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Mary Delany (also known as Mary Pendarves, Mary Grenville, Mary Pendarves, Mary Grenville)

Mary Delany was born in Wiltshire in 1700. She was well-connected and well-educated, and was groomed for a place at court from an early age. However, her family's fortunes were reversed by the death of Queen Anne in 1714. In 1717 she went to join the Lansdowne family at Longleat, Lord Lansdowne being her paternal uncle. There she met Alexander Pendarves, a wealthy man 40 years her senior. They were married the next year, but the alliance was unhappy for both parties and Mary was kept in almost total isolation.

Pendarves died in 1725 and Mary came to London. She was popular in society despite her lack of fortune, and she made many friends. In 1731 Mary travelled to Ireland where she met Patrick Delany, a cleric, who she married many years later in 1743. The couple lived in Ireland until the death of Patrick Delany in 1768.

Mary returned to London, spending most summers at Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire with her friend the Duchess of Portland. The friends improved the gardens, and in 1774 Mary began to make the ‘paper mosaics' which were to become her best achievement. She used coloured tissue to cut all the parts of a plant to create a perfect specimen.

George III and Queen Charlotte were regular visitors to Bulstrode, and after the death of the Duchess of Portland in 1785 the king gave Mary a house at Windsor and a pension. She died at Windsor Castle in 1788.

Several plants were donated to Mary by society figures of the day. She used these plants as models for her collages. The following is a list of the donors and the sites from which the plants were sourced:

Astley, Mrs: Barnes

Dartmouth, Lord: Black Heath

[Portland, Dwr. Duchess of]: Bulstrode

Yalden, Mr: Bulstrode

[Miller, Philip]: Chelsea Physic Garden

John Boyd Bt, Sir: Dansen

Mr & Mrs Keally: Delville, Dublin

Booth Grey, Mr: Dr. Fothergill's [garden] Upton, Essex; [Dunham Massey or Worksop?]; Ealing

Lee, Mr James: [Vineyard Nursery] Hammersmith

Lee, Mr James: Hammersmith

Pitcairn, Dr William: Islington

[Aiton, W.]: Kew

Farwell, Mr: Kew

Willoughby, Lord: Lord Willoughby's Marsh Garden

Bute, Lord: Luton [Hoo]; Luton Park

Lawrence, The Revd. Mr: Mount Vesuvias

Bateman, Mr: Old Windsor

Conway, General: Park Place, [originally] from Jersey

Jennings, Miss: Shiplack

Northumberland, Duke of: Sion [House]

Fothergill, Dr: Upton, Essex; Weymouth

Portland, Dowager Duchess of: Whitehall; Wimbledon

Other plant donors from unspecified locations:

Dashwood, Mrs

Queen Charlotte

Weddel Mrs

Mansfield, Lord

Rockingham, Lord

Howard, Sir George

Lawrence, The Revd. Mr

Harcourt, Lord

Pultney, Mrs [?wife of Richard Pulteney of Dorset]

Weymouth, Lady

Cullum: The Rev: Sir John

Lightfoot, Mr [John]

Jennings, Miss


Schnorrenberg, Barbara Brandon, 'Delany, Mary (1700-1788) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) [accessed 21 June 2009]

Laird, Mark and Weisberg-Roberts, Alicia Mrs. Delany and Her Circle (Yale University Press, 2009)

Associated Places