In 1763, Professor John Hope - the sixth Regius Keeper of RBGE, King’s Botanist and Professor of Materia Medica at Edinburgh University- established a new Botanic Garden on Leith Walk, to replace the Physic Gardens of the old town. Surviving documents show that the Botanic Cottage, as it was named on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map, was designed by John Adam, eldest of the Adam brothers, and extended in the 1780s by James Craig, author of the 1767 plan for the New Town of Edinburgh.
From 1764 to 1821, the Botanic Cottage was the 'gateway' to the previous RBGE site on Leith Walk and provided accommodation for the head gardener. It was here that Professor Hope taught many young students about the emerging science of botany. Due to expansion in 1820, the collections were moved to the current RBGE site at Inverleith and the Cottage fell into disrepair, becoming faced with demolition in 2008. However tireless campaigning by local people - including the Friends of Hopetoun Crescent Garden and conservation architect James Simpson OBE - led to the creation of the Botanic Cottage Project Group, which saved the Cottage from demolition. The Cottage was carefully dismantled and the materials stored at RBGE. Research found The Botanic Cottage to have a wealth of historically-important connections, from the eminent scientists who learnt in the lecture theatre - including Benjamin Rush, one of the Founding Fathers of America - to Professor Hope’s connections with the Scottish Enlightenment.
The Botanic Cottage Project aims to reconstruct the historic Botanic Cottage from its original materials and transform it back into a much-needed education facility, for our Demonstration Garden.
The RBGE Demonstration Garden is the outdoor hub for our education programme, where we deliver practical, horticulture-themed learning sessions to local schools. It also plays host to community gardening projects such as the Edible Garden, which actively involve people of all ages in hands-on horticultural learning. Our schools education programme is in keen demand, which we are unable to meet due to the lack of an all-weather facility nearby for shelter, storage, indoor learning and supporting facilities. Once the Botanic Cottage has been reconstructed, we plan to adapt it once again for the purpose of learning.
As well as catering for schools education, the space in the Cottage will be multi-functional for a diversity of audiences, including nursery groups, local community groups and the general public taking part in practical gardening projects outdoors, as well as students on our Diploma courses. It will facilitate the much wider use of the Demonstration Garden for education and community gardening.
We have had a first stage pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund for £700,000 and expect a final decision in March 2013. However even with this grant the Botanic Cottage Project still faces a considerable funding shortfall and we have launched our public funding appeal. Please click here to go to the appeal page.
Contact the RBGE Development Team on 0131 248 2984 if you would like further details.