Pioneer’s sad end
A giant in his field
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.