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Copeman, gardener, Great Yarmouth

by John Dempsey

Copeman, gardener, Great Yarmouth

The appearance of vendors of ornamental plants ‘all a-blooming, all a-blowing’ in cries collections from the late 1790s onwards1 indicates the burgeoning enthusiasm of urban Britons for domestic gardening. Inspired by the botanical discoveries of 18th century exploration and scientific classification, and informed by the writings of picturesque and gardenesque theorists such as Humphry Repton and Uvedale Price, the English vogue for the suburban garden is also signalled by the establishment of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1804, and by publications such as John Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of gardening (1822), William Cobbett’s The English garden (1829) and the popular journal The Gardener’s Magazine (1826–44).

Nothing has been discovered about the Norfolk gardener Mr Copeman, but he is occupationally identifiable by his blue apron and by the potted roses and mustard flowers he carries in his huge hands, as well as by the curving beds at his feet in which more roses, as well as tulips and pansies, grow in stylised, china-decoration array. Copeman may have been an outdoor servant on a gentleman’s estate, or possibly an employee of the Royal Nursery, a commercial horticultural enterprise established at Yarmouth by Edward Youell.

Collection: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, presented by C. Docker, 1956