Tag Archives: horticulture

James Backhouse and West Bank Park

It’s really good to hear about the West Bank Park Heritage Project (http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/NEWS/11029965.Heritage_centre_and_community_cafe_plan_for_York_park/?ref=rss), particularly as the Backhouse family had Bootham connections. The James Backhouse who first set up the nursery sent his son, also called James Backhouse, to York Friends Boys School in Lawrence Street between 1834 and 1841 (the school in Lawrence Street moved to Bootham in 1846, and later became known as Bootham School). The younger James Backhouse sent his sons, James and William, to Bootham (James between 1874 and 1878, and William between 1876 and 1880).

James Backhouse

 

Photograph: James Backhouse, born 1825, at York Friends Boys School 1834-41.

 

The youngest James Backhouse (grandson of the first James Backhouse) wrote an obituary for his father, James Backhouse (son of the first James Backhouse) in ‘Bootham’ magazine in May 1903, and it talks about everything from York’s first station to an underground cavern! Here are some extracts…

“On the introduction of a railway into York in 1839 the business premises were transferred to Fishergate, and later still to their present position at Holgate, one mile away. The original Passenger Station building, which may be spoken of as little more than a wooden shed, outside the City walls, was, in a very brief time rebuilt within the walls upon the old garden site. This new erection, when in the course of time a further new and enlarged station was required, became the North Eastern Railway offices. It is said that when the first station was opened, one porter attended to all the luggage and issued all the tickets. Today about 450 officials and porters are required to cope with the traffic of the seven different railway companies which run their trains to York.”

“About 1859 the careful observations made during his previous botanical excursions bore fruit in another way. He constructed in the Nurseries his well-known imitation Mountain Tarn and surrounding crags, on purpose to shew how Alpine plants might be artificially cultivated. His success in the cultivation of these plants was largely due to a scientific knowledge of soil requirements and other local conditions necessary to the growth of each species. As pioneer of a new departure in Horticulture the fame of his work soon spread, and hundreds visited York to witness the novel sight of this Alpine model, correct in every detail, and no mere accumulation of material.”

“Another monument to his memory at York Nurseries is an underground cavern, so arranged and artificially lighted that filmy ferns, which are by no means easy subjects to deal with, flourish there in great perfection; though denizens of various parts of the globe.”

Good luck to the West Bank Park Heritage Project!

  1. James Backhouse’s obituary is contained in ‘Bootham’ magazine, Vol I, p280-284.
  2. The photograph is taken from an album presented in Silvanus Thompson in 1874, held in Bootham School Archives.