Nelly Roberts (1872-1959) lived and painted all her life in a house on Loughborough Road, SW9. A largely self-taught artist, she was the first and longest serving orchid artist for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), painting and documenting thousands of orchid species and hybrids for the RHS and others. Yet, her work has gone largely unrecognised.
Placing a heritage plaque on Nelly's former home is part of a campaign to commemorate her life and work and celebrate the heritage of this pioneering woman and former resident of Loughborough Road, Brixton.
We've hit the initial £650 target to cover the cost of producing and mounting the plaque. Incredible to have done this so quickly. All further donations will go towards the events in the lead up to and on the day of unveiling plaque. We are planning an exhibition of some of Nelly's paintings near to her house on Loughborough Road and sharing her history and legacy through talks and illustration workshops.
Who is behind the campaign?
The Loughborough Road Histories project explores and shares the stories of the people and events on and around this south London street. Nelly was one of the people we found out about as we launched our project in 2018.
Why is commemorating Nelly Roberts with a heritage plaque so important?
Nelly is an unsung hero of our neighbourhood. She deserves recognition for her superb artworks and the contribution she has made to historical documentation of orchid cultivation. Her paintings are still used today by the RHS Orchid Committee to compare submissions to previous awards given to the same orchid species or hybrid. 4,500 of her paintings are held at the RHS Lindley Library. Many more are in museums, heritage and private collections around the world.
In September 2019 the Loughborough Road Histories project put on the first retrospective of Nelly's life and work at the San Mei Gallery, almost opposite where she once lived. Many people were touched by her story and the lack of recognition she has received. She was given just 25 guineas on her retirement after 56 years painting for the RHS and is buried in an unmarked grave in Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting.
On 2 April 2022 (2 years later than planned) we held a commemoration and placed a small plaque on Nelly's unmarked grave in Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting.
Being able to place a plaque on the building where Nelly lived all her life and completed all her orchid paintings will be further recognition of the achievements of a woman who dedicated her life to painting and documenting orchids.
The photo of Nelly painting, above, is in the upstairs room of what is now 92 Loughborough Road (at the time Nelly lived there the house was number 72, the street was renumbered in 1961).
Thank you in advance for your interest and support!
You can read more about the Nelly's life and work here.
This fundraising campaign is being run in association with the Brixton Society.