Panorama of White Rock, Hastings, the preferred site for a Hastings Botanic Garden
Courtesy: South East Photography
We are looking to raise £5,000 to commission the initial architectural concept designs for our proposed landmark indoor botanic garden in Hastings, honouring local historic figure, artist and eco-visionary Marianne North (1830-1890) - as supported by the Making it Happen scheme and Hastings Voluntary Action. The renowned architects Mizzi Studio have offered to work at cost as a mark of their commitment.
Facebook: Marianne North Centre
Considerable regeneration and wellbeing benefits from a landmark botanic garden
The economy of Hastings remains highly seasonal. It needs to develop year-round, quality attractions to attract long-stay, higher-spending visitors.
Despite its glorious and uplifting location overlooking Hastings Pier and the English Channel, White Rock suffers from poor access. It is underused, underappreciated and desolate (especially during the Winter).
A landmark botanical garden would open up White Rock, providing a year-round family attraction for the local community as well as tourists, reinforcing Hastings’ eco-tourism credentials and creating multiple collaborative links with local organisations such as East Sussex College.
Having consulted other botanical gardens in the UK, events (weddings etc) and a strong catering offering are vital to establishing a financially viable attraction - as is the establishment of a reserve to cover unforeseen events. According to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, the ideal ratio between public and own generated funding is 25:75.
Understandably, currently the Council's main priorities are the cost of living crisis and homelessness. However, given the long-term nature of our project, it is important to start considering the options now.
Our project brings together:
Marianne North's birth bicentenary in 2030
Marianne North was one of the most famous female artists of the 19th century. Before colour photography and mass tourism, she travelled the world painting exotic plants and introduced never-before-seen flora to the Victorian public (including the giant pitcher plant featured on our logo) – to great acclaim. At the same time, she was a pioneer, warning of the dangers of habitat loss and extinction. Born in 1830, Marianne North merits a permanent memorial in her birthplace Hastings: her art and message have even greater relevance today.
Proposals for a Winter Garden in Hastings since 1870’s
Newspaper articles discussing a Winter Garden date back to the 1870’s. Indeed, the Southern edge of White Rock opposite the Pier was sold to Hastings Borough Corporation in 1903 on the condition that “it shall be used solely as a site for Municipal Buildings Winter Garden and Recreation Grounds”. A tropical greenhouse and other facilities recur in recent consultations and master plans which envisage re-purposing the areas to the West and East of Falaise Road.
Commission architects Mizzi Studio to create concept design
With a portfolio that includes the distinctive kiosks in the Royal Parks of London and the playful and vibrant Family Kitchen at Kew Gardens (which opened last December), Mizzi Studio is the perfect design practice to put together a concept design for Hastings Botanic Garden. Jonathan Mizzi and his colleagues visited Hastings in February 2022, meeting with senior members of the Council: they were so impressed by the potential of White Rock to create a landmark community asset that they have offered to produce the concept design at cost.
Local Community Support
Since mooting this idea in Hastings Online Times in July 2021 (see https://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hastings-life/green-times/a-covered-botanic-garden-for-hastings), the Instagram page for Hastings Botanic Garden has grown to over 700 followers.
The project has received initial funding from Making It Happen, based out of Hastings Voluntary Action in Castle Ward, Hastings, which includes the White Rock area.
A class of computer design students at the Hastings Campus of East Sussex College have worked on visualising a botanic garden here: their work was displayed at an exhibition on June 5th 2022 in Alexandra Park, as part of the Jubilee Picnic, which was visited by hundreds of local residents.
Local resident Alexander Wilberforce has led the project, with input from experts, both in Hastings and further afield. He has consulted Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the world body for botanic gardens, as well as sought the advice of the following botanical gardens in the UK - Kew, Chelsea, Oxford, Wales, and Edinburgh - especially regarding financial viability (he still works as a financial analyst). Thus, the project's logo alludes to various income sources such as events and a cafe - as well as the importance of making the facility somewhere that children would like to revisit.
He is in the process of forming a charitable structure to progress the project beyond the concept stage.
New priorities post-COVID
In a world grappling with climate change, habitat loss and extinction, Marianne North continues to speak to us today.
The Covid pandemic forced us all to reconsider the way we live: we need to develop a world in harmony with Nature. Now, as life returns to normal, Hastings has an opportunity to become a trailblazer, with the community at the core.
The offer by Mizzi Studio is generous (they are working at cost) - and gives the chance to consider a different, eco-friendly approach to revitalising White Rock.
Become a friend of this exciting new community!
Feedback and ideas are welcome at: [email protected]
For more background on why Marianne North is so special, please see:
Or watch “The Remarkable Miss North” at
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