THE LIFE AND TIMES
OF CHARLES MARIES
This photo was taken soon after he arrived in India
and is reproduced by permission of Mrs Jean Andrews
The Early Years
The entries on Charles Maries’ birth certificate show that he was born in Hampton Lucy on 18 December 1851 and was the son of George and Mary Maries. It has not yet been established in which house he was born but it seems likely to have been one of those that form the terrace of old buildings in Church Street. The Parish Registers show that he was baptised in the Parish Church of St Peter ad Vincula on 13 March, 1852. Charles was the youngest of five brothers and his father was the boot- and shoe-maker for the village, as was his grandfather (Thomas Maries), and they and their wives are buried in the churchyard.
Charles grew up in the village and went to Hampton Lucy Grammar School. The original school room is part of ‘Avonside’, a house located between the church and the river Avon. Charles has recounted how he learned about plants from the Reverend George Henslow, the Headmaster of the Grammar School between 1861 and 1865. The Reverend G. Henslow later became the Royal Horticultural Society’s Professor of Botany and as he also wrote a book entitled How to Study Wild Flowers, he was an excellent person from whom to learn about plants. In addition, his father, the Reverend John Henslow, was Professor of Botany at Cambridge University and was the tutor and friend of Charles Darwin.
The youngest of Charles’s brothers, George, appears to have followed his father as the boot- and shoe-maker (cordwainer) for Hampton Lucy although he later moved away from the village. The eldest brother, Frederick, was also a boot- and shoe-maker and had a shop in Bordesley Green in Birmingham, while the second brother, Henry, lived in Stratford-upon-Avon and had the title of ‘Professor of Music’. The third brother, Richard, was a florist and nurseryman in Lytham, Lancashire and so evidently, he too had a strong interest in plants. When their father died in 1869, Charles moved to Lytham to gain experience on Richard’s nursery.
After seven years in Lytham, Charles joined James Veitch & Sons of Chelsea, one of the largest plant nurseries in Britain at that time. In 1876, Veitch chose Charles to go on an expedition to China and Japan to look for plants that might grow well in British gardens but were not yet known in Britain.
The Plant Hunter
Charles left for Shanghai in February 1877 and between 1877 and 1879 he collected many plants in China, Japan, and Formosa and had many adventures. These were recounted in a diary he kept, which is now in the Library of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as well as in a series of letters he wrote for The Garden under the heading Rambles of a Plant Collector. The plants he collected were sent back to Britain by boat and were kept alive during the long sea journey in ‘Wardian cases’ which were like miniature, sealed greenhouses. As well as plants, he also collected seeds, many of which were brought back with him when he returned in 1880.
In Later Years
When Charles returned to Britain, Veitch Nurseries and Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew Gardens decided that he would be ideal person to go to India to develop a garden as Superintendent of the Gardens to the Maharajah of Durbhungah. Charles accepted the job and appears to have left Britain before the date of the 1881 census as his name doesn’t appear in the census returns. Charles’ brother Richard had married Mary Haworth Kerr and Charles subsequently married her sister, Martha Maria Kerr. Martha sailed alone to India to marry Charles and the wedding was solemnised in St John’s Church, Calcutta on 19 November 1881. Charles and Martha had three children; Francis, Mildred, and Jasper, all of whom were born in India. After Durbhungah, Charles worked for the Maharajah of Gwalior as Superintendent of the Gardens and while working in India, he wrote and illustrated a draft manuscript entitled The Cultivated Mangoes of India. Unfortunately, this was never published but it is now in the archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Charles also wrote letters to The Garden about his experiences of working in India. Sadly, he died in 1902 and was buried in India and his wife then returned to Britain with Francis and Mildred.
Charles received many honours in his lifetime, including election as a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1887. In 1897 he was one of the first 60 distinguished recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH). Other inaugural recipients were his tutor, the Reverend George Henslow, as well as the garden designer, Miss Gertrude Jekyll, and Sir Joseph Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The Charles Maries Trail
A group of villagers who formed the Village Enhancement Group (aka VEG) felt that the connection between Charles Maries and Hampton Lucy should be commemorated in some way. As his grave was in India, it was thought that it would be a fitting memorial to acquire some of the plants he introduced. These could then be planted in public spaces around the village where they would be seen by and shared with as many people as possible. Of the large number of plants that were introduced by Charles Maries, it seemed that there were about thirty that were still available commercially and that would tolerate being grown outdoors in this area. The VEG raised the money to purchase as many as possible of these and it was decided to call the collection “The Charles Maries Trail”. The Trail was officially opened on 30 July 2005 by Dr David Gray OBE, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Director of Horticulture, Education, and Science.
Ken Cockshull (September 2015)
|1. Acer carpinifolium – Hornbeam Maple|
|2. Acer davidii ‘George Forrest’|
|3. Acer rufinerve|
|4. Actinidia kolomikta|
|8. Fraxinus mariesii – Manna Ash
|9. Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’ – Witch Hazel|
|10. Hydangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii Perfecta
|12. Magnolia sieboldii|
|13. Schizophragma hydrangeoides|
|14. Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’
|15. Clerodendrum trichotomum
|17. Hamamelis mollis ‘Coombe Wood’
|20. Elaeagnus macroophylla|
|21. Rodgersia podophylla
5. Aesculus turbinata – Japanese Horsechestnut
|Not on public display
a) Chimonobambusa quadrangularis
b) Musa basjoo – Japanese banana
c) Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Mariesii’ – Balloon Flower
e) Quercus acuta
|Failed to establish
6. Caryopteris x clandonesis ‘Heavenly Blue’
7. Enkianthus campanulatus
11. Iris ensata (aka Iris kaempferi)
16. Styrax obassia
18. Alangium platanifolium
|Yet to be acquired
Alnus hirsuta, Primula obconica, Lilium speciosum var. gloriosoides