Marianne North Centre Hastings - STILL OPEN

by Alexander Wilberforce in Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom

Marianne North Centre Hastings - STILL OPEN

Total raised £1,766

raised so far



£2,500 for the development and design of a Marianne North visitor centre/botanic garden in Hastings, the eco-visionary artist's birthplace

by Alexander Wilberforce in Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 31st July 2022 we'd raised £870 with 24 supporters in 56 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.


Panorama of White Rock and Bohemia, Hastings, possible site for a Hastings Botanic Garden honouring local artist and eco-visionary Marianne North                                                            

Courtesy: South East Photography


We are looking for an initial £2,500 (matched by an equivalent amount promised by East Sussex County Council, making £5,000), which represents just under half the cost of the initial architectural concept designs (£12,000, including VAT) for a landmark botanic garden in Hastings, honouring local artist and eco-visionary Marianne North (1830-1890). The renowned architects Mizzi Studio ( have offered to work at cost as a mark of their commitment and passion for the project: their latest project is a Carbon Garden for RBG Kew, the centrepiece of Kew's "Manifesto for Change".

Local land-based course provider Plumpton College have expressed their desire to become an education partner; a director of Kew Gardens, home to the Marianne North Gallery, has described the project as a"major asset for Hastings".

Instagram: Hastings.Botanic.Garden
Facebook: Marianne North Centre

Considerable regeneration and wellbeing benefits from a landmark botanic garden

The economy of Hastings is highly seasonal. It needs to develop year-round, quality attractions to attract long-stay, higher-spending visitors such as the future guests at the new town centre Premier Inn (whose construction due to start in due course). 

Thanks to the combination of the Town Deal (£24m) and two other regeneration schemes worth £40m, the town now has a once in a hundred years opportunity to improve its housing, health and cultural facilities.

Despite its glorious and uplifting location overlooking Hastings Pier and the English Channel, White Rock is underused, under-appreciated and desolate (especially during the Winter). Together with Bohemia, access is poor.

A landmark Marianne North visitor centre cum botanical garden would open up the area, providing a year-round educational facility - and family attraction for the local community as well as tourists, reinforcing Hastings’ eco-tourism credentials. It would create multiple collaborative links with local organisations such as East Sussex College, Plumpton College and local charities.

Other possible sites include Station Approach, which is sorely in need of a facelift, and Bohemia, where a new health centre is planned.

Global Reach

Marianne North's work is loved by people all over the world, as witnessed by an article in January 2023 by the celebrated US essayist Maria Popova (1.2m online readers): When we informed her of our plans, she immediately responded: "wonderful project".

Domestically, Marianne North was celebrated in the Women in Horticulture section of the RHS Chelsea Show in May 2023 and profiled by Country Life in the Autumn.

Financial Viability is Key

Having consulted other botanical gardens in the UK, events (weddings etc) and a strong retail 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 (a Millennium Project which opened 20 years ago), the ideal ratio between public and own generated funding is 1:3.   

Understandably, Hastings Council's current priorities are the cost of living and housing crises. 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 to great acclaim (including the giant pitcher plant featured on our logo). 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.

Recently, we have discovered that there was an exhibition in 1878 of her works  (then numbering 500) at Hastings & St Leonards School of Art, in today’s public library. Curiously, this is not mentioned in any of the standard books about Marianne North These pictures had been exhibited at the forerunner of the V&A, the South Kensington Museum, while she was in India.

Proposals for a Winter Garden in Hastings since 1870’s

Newspaper articles discussing a Winter Garden in Hastings 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”. Meanwhile, a design for a Winter Garden opposite Warrior Square appeared in a special supplement of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer dated May 1904. 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.

Renowned architects Mizzi Studio working on concept at cost

With a portfolio that includes the distinctive kiosks in the Royal Parks of London and two projects at Kew - the playful and vibrant Family Kitchen and the landmark Carbon Garden -  Mizzi Studio is the perfect design practice to put together a concept design for a Marianne North Centre here. Jonathan Mizzi and his colleagues visited Hastings in February 2022, meeting with senior members of the Council such as Paul Barnett, Julia Hilton and local councillors Judy Rogers and Claire Carr. They also hosted a return visit to Kew in mid-October. They are so impressed by the potential for creating a landmark community asset that they have offered to produce the concept design at cost. We are hoping to raise an initial £2,500.

Local Community Support

Since mooting this idea in Hastings Online Times in July 2021 (see, the Instagram page for Hastings Botanic Garden has grown to 1,200  followers - with 900 on Facebook.

The project has received initial funding from Making It Happen (administered by Hastings Voluntary Action) because it is based in Castle Ward, Hastings, which includes the White Rock area and is also the home to the founder, Alexander Wilberforce.

Two years ago (2021-2022), a class of computer design students at the Hastings Campus of East Sussex College worked on visualising a botanic garden here as a work experience project: 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.

Last Summer, our inaugural Hastings Garden Festival took place on Father's Day ( attracting 750 advance bookings and nearly £1000 worth of raffle prizes from local businesses.

Most recently, our second Marianne North Celebration - sponsored by Eden Project Communities - again filled the Seafront Room at the White Rock Hotel.


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 or met 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 pitcher plant 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.

On the advice of HVA, we have formed a (non-profit) company limited by guarantee called Marianne North Centre Hastings Ltd to progress the project beyond the concept stage, with a total of five local directors.

Plumpton College have recently added their support to the project.

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, through initiatives such as the Town Deal-funded Garden Town Hastings scheme.

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 or other prominent sites in Hastings.

Become a friend of this exciting new community!1654086138_mizzi_hbg_poster.jpg

Feedback and ideas are welcome at: [email protected]

For more background on why Marianne North is so special, please see:

Or watch excerpts of “The Remarkable Miss North” at

Latest media coverage:

For Mizzi Studio's latest project, the forthcoming Carbon Garden at Kew:

Thank you very much.




This project offered rewards

£20 or more

£20 Reward

Invitation to annual Marianne North birthday celebration and project update in late October

£50 or more

£50 Reward

Hastings Botanic Garden tote bag & book "Marianne North: A Very Intrepid Painter"

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