The Botanics at Platform 5
Returning from 1675, the great "Intendant" James Sutherland (Graeme MacFadyen, of Mercat Tours) recently met his present-day counterpart Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE at Platform 5, Waverley Station – which now inhabits the site where he developed a “Botanic Garden” that grew and prospered there until 1763.
Together with Edinburgh Waverley Station manager Juliet Donnachie, they unveiled a refurbished commemoration plaque to mark the site of Sutherland’s great garden, thanks to a grant from The Railway Heritage Trust.
How the Garden Grew
The history of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh dates back to 1670 when it began as Scotland's first physic garden on a modest patch of ground at Holyrood Park no bigger than a tennis court. Its founders, physicians Andrew Balfour and Robert Sibbald aimed to grow and study plants for medicine. James Sutherland, employed by them to maintain the plants, quickly saw the Garden outgrow the plot. In 1675, he secured a significantly bigger site adjoining Trinity Hospital, at the mouth of the Nor Loch, now occupied by Waverley Station. In 1763 the Garden relocated out of the city centre to a ‘green field' site on the ancient high road to Leith, largely to escape the pollution of the city centre. The final move to Inverleith in 1820 took three years and a lot of ingenuity to deliver the entire collection of plants and mature trees. Today, at Inverleith, it has evolved into a world-leading centre of excellence for the 21st century.
James Sutherland (c.1639-1719) was the first 'Intendant' - a title later developed to Regius Keeper - of what would become the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. A skilled botanist, he obtained a Regius Professorship of Botany and was appointed to the position of King's Botanist. His publication, the Hortus Medicus Edinburgensis (1683) was the first catalogue of plants in the Garden and the first of its kind in Scotland.
Read more on the Garden’s 350-year history.
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