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In 1834, the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society appointed Robert Marnock as their first Curator, who laid out the Gardens in the highly fashionable Gardenesque style. Local architect, Benjamin Taylor, was responsible for the Ionic-style Gatehouse, the South Lodge and worked with Marnock to create the glass pavilions. The Gardens were opened in 1836, admission was limited to subscribers; the public was only admitted on gala days.

In 1844, financial problems led to the failure of the society, but the Gardens were saved by the formation of a second company. In the following decade, the conservatories were extended and a tea pavilion and the Curator's House were constructed. Over the next 30 years the Gardens enjoyed steady development and growing international renown.

In 1897, falling income, competition from the new, free city parks and residential development meant that the Gardens were in danger. Fortunately the Sheffield Town Trust was able to save them for the city. Free admission was introduced. Demolition of unsafe buildings, including the ridge and furrow walkways, was necessary and only the conservatory domes were repaired. The Gardens continued to develop until World War II, when extensive damage left the Town Trust unable to afford the repair and maintenance costs.

In 1951, the Town Trust offered the Gardens to the City Council for a peppercorn rent. The Council instigated repairs to the domes, created an aviary and an aquarium, and restored the Gardens to their former glory. However, a downturn in the economy during the 1980s meant a reduction in funding and once again the Gardens were on their way to dereliction.

By the early 1990s, it was clear that their recovery would take a lot of money. In 1996, a partnership was set up, consisting of the Town Trust (owners), Sheffield City Council (managers), the University of Sheffield (chairman and specialist reports), the Friends of the Botanical Gardens (FOBS - volunteers) and the Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust (SBGT - a registered charity). An award of just over £5 million, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was announced in May, 1997 and work started on site in 1998. The matched funding (about £1.25 million) necessary to access that award was raised by the voluntary sector - FOBS and the SBGT.

Phase I saw the restoration of all the stone buildings in the Gardens - the Main Entrance and South Lodge (both Grade II listed) and the unlisted Curator's House. Where possible, examples of Victorian construction techniques were retained. Phase II involved complete restoration of the glass pavilions (Grade II* listed) and replacement of the ridge and furrow walkways.

The final phase saw the restoration of the entire Gardens infrastructure, plantings and garden features, with extra drainage and services. Early work caused maximum disruption as shrub masses were cleared, trees felled and trenches dug. But thousands of new plants - trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials - were then added to develop a much more colourful garden with themed areas to underpin future education and training programmes.

This was one of the first occasions that such vastly differing organisations had worked together in this way, and while hugely bureaucratic, it worked extremely well. It also means that many people and organisations now have a stake in the Gardens, ensuring their successful future.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):



Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society was formed in 1833 to create a botanical garden and in 1834 18 acres (7.5ha) of farmland was bought for the purpose using money raised in shares. A competition held for the design was won by Robert Marnock (1800-89) who began work in the spring of 1834. The Gardens were opened in 1836 to shareholders and annual subscribers but the general public was only given access on four days per year. In 1898 the plant collections were sold, and the future of the Gardens was uncertain, until Sheffield Town Trust paid off shareholders and took over the management, from which time they were opened to the public. In 1957 the Gardens were leased to Sheffield Corporation and restored by the city architect Lewis Womersley. Sheffield City Council Parks Department currently (1997) maintains and manages the Gardens.

People associated with this site

Designer: Robert Marnock (born 12/03/1800 died 15/11/1889)

Gardener: Andrew Pettigrew (born 1833 died 26/04/1903)

Architect: Benjamin Broomhead Taylor (died 1848)



Glass pavilions.


Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

gate lodge

South Lodge.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

bear pit

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

rose garden

Feature created: 1836 to 2002

Creator: Robert Marnock (born 12/03/1800 died 15/11/1889)

The Rose Garden or Rosarium was originally laid out by the first Curator, Robert Marnock in 1836. Roses were replanted around 1900 when the Sheffield Town Trust took over the Gardens. A new Italianate design, surrounded by a yew hedge was planted in the 1950s after Sheffield City Council took over management.

The present Rose Garden was restored to the intricate, swirling design of Robert Marnock during the Restoration Project funded by HLF, being replanted in 2002. The planting in the new rose garden is intended to tell the story of roses. Older, paler varieties form the centre of the garden and the most modern varieties are planted around the outside. Damask, tea, hybrid perpetual, hybrid tea, floribunda, climbing and Bourbon roses are all featured.

mixed border

Feature created: After 1971

The Award of Garden Merit (AGM) borders lie along the main walkway through the Gardens, and once were filled with plants from the original Royal Horticultural Society listings ? plants which had proved their worth in all conditions and areas of the country. The beds have now been redesigned to use the new lists of AGM plants. Plants that have achieved the RHS Award of Garden Merit are arranged in a series of themed beds, designed and installed in 1971 by Don Williams and Arroll Winning.

Sections of the borders are devoted to different conditions and features which are likely to be found in gardens everywhere, for example shrub borders, island beds densely planted with herbaceous perennials, and plantings suitable for dry shade.

The restoration of this area has been partly sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. Although some of the original trees remain, these beds were replanted as part of the restoration of the gardens between 2003 and 2006.

herbaceous border


Mediterranean climate garden.


Woodland garden.


Four seasons garden.


The main lawns have been restored in the gardenesque style.


Asia garden.

water feature

The rock and water garden, with three linked ponds.