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?

NEWS - Esperanto version of the film now released

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence c1905 esperanto star close upThe Esperanto version of our 18-minute documentary film "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" is now on public release via the internet. To view, now, click on .

You can also watch  "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" in English, French or Italian at

The Esperanto version will have its World Premier at the Italian Esperanto Association's Congress at Molicoro (Matera) Southern Italy this Friday, 1st September at 15h00.  Nicola Minnaja will lecture on Clarence Bicknell at the same event. The sneak preview at the British Esperanto Congress in Edinburgh in May went well, as did the preview at the International Esperanto Congress in Seoul, South Korea, on 22nd July.

The Esperanto version of the documentary film on Clarence Bicknell, directed by Rémy Masséglia and produced by Marcus Bicknell, was thanks to the energies and persistence of Esperanto supporters Michela Lipari (Director of the Italian Esperanto Association) and Humphrey Tonkin (President & University Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, Hartford University, USA). <La Mirindaĵoj de Clarence Bicknell> has been voiced into Esperanto by Wera esperanto film title pageBlanke, Bill Chapman and Angela Tellier. We are proud to provide to the Esperanto community worldwide a precious memento of Clarence Bicknell's love for and support of the universal language. The response from the Esperanto community (there are about 100,000 of them worldwide) has been remarkable.

The photo of Clarence shows him wearing his five-pointed Esperanto star. I recently read in one of his diaries that he wore the green four-pointed star when he first joined the Esperanto movement in 1897, and graduated to the five-pointed star when he could read, speak and write Esperanto. Is this still the process today?

NEWS - Valerie Lester in IISL journal

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Valerie Lester, working away on the biography of Clarence Bicknell for 2018, takes a moment's relief to write to us "After my stay in Bordighera in February 2015 (that terribly cold winter), Dr. Daniela Gandolfi asked me to write a report on my experience at the IISL and Bicknell museum. I did it, and I thought that was that, but lo and behold, I’m now a bona fide contributor to " Ligures ", the official revue of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri!!!!"pdf download icon

You can read Valerie's report by clicking on the pdf logo.

NEWS - new donations to The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

fund thermometerTwo new major donations received to the The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund ... what encouraging news. Now is the time for you to support us too, see below.

The Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri (IISL) has been able to put €5,000 in to the fund, and the Clarence Bicknell Association (CBA) has been able to secure a donation from a USA-based trust for about €8,000 (exacty figure will be known when the transfer arrives). These two donations are in addition to the €12,736 secured form the USA by the CBA in April.

With the €25,000 raised the IISL can proceed with Phase 1 of the works on the entrance to the garden where the giant Ficus tree has swallowed the gate, and new signage. Bordighera-based Architects Alessandro Liotta & Aldo Panetta are working closely with Dr Daniela Gandolfi and planning permission has bene secured. This will be a great way to celebrate the 2018 Centenary of Clarence's death.

A few thousand euros are in the fund for the 2018 exhibitions round Europe; more details soon.

We would be most grateful if, when you read this piece, you a) join the Clarence Bicknell Association >Association >Membership b) make a donation yourself (button on the website home page) and c) make a couple of calls to contacts you might have who have the means to make a donation too.

There is SWAG! That's the current US term for gifts you'll receive from us if you donate and these include signed copies of the new biography on Clarence and/or the quality print repro of the Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book etc. The list of what you can get is on the last page of the information about the campaign: click on the pdf link.pdf download icon


In Clarence's Time - St. Joseph's Home for the Aged Poor

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

home for the aged 1home for the aged 2home for the aged 3As part of the research for Valerie Lester on the upcoming biography of Clarence Bicknell, we have been able to see and record collections of letters and images relating to his life but kept in far-flung museums.

We knew from Christopher Chippindale that Clarence Bicknell's letters to the Baroness Von Taube were in the British Museum (Natural History) in London, and was exciting to go to look through them and to photograph some of them. The letters themselves are being transcribed so that they can be read more easily and it may be that we can make them available on this web site in 2018.

In the meantime I found some images which might be of interest to you.

Little is recorded about Clarence's work for the underprivileged of Bordighera, but this must also be of interest to Valerie Lester for the biography. Here is the second appeal for funds, on two pages, for the fitting out of St. Joseph's Home for the Aged Poor, probably late December 1911 or early 1912. Clarence (for it is surely he who wrote the text) credits Giacomo Vialle's efforts as follows...

"Padre Giacomo, our unwearied Apostle of Charity, has been in some mesaure able to realise a project which he has had at heart for many years, namely, the foundation of a Home for the Aged Poor"

50,000 francs were still need to "furnish and endow the home".

The third photo is the subscription bulletin to fill out if you wanted to give some money. There are several lines on the form which should have encouraged supporters to solicit donations from others.

By the way, although I did not post this pictures with this in mind, the The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund is open and you can donate in a variety of ways including PayPal and bank transfer in the UK or France in any currency. Target 110,000 euros. We have three major donations in and I will publish them this week. Details in English here and in Italian here

Next to them in the British Museum collection is this postcard of The Tearooms at Bordighera, probably around 1910. Was it here that Bicknell would distribute the appeal letters on behalf of his friend Viale?

Does anyone have a copy of this card with more details, such as the exact date?



NEWS - The Bristol Botanists, a study by Graham Avery

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

casa fontanalba visitors book frontispieceGraham Avery’s study, published today on, of the Bristol Botanists and their relationship with Clarence Bicknell is one of the most interesting discoveries to come out of the two books which list people who went to the Casa Fontanalba, discussed below.

The background is worth relating here. The names of Clarence’s visitors in the "Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book" were first transcribed into MS Excel by Marcus Bicknell in 2011 and made available on the internet. I did not know who most of the people were but felt that we would be able to find out about them from other researchers if we made the names available. Indeed, a few months later on the 18th of March 2012, I was pleased to receive an email from Graham Avery which included the following...

“The reason why I am writing to you is that the other day I found on the internet your transcription of the Casa Fontanalba visitors’ book, where on 19 July 1910 the name of Reginald Farrer appears together with that of Clarence Elliott. Your transcription adds notes on Elliott and Farrer and their roles in alpine gardening and plant hunting, but I wonder if you are aware that Farrer later mentioned this encounter with Bicknell in two of his publications?

“In ‘Among The Hills’ (1911) Farrer described his visit to Val Casterino in 1910, and in ‘The English Rock Garden’ (1919) he referred to Clarence Bicknell as ‘a famous English botanist’, recommending readers to visit the house where he ‘spends long summers in the course of which he asks nothing better than to show the treasures of the hills to such fellow-collectors as desire to see them’.

“I have been interested in Reginald Farrer for some time, particularly his books on his botanical excursions in the Maritime Alps (‘Among The Hills: A Book of Joy in High Places’) and the Dolomites (‘The Dolomites: King Laurin’s Garden‘).

“If it is of interest to you, I could submit a short piece for publication in ‘On Beacon Hill’ about Bicknell and Farrer, quoting more fully the passages from the books mentioned above, together with a few comments on the two men and their encounter in 1910.

So began a relationship which has proved most fruitful to me and to Graham, the most important of which is the research Graham has provided on Bicknell’s botany and his network of collectors, shown in the 20 papers he has written for us and which are published on our web site For example, Graham discovered that Bicknell sent 1,157 pressed flowers and 680 letters to Emile Burnat, botanist of Geneva; Graham’s original research and the paper he published with us is an example of the depth and significance of his recent findings about Bicknell.

I was encouraged by this input from Graham and from others who knew about one or more person who signed the Visitors’ Book. So I proceeded to transcribe in 2013 those listed and illustrated in a second album, Clarence’s “Book of Guests in Esperanto” and two books published by Clarence “Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera” and “A Guide to the Prehistoric Rock Engravings in the Italian Maritime Alps”. These lists are all available on the same Excel spreadsheet.

pimpinella bicknelliiGraham was intrigued by some further names written up by Clarence in the “Book of Guests in Esperanto”, and the placename “Bristol” alongside some of them. A link? Graham wrote to the appropriate organisations in Bristol and was pleased to get strong research support from Clive Lovatt, Archivist of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society, and Hannah Lowery, Archivist of Special Collections at the Arts and Social Sciences Library of the University of Bristol the Bristol Natural History Society. It turns out that the three Bristol men in Bicknell’s book were members of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society; it is possible that they had contacted Bicknell in 1903 before their trip to Majorca in search of the Pimpinella variety (image, right) which Bicknell had identified there and which was subsequently name Pimpinella bicknelli. They visited Bicknell in the Casa Fontanalba in 1907 and 1911.

Graham’s paper on the three Bristol Botanists and their exchanges was completed in July 2017 and is published on I am delighted that Graham’s research into Clarence’s personal albums has revealed this interesting information about the Bristol Botanists and in all his other contributions is of importance to our knowledge of Bicknell and his work.  It is also gratifying that Graham chooses to make his research available to academic communities and to those interested in Clarence. As Graham himself concludes...
“Bicknell was a remarkable figure: having passed the first half of his life in one country (England), he spent the second half in another (Italy) and corresponded with scientists in others (France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland). He was not only a botanist but an archaeologist, artist, man of letters, Esperantist, pastor and philanthropist. Like him, the botanists from Bristol were distinguished in fields other than botany. The interwoven contacts between these men illustrate the extent and diversity of cultural and scientific exchange in Europe in the years before the Great War.”

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