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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Bromfield, William Arnold (1801-1851)


Reference code(s): GB 0068 BRO

Held at: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Title: Bromfield, William Arnold (1801-1851)

Date(s): 1810-1851

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 15 volumes and one map

Name of creator(s): Bromfield | William Arnold | 1801-1851 | botanist


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Arnold Bromfield was born in the New Forest on the 4th July 1801, the only son of the priest, John Arnold Bromfield (c.1770-1801) and the grandson of the physician and Royal Society fellow, Robert Bromfield (d. 1786). Aged 20 he entered Glasgow University studying medicine. In this period anyone wishing to practise medicine had to be licensed by the Society of Apothecaries and for this knowledge of herbs and medicinal use was essential. In order to attain this knowledge Bromfield studied under the then Professor of Botany of Glasgow, Sir William Hooker.

Upon his father's death, Bromfield gained an inheritance that would fund his subsequent botanic research and travel, which lead to him not pursuing a career in medicine. After graduating in 1826 he travelled on the Continent in France, Germany and Italy before returning and setting up home with his sister. The pair finally settled in Ryde in 1836.

A preliminary version of Bromfield's Flora Hantoniensis was published in the New Physiologist between 1848 and 1850, though he never considered his flora for the Isle of Wight, the Flora Vectensis to be ready for publication. He continued to travel widely, visiting Ireland in 1842, the West Indies in 1844 and North America in 1846. His observations on climate and plant life in the USA were in fact used in Hooker's Journal of Botany (1848-1849). Finally in 1850 Bromfield journeyed East, to Egypt and Syria. Letters written to his sister from this period were posthumously published, following Bromfield's death from typhus in Damascus on October 9th 1851.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Dr. William Arnold Bromfield, 1810 - 1851, comprising three series (BRO/1) comprises two journals, with accounts of travel in America and the West Indies (in 1846-1847 and 1844 respectively) and two manuscripts (Mss); one annotated map (published 1810) (BRO/3) and eleven manuscript volumes of Bromfield's botanical work, Flora Vectensis (edited and published posthumously by Thomas Salter Bell and W.J. Hooker in 1856) (BRO/2).


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The collection is divided into three series.
BRO/1 - Journals and Manuscripts.
BRO/2 - Flora Vectensis manuscript.
BRO/3 - Annotated map.

Conditions governing access:

Unrestricted - surrogates to be used where available.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

An appendices volume is contained within the eleven that make up the Flora Vectensis.

Series level catalogue available - please contact the Archive for further information.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:

All records have been retained.


No accruals are expected.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The material was given to Kew as a gift by Miss Bromfield, sister of the Botanist following his death, in 1851. Bromfield's Flora Vectensis was given to its editors Hooker and Bell Salter following her brother's death. The two botanists sought to sympathetically 'fill out' the somewhat fragmentary nature of Bromfield's work, using quotations from other words to create the Flora, a practice Bromfield had also followed. These manuscript volumes were also presented to Kew by Miss Bromfield.


Related material:

A number of volumes were donated to the library, along with those to the archive, or as annotated in one volume 'For the Herbarium library Kew', 'Presented by Miss Bromfield, December 1856' (inscription note from Letters from Egypt and Syria, London, 1856). The volumes given and still held in the library at Kew are as follows-
'A list of plants likely to be found growing wild in the Isle of Wight' W.A. Bromfield (Ryde 1840).
'Notes and occasional observations on some of the rarer British plants growing wild in Hampshire' W.A. Bromfield (London, 1848-1850).
'A catalogue of flowering plants and ferns, growing wild in the Isle of Wight: to serve as an index to the Herbarium of Dr Bromfield, in the museum of the Isle of Wight Philosophical Society and shewing the rarer species' W.A. Bromfield (posthumously published by A.G. More (Ryde 1868).
The Archive also holds a related volume entitled 'Catalogue of Books Presented by Miss Bromfield and by G. Bentham'. The volume contains information about the volumes presented by Miss Bromfield to RBG Kew in 1853 following her brother's death two years earlier.

Following his death Bromfield's sister gave part of his herbarium collection to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (where it was absorbed into the existing collection) and the rest to the Isle of Wight Philosophical and Historical Society in Ryde. Following the dissolving of the society by 1908 the collection was housed in a number of different places before it was finally collected by Dr Chris Palmer, Senior Keeper of Natural Sciences at the Hampshire Museums Services. The herbarium was then moved to Winchester where it was quarantined and conserved and now remains.


Archivist's note: Entry transcribed by Sarah Drewery, March 2011. Relevant biographical material gathered from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on-line site at and the Hampshire County Council website at

Rules or conventions: General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: March 2011


Personal names
Bromfield | William Arnold | 1801-1851 | botanist

Corporate names