work  in their 2018 exhibition of Botanical Art.  The Fitzwilliam  has also produced a choice of two Christmas cards to stock the museum shop, with another 12 coming in 2018, and have also designed the 2019 Fitzwilliam calendar with Clarence’s images.  Recognition indeed!PD.7 1980 f34 1 201704 sjc288 dc1

We were able to acquire from the Fitzwilliam the rights to show reproductions of the designs in  public and to publish them on our web site and in Valerie Lester’s upcoming biography of Clarence. Our own family collection has 3 of Clarence’s vellum- bound albums, notebooks brimming with sketches and watercolour landscapes.

Armed with this exciting and unseen artwork, Susie set about developing her essay on Clarence’s art www.clarence into an exhibition. The theme is that Clarence found creative fulfilment through his creation of these illustrated vellum albums which allowed him to develop his design and artistic talents above and beyond the rigorous depiction of standard botanical work and recording of the prehistoric rock engravings. The major influence on his style was the Arts and Crafts movement which he combined with Victorian whimsy.  14 printed panels A1 size (594 x 841 mm) guide the visitor through Clarence s art in a coherent way, the text being in English (by Susie), French (translations by Colette Thomas) and Italian ( by Edoardo Folli, Gisella’s son). Extra prints of the Fitzwilliam designs, art from the family collection, Genoa University and the Museo Bicknell, and personal items of Clarence’s make up a display of about 60 items.

It was also decided that Clarence’s albums should be available to a bigger audience, and now one of the three albums of art in the family collection, the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book (which you can see in the left of the glass case in the photo from the Octber 2017 Bordighera exhibition, below right), has been the first to be reproduced in print. It has 104 pages of which 60 are full colour plates of mountain flowers in a matching border on the right side and signatures of the visitors to the house on the left side.  There are more details on the following page. The book is for sale at selected bookshops and on and was launched on the first day of the exhibition in Bordighera.parmurelu display cabinet c

On 8th October 2017 in Bordighera, the ceremony for the official award of the Parmurelu d’Oru to Marcus Bicknell was in the same hall and on the same day as the opening of the exhibition. The great and the good of Bordighera turned out to enjoy Clarence’s art and the accolades offered in the various speeches. Two weeks later the exhibition transferred in its entirety to the Museo Bicknell, also in Bordighera, where it will run till 30 November 2017. Further exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of Clarence’s death will follow during 2018, the present list being…
•    Genoa, Palazzo Reale (spring 2018, to be confirmed)
•    Nice, Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes (spring, to be confirmed)
•    Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, botanical art exhibition (5 June- 9 September 2018)
•    Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, lunchtime seminar and film projection (Wednesday 20th June 2018)
•    Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum seminar and film projection in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
•    Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum exhibition in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
•    Oxford University, film and a seminar at Oxford University, St Margaret's Institute on Tuesday 3rd July 2018
•    Bordighera, Museo Bicknell (early July to November 2018)
•    Bordighera, Museo Bicknell, Settimana Bicknelliana 14-22 July 2018
•    Tende, Musée des Merveilles (July-September 2018)
•    London, Artworkers’ Guild (to be confirmed)
•    Monaco, Jardin Exotique (September-November 2018)
•    Monaco, Musée d’Anthropologie (September-November 2018)
•    Ventimiglia, Museo Rossi (summer 2018, dates to be advised)
•    Nice, Exposition sur la thématique "Botanistes et Alpinistes dans les Alpes-Maritimes entre les deux siècles" organisé par la Ville de Nice avec la participation des Amis du Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, Le Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, La Grande Bibliothèque "Louis Nucera" (BMVR), La Bibliothèque de Cessole, Le Club Alpin Français et l’Association Clarence Bicknell (octobre 2018)

With such a positive 2017 behind us , we are all looking forward to the centenary year in 2018 when Clarence will get the recognition he deserves.

In Clarence's Time - Thomas Cook and the Egypt trip

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

416 Cooks Nile Cruise logoI wrote to Thomas Cook to ask for permisson to reproduce images of theirs in the biography of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester due in 2018. I was delighted not only to get the approvals but also a charming letter from Paul Smith, the Archivist for Thomas Cook, with some useful information. I reproduce the email here in full as it might be of interest to historians of travel and to students of Clarence's life. I have corrected the transcript of Clarence's Egypt diary and added the salient points here to its footnotes and the annex. You can consult the new version by clicking on the following link:

Dear Marcus,

Happy New Year!

Many thanks for your recent email. Apologies for the delayed response, but I have been out of the office for the past two weeks.

In answer to your query, I have no objections to your reproducing the photo of the Oonas that you found online. I am also happy for you to reproduce the Thomas Cook poster and logo that appear on p22 of the diary.

I also spotted a few errors in your notes about Thomas Cook & Son on p51:

  • Thomas Cook retired at the end of 1878; John Mason Cook officially gained control of the business at the beginning of 1879 (although, in reality, John had been running things since 1873).
  • An earlier edition of Cook’s [Tourist's] Handbook to the Health Resorts of the South of France . . . was published by Thos Cook & Son (never “Sons”) in 1885.
  • Thomas Cook conducted his first party up the Nile in 1869 (not 1884).
  • I’m not sure that Clarence Bicknell is referring to a specific person when he says that Cook got the party through customs with ease. I think he is more likely to mean the corporate “Thomas Cook”, although perhaps in the person of a dragoman (or other representative). It is also highly unlikely to have been John Mason Cook himself.
  • John Mason Cook’s youngest son was Thomas Albert Cook, usually referred to as “Bert” (but never Albert).
  • John Mason Cook was never John A. Mason Cook – the “A” is an error.
  • John Mason Cook had three sons.
  • Cook's Tourists' Handbook for Egypt, the Nile and the Desert was first published in 1876 (not 1897).
  • Thomas Cook & Son built their first Nile steamers in 1886 (not 1904).

NileCruise7If you are able to incorporate any of my amendments, I would be very grateful.

I also note with interest that Clarence Bicknell sailed across the Mediterranean on P&O’s “Hydaspes” – Thomas Cook himself actually travelled aboard this vessel as part of his pioneering world tour in 1872/73!

One final point: In footnote 14 on p5 you discuss the use of Australian vs Austrian. “Austrian” is definitely correct – Austrian Lloyd and Norddeutscher Lloyd were different companies, the former being much older and bigger than the latter.

I hope this helps, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries or requests.

Kind regards,



Paul Smith | Company Archivist

Thomas Cook UK & Ireland

T: +44 (0) 1733 417350

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thomas Cook UK Ltd, Westpoint, Peterborough Business Park, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6FZ, United Kingdom

For more information visit or your local store.

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NEWS - Fitzwilliam exhibition dates, 5 June - 9 Sept 2018

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

fitzwilliam museum logofitzwilliam facadeDelighted to announce the dates of the Fitzwilliam Museum's exhibition of botanical art... 5 June - 9 September 2018. This museum is one of the most interesting and well-endowed in Britain and is part of the University of Cambridge. Some of Clarence's fantastical work in their archives will be featured. Brilliant dates for lovers of Clarence... 17 July 1918 was the date of his death so we will be able to honour him suitably. The 415 watercolours and illustrated album pages by Clarence in the Fitzwilliam archive were given to them by Peter Bicknell in 1980 and forgotten till last year; now they are being given pride of place.
We have also been invited to host a seminar and film projection on a Wednesday lunchtime, date to be announced.
The two Clarence Bicknell images are Copyright, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, whom we thank for the right to reproduce them here.
Copyright Fitzwilliam Museum
Copyright Fitzwilliam Museum

NEWS - Clarence Bicknell biography progress

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

sally salvesensally salvesen pevsner book launchClarence Bicknell - the biography - by Valerie Lester is due in spring 2018. We are delighted to tell all Clarence's followers that the completed book is at second draft.

The book's editor is a giant of the art publishing industry Sally Salvesen, who was 30 years with Yale University Press editing, for example, the Pevsner Architectural Guides and the Pelican History of Art. Other books she has edited include Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower, by Elisabeth Fairman (shortlisted for the 2014 Authors’ Club book prize); Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts, by Diana Donald and Jane Munro, catalogue accompanying the Fitzwilliam Museum’s record-breaking exhibition, awarded the 2009 William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History; and Rembrandt, The Master and His Workshop, 1990.

You can read Sally's bio here and her photo is to the right.

valerie lester at boccanegraDid you know that the book's writer, Valerie Lester, left, a descendant of Clarence Bicknell's maternal grand parents Browne, and of his uncle Phiz, Dickens' illustrator, also wrote Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995), which is a history of Pan American told in the voices of its cabin crew; Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens (London, 2004), a biography of Hablot Knight Browne, Dickens’s principal illustrator (Clarence Bicknell’s uncle and Valerie’s great-great-grandfather); and Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World (Boston 2015). Her bio is available here.

Valerie was with us near London in November working with Susie and me on details of research and scope of the book. She is now back at home near Boston MA in the USA and corresponding with us by phone and email. Sally Salvesen has completed several weeks of editing work on the book and as of 12th December it's back with Valerie for a final read-through. When that is done, Nick Humez will write the index and I will finalise the preferred images (from a choice of nearly 600 images including art by Clarence and the black-and-white period shots in the mountains and in Bordighera. The most exciting aspect of the book is the amount of new material communicated by the mass of letters (about 1000 of them) which Graham Avery and others have located since 2013 and which Valerie has spent the time to read. The "voice" of Clarence is very present in the book and we get a much clearer idea of the path of his life and the influences on it. Look forward to May 2018, target publication date, with anticipation.

RESEARCH - Edoardo Rostan (1826-1895), botanist

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

RostanAt the award ceremony for the Parmurelu d'Oru in Bordighera in October I had the pleasure of meeting Lucetta Rostan who had purchased a copy of the Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book. She wrote to me yesterday with interesting information about Edoardo Rostan, botanist, as follows:

"Probabilmente Lei non si ricorda, ma dopo la conferenza a Bordighera dell'11/11/2017, Le ho chiesto la dedica sul libro e Le ho detto di avere lo stesso cognome dello scopritore della Gentiana rostani pur non essendo sua parente. Una biografia sintetica, ma sicuramente attendibile, si trova sul sito della Società di Studi Valdesi Presso l'archivio di tale società , sito a Torre Pellice (TO), si trova un fondo con documenti relativi alla famiglia Rostan  ed una ricca serie di lettere di cui Le invio l'elenco. La grafia del dott. Rostan e di difficile interpretazione, veramente degna di un medico. Le invio inoltre due articoli tratti dalla rivista di cultura e storia valdese "La beidana" un po' datati (marzo 1990!), ma attendibili."
I shared the note with Graham Avery, Vice-Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, who writes as follows:

"Thanks for passing on these documents which concern Edoardo Rostan (1826-1895). He was born in Piemonte, studied medicine and botany in Geneva, practised as a medical doctor in the Valdese region, and was an active botanist. The main town of the Valdese region is Torre Pellice, a centre of the Waldensian church. One of the documents is a list of his correspondence, archived at Torre Pellice; I don’t find Clarence Bicknell in it, though there are letters from persons whom Clarence Bicknell knew, such as

39. Budden, H.F., Firenze (1873-79) 3
41. Burnat, Vevey CH (1893-94) 4
58. Correvon, Henri, (botanico) Ginevra CH (s.d.) 1
74. Doerfler, (botanico) Vienna A (1893) 2

"The other documents are articles on ‘Edoardo Rostan and his time’ which mentions that he was interested in the rock engravings of the Meraviglie, though he doesn’t seem to have visited them, and another on ‘Edoardo Rostan and his Flora of the Cottian Alps’ which he never completed. The Cottian Alps are north of the Maritime Alps, and as far as I know Clarence Bicknell never visited them, though Reginald Farrer did. Edoardo Rostan, for his part, doesn’t seem to have had links with Bordighera. In brief, Edoardo Rostan is an interesting person, but not directly relevant to Clarence Bicknell."

RESEARCH - Mader, Berger and Willmott

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Graham Avery, Vice-Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, writes...

Thanks for telling me of the publication . With the aid of the list of contents (see my summary below) I have browsed the parts that looked interesting, but haven't read the whole volume (212 pages). Of particular interest to me is the article by Mariotti (pages 136-166) on ‘The contribution of some German personalities to botanical culture’ which includes a section on Fritz Mader (pages 150-154) and even a reference (page 162) to one of my articles on the CB website:
Avery G., 2016. ‘Cher Monsieur’. Clarence Bicknell’s correspondence with Emile Burnat 1886-1917.
I'm intrigued by some of the information that Mariotti offers about Mader, which I plan to follow up with him in due course. In general, the volume gives a fascinating picture of the cultural and botanical activities of Germans and other foreigners on the Riviera around 1900. Since it includes brief references to Ellen Wilmott (pages 63, 95) I copy this to Tamsin Treverton Jones. When I met her at my talk in Bristol I mentioned to her ‘The British Colonies in the Italian Riviera in the '800 and '900’ by Alessandro Bartoli, Fondazione "A. de Mari" Cassi di Risparmio di Savona, 2008 (188 pages) as a possible source for Wilmott. But although it has much information on expatriates, including CB, Thomas Hanbury, and many others, I see that Ellen Wilmott doesn't figure in the index.

LIST OF CONTENTS (Mariotti and Minuto paper)
Alwin Berger - Conference Proceedings
Programme of Hanbury Gardens, Ventimiglia: 6-8 October 2017:
Presentation of the Conference Proceedings "Alwin Berger and others. The signs of German culture in the gardens and in the Riviera landscape. Before and after the Great War"
Biographical exhibition on Alwin Berger, curator of the GBH from 1897 to 1915.
Text of Proceedings (Boll. Mus. Ist. Biol. Univ. Genova, 79, 2017, 212 pages) is at:

L. MINUTO Presentation 5
L. SCHMALFUSS Alwin Berger: his life, family and friends 9
D. METZING The scientific heritage of the gardener, botanist, and succulent researcher Alwin Berger 17
G. CAMPODONICO & M. MARIOTTI Elise Berger’s life memories. Presentation of the Italian edition of an unpublished diary on Alwin Berger’s life 45
E. ZAPPA & M. MARIOTTI Alwin Berger, curator of the Hanbury Botanical Gardens at La Mortola 52
F. DE CUPIS & D. GANDOLFI A precious photo album in honor of Thomas Hanbury recently rediscovered 86
A. GUIGGI, M. MARIOTTI, F. PASTOR & E. ZAPPA Exsiccata and types in the A. Berger’s herbarium at La Mortola (HMGBH) 104
F. MAZZINO Ludwig Winter: its gardens and its sign in the Italian landscaping 113
M. MARIOTTI The contribution of some German personalities to botanical culture in
Liguria (NW-Italy) between 19th and 20th centuries 136
German botanists and naturalists on the Riviera between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. The origins of the industrial floriculture 166
S. CARLINI Otto Penzig, explorer. The diary of the expedition in Indonesia. Presentation of the Italian edition

NEWS - Clarence Bicknell - his art - press coverage

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

museo bicknell 10nov2017The talk I and Dr Giovanni Russo gave in Bordighera's Museo Bicknell on Saturday 11 October went down well. Sophie Forestier of Nice Matin, a great Clarence fan who lives in Tende where he was buried, wrote a cracking article with all the facts and a good feel too. You can look at the article in French at download.

Photo, left to right, Marcus Bicknell; D.ssa Daniela Gandolif, Director of the Museo Bicknell; Gisella Merello, chair of the jury of the Parmarelu d'Oru


NEWS - Riviera Woman writes on Clarence

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

The artistic language of mountains and flowers: Clarence Bicknell

By Julia Moore               31st October 2017

If humans were vegetables, then Clarence Bicknell would be a beguiling, mysterious onion. A man of many layers, a  courageous maverick of his contemporary, Victorian straight jacket era, he threw off convention and followed his passions.

Next year, 2018 will be the centenary of his death. Our contemporary world, with its dumbed-down global travel and accessible trekking common-place, Bicknell reminds us of the pioneering mind-set incorporating rudimentary modes of transport and the sheer devotion of time and discomfort of discovery. He provided the turn-of the-Century world with early botanic and rock-carving discoveries, meticulous archiving, and water-colours to rival the peer-group establish visual artists, frequent visitors to the London parental home.

His life journey took him from South London to the Merveilles valley, Alpes-Maritimes. Specifically, he threw off the career/life-plan which accompanied a comfortable, Victorian existence, especially the claustrophobia of clerical life. Never losing his personal faith, he eschewed the life of a parish vicar, in the easy existence of the South of France, instead profiting from its  climactic provision of flora and fauna.

Bicknell’s solitary, reflective life did not preclude a broad-view, humanitarian engagement with the wider world. Almost as a balance to his intense, focussed mountain life, his shrewd investments benefitted charitable projects - a poorhouse in Shropshire and a hospital in Bordighera. His exercise and promotion of Esperanto and generosity in sharing his findings with a growing academic community is evidence that this is no reclusive hermit, turning his back on the world.

Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book

It’s a cliché to speculate that his background -  closeted life at Cambridge, associations with a closed-set Brotherhood combined to cause the ‘escape and run’ decision. An alternative view is that such formative experiences led Bicknell to adopt the approach he did - a mathematician by training, in addition to  contemplative and reflective periods also required by ecclesiastical training became his defining skill-set for the path he, himself chose, they were complimentary to his final works, not adversaries to it.

The exhibition of watercolours, design art, personal effects and 18-minute bio-film is at the Museo Biblioteca Clarence Bicknell, Bordighera, until 30th November 2017.

(Mondays 8.30-13/13.30-17.00hr, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-13hr). Curated by Susie Bicknell. Marcus Bicknell has recently been awarded with the Parmurelu D’Oru by the Descu Runde, for services to the region’s culture and the significance of Clarence’s life and work here.


Reproduced from today. MB

In Clarence's Time - what did his father think of him?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

samuel enderby“By the Grace of God, John, just look at the Samuel Enderby will you? What a ship. Glorious. And full to the gunwhales with sperm oil, I’ll be bound. We’ll find out tomorrow our share”.

Elhanan Bicknell and John Langton, his partner, were in their office in Newington Butts on the south bank of the Thames, looking out of the window across as street thronged with porters, traders, shipmen, an occasional hansome cab and all the hub-bub of Victorian industrial revolution London. The two middle-aged business-men were dressed in long coats with fur collars against the cold, despite being inside. It was the last days of 1845.

elhanan bicknell pose c“Elhanan, dear friend, do you feel the chill of an industry coming to an end? How many times will we watch with pride a sailing ship returning from the south Pacific ocean with such a rich cargo? Will London’s street lights and the lighthouses of the world burn bright with our whale oil? Will we long see sailing boats plying their trade on the high sea; why, only this August I read that Brunel’s iron steamship SS Great Britain crossed from Liverpool to New York with a engine driven by steam and a metal screw rotating faster than the eye can see. The Queen, god bless her, travelled on his Great Western Railway… and survived.”

“You are but 8 years older than me John, yet you’re sounding like an old man. No, what worries me, is the impact of those scoundrels in Westminster on our livelihood. Peel resigns over the Irish famine, Russell is unable to form a government, so Peel has to continue. The Mines Act is but one new law preventing children under 10 working on the ships. You and I are forced to pay tax on our income to this government. When will it end?”

“You must be happy to have invested in art, not in the whale oil industry. ‘Elhanan Bicknell, patron of the arts’ I see it written in the papers.”whalers turner dp169567 c

“Indeed, I have been fortunate in my decisions, although I feel God’s hand guide me. I alone saw value in the new artists here, my friends Landseer, Roberts, Landseer, Stanfield, Etty and that scoundrel Turner. That reminds me, pray, did I recount to you John, the hilarity of our Christmas party last week? Turner deigned to turn up without having answered the invitation, but then he enjoys the opportunity to see my dear wife Lucinda. You know how he hates his own image to be recorded, but Edwin Landseer fair exploded that bunkum; Turner was chatting with our guests over a cup of tea in the drawing-room, and D’Orsay placed himself as a screen beside him to hide,turner by dorsay mb property c when necessary, Landseer, sketching him at full length in pencil on the back of an envelope. It’s an amusing little drawing and I have encouraged the pair of them to have Hogarth print it for the amusement of the public! Amusement… even my children, peeping into the room, understood the joke, even Clarence who, although he is only 3, spends all his time with Lucinda learning how to draw.”

“So which of your children will take on the business.”

“Sidney? Herman? Percy? I doubt any of the teenagers have a business head. Certainly not that Clarence, my 13th child, that’s for certain. He’s away with the fairies. He’ll be a vicar or will live in a distant land following the scripture of Darwin… or will just paint flowers all his life.”


A sketch by Marcus Bicknell. Images; The Samuel Enderby, portrait of Elhanan Bicknell, Turner's Whalers and Turner by d'Orsay

Event - The Bristol Botanists - 22 November 2017

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Clarence Bicknell and The Bristol Botanistsflowering plants of the riviera thompson pic

Graham Avery, University of Oxford                       Wednesday 22 November, 7.30 pm

At the meeting of the Bristol Naturalists Society at the Westbury on Trym Methodist Church, Westbury Hill, near Bristol BS9 3AA. A mile from Junction 17 of the M5.

Graham Avery, Vice-President of the Clarence Bicknell Association ( ), will explain the links between this remarkable man and the Bristol botanists, and show the short film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell. Among the botanists whom Clarence Bicknell welcomed at his summer home in the Maritime Alps in Italy were three members of Bristol Naturalists’ Society: Harold Stuart Thompson in 1907, and James Walter White & Cedric Bucknall in 1911. Clarence Bicknell was not only a botanist but a pioneer in the exploration of the prehistoric rock engravings of the Alps. He was also an artist, Esperantist, philanthropist, and founder of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera.

Admission free. Marcus Bicknell hopes to be there

You can read Graham's paper about the Bristol Botanists and Clarence Bicknell at

A plate from H.S.Thompson's Flowering Plants of the Riviera is shown right

In Clarence's Time - what's to eat in the mountains?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

boursouzes 672x372Helen Blanc-Francard writes...An extremely well researched, exhaustive and interesting paper entitled 'Les Plantes Alimentaires de la Vallee de La Roya’ (click here to download it) by Danielle Mousset was published in 1983. It gives us a real insight into exactly what Clarence, his household staff and any visiting guests would have eaten on a daily basis at Casa Fontanalba. Traditional recipes, perhaps some of the dishes prepared by the Pollinis, are listed and identified too are all the cultivated plants, herbs and fruits, the wild plants, berries and mushrooms that were growing in the countryside around the house. Many ingredients were gathered to be eaten fresh or to be dried, preserved or pickled and added to soups, salads or stews at different seasons of the year. There are chapters about the cultivation methods and seasons for the vegetables and fruit trees specific to the locality, the gardening tools and even the cooking utensils that were used. An excellent bibliography offers a rich source for further research.

On the subject of food cultivation and preparation and to wind the clock back to the 12 year period Clarence was living in Casa Fontanalba (1906 - 1918) there are two collections in Tende of the locally made artefacts and objects dating from the beginning the century originating from the village houses, farms and rural properties around Val Casterino. They include the household and domestic utensils as well as the craft, agricultural and horticultural tools, implements and accoutrements of every sort that Clarence would have seen around him on a daily basis. Known as Les Musées d’Art Populaire the Collection Gabelli is a large collection that has been amassed by a collector over a period of 40 years. The address: 32 Rue Cotta, 06430 Tende. For opening times call (33) 0 4 93 04 69 05. The Collection Vada is a smaller collection of objects from rural life. The address: Place Lieutenant Kalck, 06430 Tende. For opening times call ( +33) 0 4 93 04 76 22 If visitors to Val Casterino actually want to sample some of the traditional alpine dishes that Clarence might have enjoyed there are several inns and restaurants close to Casa Fontanalba. These include: Le Chamois d’or,   Les Mélèzes , Auberge Val Castérino , Auberge Marie-Madeleine . Details can be found on .

The Auberge Val Casterino claims that Clarence stayed there whilst waiting for his house to be built. It has been run by the same family for three generations and they are still using locally sourced ingredients and recipes that have been handed down through the family. To give you ’the taste’ of a couple of topics in this paper here are some pages about the customary gathering of mushrooms and wild plants for culinary use.

In Clarence's Time - Mr. Bicknell or the Rev. Bicknell?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Graham Avery writes...

"Clarence was active as a pastor, even after he gave up his work in the Church.

"I use the expression 'gave up his work in the Church' because it's misleading to say that he 'left the Church'. He didn't send a letter to the Bishop resigning his post at Bordighera; he didn't need to since, like his predecessors, he was appointed for one season.

"A person ordained as a priest continues to be 'in holy orders' unless the Church expels him, which as far as we know was not the case for Clarence. The canon law of the Church of England says that "No person who has been admitted to the order of bishop, priest, or deacon can ever be divested of the character of his order" though the Church has processes to allow clergy (by own volition or otherwise) to cease to function in the role, see article at

"One should therefore consider Clarence after 1879 as a priest of the Church of England without ecclesiastical function - in fact, he was still entitled to be addressed as 'The Reverend' though evidently he didn't want that. "


In Clarence's Time - Francis Galton in Bordighera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Francis Galton 1850sMaddalena Cataldi is here at our home near London looking at the Clarence materials for her PhD provisionally entitled ""Découvrir et Comprendre les Gravure Rupestres du Mont Bégo". Like us, she has let her mind wander over Clarence's person and his time in Bordighera and Casterino. Within minutes she had found a little gem which I had not noticed ...

Francis Galton was according to Wiki an "English Victorian statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician. " Hm that long list is reminiscent of someone. He is also Charles Darwin's cousin, graduate of Trinity College Cambridge like Clarence, and his contemporary.

He was staying at the Villa Rosa with Margaret and Edward Berry (he was Clarence's nephew) in February 1905 and signed their visitors' book (which is in our collection). According to letters hidden in the internet he had also been in Bordighera in 1902 staying in the Hotel de Londres. "This blessed Riviera air".I have seen no evidence that he knew or met Clarence, but in 1905 CB would have been thick as thieves with the Berrys and would have met many of their guests, especially a scientist of this repute?

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