A Victorian lady botanist: Grosvenor Museum acquires portrait of Eliza Potts

10 July 2019

Chester’s Grosvenor Museum has acquired a portrait of Eliza Potts, one of the city’s finest Victorian botanists.  

Eliza Potts (1809-1873) was a botanist, whose studies have done much to record and understand wild plants in Cheshire and North Wales.  Born into a well-known Chester legal family, she was the eldest daughter of Henry Potts of Watergate House.

Eliza spent her summers at the family’s country house in Glan Yr Afon, Denbighshire, where she collected and studied plants.  She also collected from other sites in North Wales, and her collection contains many first or early records of plants from this area.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Eliza’s portrait was presented to the museum by the Grosvenor Museum Society, and we are most grateful for their generous gift.

“Eliza’s herbarium is now housed in the Grosvenor Museum.  It is a valuable record of plants from the local area in the Victorian period, and is used for research, teaching and as an environmental benchmark.”

Eliza was a very keen and knowledgeable field botanist.  She contributed to T.B. Hall’s ‘A Flora of Liverpool’ (1838), with ‘Thirty Interesting Cheshire Plants of Parkgate and Hoylake’.  Lord de Tabley referred to her in ‘The Flora of Cheshire’ (1899) saying, ‘She stands pre-eminently as the best lady botanist whose records are included in the present flora’.

Richard Hopkinson, Vice-Chairman of the Grosvenor Museum Society, said: “The Society is passionately committed to supporting the museum, and is proud to have funded the acquisition of this portrait.” 

Andrea Hopkinson, Secretary of the Grosvenor Museum Society, said:  “Eliza’s portrait was painted in oil on canvas in 1847 by the Chester artist William Owen Harling (1813-1879).  It is one of the finest Victorian portraits in the museum, and is now appropriately displayed in the Natural Cheshire gallery along with Eliza’s herbarium.” 

The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday – Saturday 10.30am to 5pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm, admission free, donations welcome. 

Councillor Louise Gittins, Richard & Andrea Hopkinson

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