Since 1673 Chelsea Physic Garden has occupied four acres of land on the edge of the Thames. First established by the Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants, this extraordinary garden in London has had wide reaching impact around the world.
London?s oldest botanic garden and contains a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful and medicinal plants that have changed the world.
The Garden has seen numerous, notable figures over the years. The Garden’s primary benefactor was Sir Hans Sloane, a famous physician, naturalist, collector and founder of the British Museum. The Garden had been struggling with management for some years, but in 1712 its fortunes were about to change when Sir Hans purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne, and leased the?Garden to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London for just ?5 a year in perpetuity. We still pay this sum to Sir Hans’ descendants today.
Sir Hans?had trained as an apprentice at the Garden in the early 1680s under John Watts. He went on to have great success as a society physician serving the Governor of Jamaica. Whilst in Jamaica, Sloane acquired a stock of quinine, which was used to treat malaria (actually common in marshy areas of Britain at the time). Sir Hans also observed local women in Jamaica mixing cocoa with milk to treat stomach ailments, and he brought back the recipe with him. The recipe would eventually be bought by Cadbury?s and would help Sloane to become very wealthy, allowing him to purchase the Manor and lease the Garden where he had received his training, ensuring its survival for years to come.
Among other notable curators are Philip Miller, appointed as Head Gardener in 1722 by?Sir Hans?himself. Mr Miller served for almost fifty years to be followed by William Forsyth (relative?of the late Sir Bruce Forsyth), who joined the Garden in 1771 and created the Grade II listed Pond Rockery that still stands today. Later in 1846, the Garden was headed up by renowned Scottish plant hunter, Robert Fortune who made dramatic changes to the Garden that are still appreciated today, including Fortune?s Pond. The Victorian curator, Thomas Moore, made the Garden the foremost collection of medicinal plants in Britain.