Reginald Farrer - Lakeland Horticultural Society Photographic Albums

Scope and Content

  • Volume 1: 1914-1915; Inscription to 'My dear Bill, from RF', 07/02/1917. Photographs by Farrer. Starts in Peking in 1914 and progresses to Mei S'an, Gwang Hui Ssu, Mien Chi Hsien, Hwa S'an, Lin Tung, Satanee, Siku, 'Thundercrown', Jo-ni, then in 1915, Lanchow, Sining, Wei-Yuan, 'Wolvesden Pass', Tien Tang Ssu, Chebson Ssu, 'Creda Rossa' and 'Clear Lake'. Many shots of villages and mountain scenery, including the locations where various plants were found. There are also photographs from Farrer's lone journey south from Lanchow, before he was reunited with Purdom to travel down the Ja-ling-Jang, through the Yangtze Gorges to Ichang.
  • Volume 2: 1912; Inscribed 'J. Purdom, from C.H. Hough, Xmas 1912. This appears to be from Purdom's first expedition to China between 1909 and 1912 and covers Peking, Amdo and River Tow in Tibet, Jehol, Peling Range, Kansu, Choni, and pictures of people and places, including one of Purdom himself.
  • Volume 3: A compilation of photographs of Tibetan and Kansu people and scenery from both of Purdom's Chinese expeditions, 1909 - 1915. Many of these photographs appear in other albums.
  • Volume 4: Photographs recording Purdom's work as Advisor of the State Forests for the Railways. It shows Kwang Shan Po Forest Station, Chi Kung Shan, the selection of a site for establishment of forestry nurseries, the Hsi Ling tombs, Li Kia Chia, the survey of the Kalgan Railroad for afforestation, and ends with some shots at the railway station during the 1920 famine.
  • Volume 5: A small collection of photographs, some dated 1912, many taken in Peking. They include Purdom with the Commercial Attache to the British Legation, Sir Alexander Hosie, and include images of W. Christie with Mission children. There are many undated photographs of Purdom on expedition in Kokonor, Shansi and Honan.

Administrative / Biographical History

These 5 albums of photographs are at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on permanent loan from the Lakeland Horticultural Society. They appear to be from William Purdom who travelled and collected plants with Reginald Farrer in Kansu / Gansu, northern China in 1914-1915, but one was compiled by Reginald Farrer and three relate to their collecting trip, so all 5 albums have been stored within the Reginald Farrer collection.

William Purdom was born on the 10th of April at Heversham near Kendal but he spent most of his childhood at the Lodge, Brathay Hall in Ambleside, where his father, William, was head gardener. After leaving school at 14, Purdom's first four years of gardening training was under his father's tuition, before joining Low Nursery of Enfield, and then the Veitch Nursery of Coombe Wood.

In 1902 Purdom applied for a student position at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew where he stayed for six years before being chosen to lead a plant collecting expedition to China in 1909 planned by Veitch and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts. He returned to England in 1912.

Reginald Farrer heard of Purdom's achievements and determined to travel to China to collect plants with Purdom as his assistant. He chose Kansu / Gansu in northern China as it was hoped that this area would yield alpine plants suitable for the British climate. The dangerous and difficult expedition took place between 1914 and 1915 and was funded by Charles Hough of White Craggs, Ambleside and William Groves of Holehird.

Farrer returned to England in 1915, but Purdom elected to remain in China to become a forestry advisor to the Chinese Government. He died in November 1921 in Peking / Beijing after a short illness at the age of 41 while working on a comprehensive forestry survey for the Chinese Railways.

Biographical information on William Purdom was compiled by Margaret I. Perkins, Hon. Archivist for the Lakeland Horticultural Society.

Access Information

Written permission must be acquired from the Lakeland Horticultural Society before any of the photographs in the albums can be reproduced or used. RBGE can assist with this.