First Botanic Garden in Britain
Though the Chelsea Physic Garden is better known, the first botanic garden in Britain was created at Oxford more than 50 years earlier. Built – and it was built, the walls protecting it from the elements and the public cost much of the £5000 donated by the founder - on land provided by the extremely rich Henry Danvers Earl of Danby which he had leased from Magdelen College, it was not meant as a place of beauty but rather of science, intended to grow herbs used in medicines, hence the place was originally run by Oxford’s school of medicine.
To run the Botanic Garden the Earl brought Jacob Bobart over from Germany. His son, another Jacob, succeeded him in the role; and it was Jacob junior who in 1670 built the first known green house in England on the site. It is interesting to contemplate whether the Romans a millennium and a half earlier had already built such a structure on these shores – they had the knowledge, though they used thin sheets of mica, or transparent oilcloth where glass is now used.
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