Snowdrop King grave to be restored for 2022 Shepton Snowdrops Festival
Partners in life and work, stone carver and sculptor, Sam Lee, and wood carver, Amelia Crowley-Roth, are recreating the decorative obelisk that once stood on the grave of prominent Victorian horticulturalist James Allen, known since the C19th as The Snowdrop King.
The carved stone obelisk that was such a prominent memorial to the life of pioneering snowdrop breeder James Allen had long since collapsed and fallen into a sorry state of disrepair until Shepton Snowdrops, set up to celebrate the legacy of James Allen, raised funds to recreate it.
Born in 1830, James Allen and his brothers worked as successful corn and cheese merchants from their mill in Shepton Mallet, but it was amateur horticulturalist James' passion and expertise in breeding new varieties of snowdrops from wild ones that earned a place for both him and the town in gardening history. Two of his best cultivars - Magnet and Merlin - are still going strong today, and it is these delicate, hope-filled flowers that Amelia and Sam want to capture and bring to life in stone, in honour of the Snowdrop King’s memory.
Amelia, born and raised in Shepton Mallet, and partner, Sam, are exceptionally talented and respected in their fields. It is a fitting tribute to James Allen that the obelisk on his family grave should be created by two highly skilled craftspeople who have chosen to live and work close to Allen’s home town in Somerset.
Dominic Weston, a director of the Shepton Snowdrops Community Interest Company, said:
“Thanks to the remarkable James Allen, Shepton Mallet holds a very special place in horticultural history. The restoration of his grave and the creation of a new obelisk by two such talented crafts people are a fitting remembrance of a man still known a hundred years after his death as the Snowdrop King.”
Together, Amelia and Sam will create a new design for the 3.1 metre obelisk using flowers bred by Allen in his home town – snowdrop Galanthus ‘Magnet’ & ‘Merlin’, Anemone nemorosa ‘Allenii’ and Scilla x allenii. They will draw clues and inspiration from this 1906 obituary:
‘The grave, facing the door of the first Chapel, was lined with moss, and daffodils and hellebores in great variety, including some rare specimens. The interment took place in a heavy snowstorm … A large number of wreaths were placed on the coffin and bier, several of them of the spring flowers in great variety to which he had devoted so much attention.’
The new obelisk will be a focal point of the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival
The Festival is proud to have Dan Pearson, an RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal winner as Patron.
"I am delighted to be a patron of Shepton Snowdrop Festival. I have been developing my own collection of snowdrops in the last ten years or so with gifts originally given to me by Mary Keen which spurred the real interest. I now find myself with seventy or so varieties, but even so I do consider myself still to be an amateur galanthophile!"
"Without fail, the early emergence of snowdrops will have me on my hands and knees, rummaging for their new life. Although I like the winter and do not want to rush it, the galanthus are important for their precociousness which, like a flare going off, announces with pristine surety that there is now a tilt towards growth."
One of Dan Pearson’s favourites, Galanthus ‘Magnet’, with its dancing flowers on extra long pedicels, is one of just two varieties remaining from James Allen’s original collection of more than a hundred varieties. Sadly a fungal infection of Botrytis followed by an attack of narcissus fly put a serious blight on his snowdrop collection and destroyed all but two varieties, Galanthus ‘Magnet’ and ‘Galanthus Merlin’.
In an article for The Garden in January 1886 James Allen described putting together his collection: “For the past seven or eight years I have paid special attention to Snowdrops, and by purchasing, exchanging, and the kindness of generous amateurs, I think I possess every variety now in cultivation .I am constantly purchasing from fresh sources, and then making seedlings when in bloom.”
James Allen is widely recognised as one of the greatest galanthophiles but he too experienced the successes and disappointments that many fellow plant enthusiasts will recognise today when he said: “In raising seedlings of snowdrops one meets with many disappointments.” At the same time, like many gardeners, he had intense pleasure from watching his seedlings grow. He said “when you are once in the swim” time passes from one season to another.
Amanda Hirst, one of the Shepton Snowdrops directors and organisers of the Festival said:
“We are thrilled to have Dan Pearson as our patron. There are some wonderful synergies between his description of his own snowdrop journey and that of James Allen, the inspiration behind our Snowdrop Festival. He too was an amateur galanthophile and it's fascinating that each should have embarked as amateurs on a love affair with snowdrops with such huge enthusiasm and great curiosity.”
Dan Pearson, our Patron
Shepton Snowdrops and the Festival is organised by the
not for profit community organisation,
Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project CIC.
Registered in England. Company No 12059138.
Registered Office, Allways, West Shepton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 5UH.
Site Background snowdrop photograph
James Allen's Galanthus Magnet
Logo snowdrop photograph
James Allen's Galanthus Merlin