Marianne North’s legacy, Hastings

Marianne North used to live across the road a century and a half ago.
She was a famous botanical painter who traveled with Charles Darwin across the globe collecting rare plants. She helped create Kew Gardens in London, where there is a permanent gallery showing her botanical paintings.

She also created a beautiful garden here in Hastings. It is now protected in a Conservation order.
Edward Lear used to visit, and there is a story about how he would paint her fig trees and other exotic trees and plants, pretending to be somewhere else entirely. He wrote the poem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ for Marianne’s niece.

During the last year or so, the Headteacher of the Sacred Heart Catholic School who occupies part of her former garden has, without proper consultation, allowed contractors to cut down many of the trees Marianne North planted.

The neighbours, who live in the other part of the garden in a small estate called Marianne Park, involved local councillors and our M.P, Amber Rudd, to try to put a stop to this and save what remained of this precious legacy.
A meeting was held there in November 2013 when the Headteacher, Joe Hellet, told Amber Rudd, the local councillors and us  neighbours (and the T.V cameras!) that he was now moving ahead with plans to create a Marianne North Woodland and Gardens area in the school grounds.
He told us all  how grateful he was for this excellent teaching opportunity, and he was given a copy of Marianne North’s excellent book ‘ A vision of Eden’ as a token of friendship.
Representatives from Kew garden were contacted by one of the neighbours and offered to come and help promote a new planting scheme to replace some of the trees that had been lost. There would be a planting ceremony  involving all the children at the school.
During the last few days the chainsaws have been back across the site. The Headmaster went back on his words. I went across to the School parking lot to take some pictures of what was going on, and Joe Hellet tried to wrestle the camera out of my hands. He then pushed and dragged me out of the school grounds.
I can hear the chainsaws as I write this. It is Sunday the 12th of January 2014, and the time is 9.02. The fires have been blazing since dawn.

Hastings Council have great plans to enhance Hastings international image in the coming year, using our very unique and fascinating history. I wonder what this is doing to help. I also wonder what this will do to the last few Turtle doves living in the area. Their numbers are down by over 90% in the country.
Meanwhile, I have been summoned to the local police station for a meeting today at 10.30. Apparently I have been trespassing on to school property.


About Anna

I am a ceramic sculptor living on the South coast near London, England. My work is influenced by my experience of the earth as a living being and seeing how we are all connected with eachother and with the things that surround us. I create ceramic torsos using molochite clay which I often smokefire in galvanised dustbins. I also make House Gods to protect and amuse, and Fat Birds - little smokefired sculptures that tell the story about what it is like to be a fat bird at peace with its surroundings.
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24 Responses to Marianne North’s legacy, Hastings

  1. I hope everything’s OK at the police station tomorrow – but something needs to be done about that bloody headmaster! Good on you!! Are you tweeting or otherwise getting this information out to your local area?
    & I’d like this but something’s gone wrong & I can’t like posts. Most annoying. Nothing coming from WordPress so far…


    • Anna says:

      Dear Kiera, thank you for your support all the way from sunny Perth! I’m doin’ what I can, but am getting to feel a bit tired …the police man was really nice (even cute!) but he told me that as I had trespassed on to the school ground there were nothing they could do about the headmaster assaulting me as he didn’t leave any bruising or damage on my body. If he does this in full view, just for me taking photos …imagine what goes on behind closed doors. Poor kids.


  2. painterswife says:

    Reblogged this on painterswife and commented:
    Anna Keiller is a wonderful artist and friend. This post shows so clearly how it is not just the big corporations we have to be wary of – there are some very selfish people out there who will take advantage of other people’s apathy. Anna, as you can see, is not apathetic and is deserving of our support.


  3. Al says:

    At least you can give your views and the fact that what he is doing is illegal. Maybe they can stop him


    • Anna says:

      Al, we can but hope. But they are doing all this during the weekend, who is there to stop them? The police cannot get involved as it is ‘a civil matter’ and once the trees are down, they’re down. It took them the best part of 150 years to grow, and one hour for a man with a chainsaw to cut them down forever.
      Thank you for your visit and for caring x


  4. roma1912 says:

    And they let a “gentleman” such as this teach the next generation ????? the world has finally gone mad.Is there anywhere on-line joe public can voice there concerns on our history / sensibility being brutally destroyed


  5. roma1912 says:

    Reblogged this on cottageonthegreen.


  6. Made my soul ache to read this.


  7. carentaylor says:

    This is a very tragic read I hope you and others are able to stop that very silly man from completely destroying everything


  8. grtescp says:

    How sad, I struggle to understand people’s lack of values and here a clear case of hypocrisy. I hope you manage to stop him before he destroys everything.


    • Anna says:

      Thank you; well, we’ll certainly try! And yes, it is odd that he can’t see or understand the bit about hypocrisy. He seems to lack self awareness in some odd way; he just acts and then he explodes when questioned about his actions. Weird. I can’t do a lot more as I don’t want to aggravate the situation but the local councillors and our M.P are involved and I believe they are going to take action. Marianne North is a national treasure after all.


  9. davidprosser says:

    If this is a Church School there may be a way to approach the Church itself to let them know this man i in breach of if not a preservation order then at least an agreement with the local authority and local community. School governors may well be appalled by this action and may be able to censor ( or hopefully sack) this man. Nothing will save the trees he’s destroyed, it’s too late for that but perhaps the Church will understand it’s not too late to salvage the reputation of it’s educators.
    I hope the excuse for the clearance wasn’t to create a place to make this Marianne North Woodland and Garden area he mentioned as such destruction would make that a sick joke.
    I don’t believe the police can take action against you for this trespass but they may censure you because it’s where children are. I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Come Monday and the start of a new week maybe the local press and certainly the local council can get involved in this. I’m sure you can help publicise it as it deserves. Thanks for trying.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


    • Anna says:

      Dear David, thank you so much for your comments and for your suggestions. And for your support. It means a lot to me. I had a look at your blog, too and it looks fun!
      Anna xx


  10. Pingback: Marianne North’s legacy, Hastings | Deliberately Debbie

  11. nice post, thanks for share,

    Liked by 1 person

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