History of the Society
The idea of a Botanic Garden was first mooted in 1968 by the late Harold Lanfear, Head of Horticulture at the Isle of Wight Technical College, and Mona Zink. They had valuable contacts at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, and with the well-known plantsman Sir Harold Hillier and Lady Price from Wakehurst Place. Harold and Mona started the Isle of Wight Botanic Garden Society, acting as Chairman and Secretary. After much advice and consultation with official representatives on the Island it was agreed with Ventnor Urban District Council that the best site would be the grounds of the derelict Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest.
Ventnor Botanic Garden was officially opened in 1972, supported for the next 37 years by the Isle of Wight Botanic Garden Society, whose object under its Constitution was to encourage the maintenance and development of botanic gardens on the Isle of Wight.
In 1986 Simon Goodenough was appointed the new Curator and, with Harold Lanfear and others, the Ventnor Botanic Garden Friendsʼ Society was formed.
We gained Charitable Status in 2000. This enables the Society to benefit from Gift Aid, thus raising more funds which go directly to the Garden for projects. The late, dearly-loved, Bob Millson (pictured left) drew up a suitable Constitution. He also edited an enlarged news magazine and watched the Friends grow to over 1,000 members during that year.
In 2005 we appointed our first President, Brian Kidd, who was widely known as a resident panellist on Radio Solentʼs ‘Topsoilʼ. Brian has vast experience and knowledge and was Head of Portsmouth Cityʼs Parks and Gardens Department for many years and a Lecturer at Highbury College until his retirement. Now he is in constant demand for talks and judging competitions and is busy gardening at home and in his two allotments.
In 2008 the Society celebrated 21 years with an exhibition and a number of events. The largest was held in September when Alan Titchmarsh was our Principal Guest.
Pictures: Bob Millson; Brian Kidd cutting the 21st anniversary cake; Simon Goodenough, Curator 1986-2011