The landed estate as patron of scientific innovation : Horticulture at Woburn Abbey, 1802-1839.
This thesis is concerned with the horticultural activities
that took place in the early nineteenth century at Woburn
Abbey, the stately home of John Russell, sixth Duke of
Bedford (1766-1839). During the sixth Duke's reign the
work undertaken at Woburn involved more than simply raising
fruits and vegetables for the table and landscaping the
grounds, creating different kinds of garden and cultivating
trees, shrubs and flowers in order to provide pleasant vistas.
Bedford was an important patron of scientific horticulture and
the Abbey was a centre for innovative and experimental gardening.
Under the Duke's direction investigations were carried out into
various aspects of horticultural science. These enquiries
contributed significantly to English scientific gardening
during the first half of the nineteenth century.
I shall detail the sixth Duke's patronage of science, discuss
his motives and consider the scientific work he inaugurated at
Woburn in relation to the wider institutional context of
horticulture. Nearly all of the horticultural investigations
at the Abb~y were conducted by the head gardeners. The different
tasks they carried out will be examined. It was their skill
and effort which ensured that the Duke's ideas were put into
operation. They helped to create and maintain Woburn Abbey's
reputation for horticultural excellence, innovation and
experiment. There will also be an evaluation of the Duke's
schemes at the Abbey. Besides looking at their effect
locally, their influence nationally will be appraised.
The sixth Duke of Bedford's great predilection for gardening,
the role played by his estate in the development of horticultural
science at this time and his efforts to foster the growth of
horticulture outside the confines of his stately home make
Woburn a particularly useful point from which to explore
some of the technical and social aspects of this scantily
documented branch of nineteenth-century science.