Pi­o­neer’s sad end

A gi­ant in his field

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Dou­glas Dickie

Gar­den­ing is a British ob­ses­sion.

But how many of us knew that the man who pop­u­larised the pas­time in the early 19th cen­tury came from Cam­bus­lang?

Last Fri­day, April 8, marked the an­niver­sary of the birth of John Claudius Loudon, bet­ter known as JC Loudon.

He was born in 1783 in the town to a re­spectable farm­ing fam­ily. This gave him an early in­sight into plants and farm­ing, some­thing that would colour his work.

He over­came ad­ver­sity dur­ing his life to be­come the UK’s lead­ing fig­ure on hor­ti­cul­ture. Loudon suf­fered from crip­pling arthri­tis and even had his right shoul­der am­pu­tated, mean­ing he had to learn to write with his left hand.

Af­ter study­ing at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, Loudon headed south and even­tu­ally com­pleted two tours of Europe.

On his re­turn he be­came a pi­o­neer­ing town plan­ner. His work on ceme­ter­ies and church­yards was also sig­nif­i­cant.

But Loudon is per­haps best known for his publi­ca­tions, “Sub­ur­ban Gar­dener and Villa Com­pan­ion,” “The En­cy­clopae­dia of Cot­tage, Farm and Villa Ar­chi­tec­ture” and “The Gar­dener’s Mag­a­zine.”

In Jan­uary 1835 he pub­lished the first vol­ume of ‘Ar­bore­tum et Fru­tice­tum Bri­tan­nicum’. The work had taken him five years and was an ex­haus­tive ac­count of all the trees and shrubs grow­ing in Great Bri­tain.

There was a sting in the tail. The vol­ume, while hugely in­flu­en­tial, also left him fi­nan­cially ru­ined with many copies go­ing un­sold.

His fi­nal work was the de­sign of the mu­nic­i­pal ceme­tery at Southamp­ton. Through­out his life he was re­spon­si­ble for the likes of Birm­ing­ham Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, Bromp­ton Ceme­tery in Lon­don, the Derby Ar­bore­tum, Hare­wood House, Abbey Ceme­tery in Bath, His­ton Road Ceme­tery in Cam­bridge and the gar­dens at Cas­tle Kennedy in Ayr­shire.

Loudon died pen­ni­less at the age of 60 in the arms of his lov­ing wife, au­thor Jane Webb.

Pi­o­neer

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