The Life and Times of Charles Maries

The Early Years

Charles Maries was the youngest of five boys born to George and Mary Maries of Hampton Lucy. His birth certificate shows he was born in the village on 18 December, 1851, and he was baptised in the church of St Peter ad Vincula on 13 March, 1852.

Charles’s father was the boot- and shoe-maker for the village, as was his grandfather (Thomas Maries), and they and their wives are buried in the local churchyard.

Charles was educated at the Hampton Lucy Grammar School.  While there, he learnt about plants from the Reverend G. Henslow, who was Headmaster between 1861 and 1865.  The Reverend Henslow went on to become  the Royal Horticultural Society’s Professor of Botany.  The original school room now forms part of ‘Avonside’, a house located between the church and the river.

Two of Charles’s brothers, Frederick (the eldest brother) and George, also became cordwainers and boot- and shoe-makers while Henry lived in Stratford-upon-Avon and gave his occupation as ‘Professor of Music’.  The fourth brother, Richard, also had a strong interest in plants and he set up as a florist and nurseryman in Lytham, Lancs.  When their father died in 1869, Charles moved to Lytham to work on Richard’s nursery.

After seven years in Lytham, Charles  joined James Veitch & Sons of Chelsea, one of the largest nurseries in Britain at that time.  In 1876, it was suggested that he should travel to China and Japan to look for plants that were not known in Britain but that might  grow well in British gardens.

The Plant Hunter

Charles left for Shanghai in February 1877 and then went on to Japan and Formosa.  His plant hunting was so successful that he was sent back to China and Japan in 1878, and again in 1879.  He collected many specimens during these journeys and sent them back to the Veitch nursery in England. 

Charles subsequently went to India.  He presumably left England before the date of the 1881 census as his name does not appear in the census returns.  He went to India to take up the post of Superintendent of the Gardens to the Maharajah of Durbhungah.  Later, his wife-to-be, Martha Maria Kerr, who was the sister of Richard’s wife, Mary Haworth Kerr, sailed out to India to marry him.  The wedding was solemnised in St John’s Church, Calcutta on 19 November 1881.  Charles and Martha had three children; Francis, Mildred, and Jasper, all of whom were born in India.  Charles’s final job was also in India as Superintendent of the Gardens to the Maharajah of Gwalior.  While working in India, Charles wrote and illustrated a manuscript entitled Cultivated Mangoes of India but it was never published and is now in the archive at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  Sadly, Charles died in 1902, in India where he is buried.   ( His Parents and Grandparents are buried in Hampton Lucy. See their  Headstones images )

Amongst the many honours he obtained in his lifetime, he was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1877, and in 1897 was one of the first 60 recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH).  Other inaugural recipients were his tutor, the Reverend George Henslow, as well as Miss Gertrude Jekyll, and Sir Joseph Hooker, who was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, at that time.

 

The Village Enhancement Group have put together a collection of plants Charles Maries found. Have a look at the map to find where in the village they are located and follow the Charles Maries Trail.

 

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