Memorandum of Plants, Seeds & c. sent from China to the Royal Gardens, Kew, Vols 1 & 3 [by William Kerr]

Scope and Content

Two volumes [Volume 2 not found in collection] - entries in volume 1 date from 1803-1804; volume 3 date from 1805-1808.

Volume 1 - includes a "Catalogue of plants procured at Canton, China, and sent to England on board the ship Henery Addington [Henry Addington] in a greenhouse or plant cabin prepared for the purpose. This ship with the whole China Fleet of the season sailed from the Second Bar Canton River, Feb 1st 1804". Other entries include "Observations on the Method of Making Dwarf Trees at Canton"; Chinese Cordage or Ropes"; "Chinese Gardening"; Pankiqua's Garden [Canton]"; "Method of preparing Mould for the cultivation of Plants in Pots & c."; "Manure for Land"; "Observations made at Anjer Point Straits at Sunda [island of Java] in two or three excursions on shore the 24th, 25th & 26th of August 1803"; copies of various letters to Sir Joseph Banks and William Aiton.

Volume 3 - includes "Seeds sent to Mr Drummond from Pekin [Peking] by one of the Catholic Missionaries. Received in Macao, July 1805"; "Seeds sent to Mr Drummond from the Province of Shansi, by one of the missionaries. received at Macao in August 1805"; "Copy of a Letter & List of Plants to Mr Henery [Henry] Porteous, St Helena, Canton, 24th Mar 1806"; "List of Plants in the Plant cabin on board the Walmer Castle, cosisting chiefly of Plants from Manilla, Jan 1807"; "List of Plants contained in the Plant Cabin on board the David Scott"; "List of Seeds from one of the missionaries at Pekin [Peking] received at Canton the 27th Jan 1808"; "List of Seeds for His Majesty's Botanic Garden at Kew. On board the Walmer Castle"; "List of seeds for Mr Roxburgh Company's Botanic Gardens near Calcutta, Feb 1807"; "List of Plants contained in the Plant Cabin sent on board the Britannia, Fifth Season, Canton 1808"; "List of Plants contained in the Plant cabin sent on board the H. C. S. Cuffnells for H. M. Botanic Garden at Kew"; "List of Plants sent in two small Plant Cabins on board the Hope, 1808"; "Seeds of Wild Plants collected in the vicinity of Macao in 1807"; copies of various letters to Sir Joseph Banks, William Aiton, Captain Pendergrass, Mr David Lance, Mr Kerr, Padre Romero [Rev Thomas Romero], William Roxburgh junior, with lists of plants.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Kerr (died 1814) was a Scottish gardener and plant hunter, the first Western professional full-time plant collector active in China. He also collected in Java and Luzon in the Philippines. Kerr sent back to Britain examples of 238 plants new to European gardeners and to science, without, it appears, stirring far from the European trading sites of Canton and Macao, or Manila. A native of Hawick in the Scottish Borders, he was a gardener at Kew, where he was known to Sir Joseph Banks, and, following instruction by Banks, he was sent to China in 1804, where he remained for eight years. Kerr's finds, discovered in local Chinese gardens and plant nurseries, included Euonymus japonicus, Lilium lancifolium, Pieris japonica, Nandina domestica, Begonia grandis and the white-flowered Rosa banksiae, named for his patron's wife. In 1812, he went to Colombo, Ceylon, where he worked as superintendent of gardens on Slave Island and at King's House. He died there in 1814. [Source: Wikipedia]

Conditions Governing Access

Open