previous exhibitions at 'The Alex'

'Pressed or Waxed?': botanical specimens prepared by the Rev Crispin Wilberforce


The Reverend Crispin Wilberforce, BDiv (Oxon) (1853–1917) was a grandson of William Wilberforce; his father and both uncles were also clergymen. Crispin Wilberforce was vicar of St Torpid's church from 1914–17, after serving as curate for over forty years. The current Priest-in-Charge at St Torpid's, Rev Agnes Day, recounts that he was fondly remembered as a man whose demeanour was as gentle as his handshake.

During his lifetime Crispin Wilberforce amassed an unequalled collection of pressed botanical specimens. More unusual specimens were painstakingly modelled in wax. After his death this collection was bequeathed to the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Sadly many of Wilberforce's pressed flowers decayed during decades of storage, despite extensive treatment with insecticides containing lead, mercury and arsenic. Preparing the display for The Alix required health and safety procedures rarely, if ever, encountered in arts galleries. One of the treatments had intensified the colours of some parts of the plants, although this problem is unique to the conservation of the Wilberforce collection and the chemical process involved has not been identified.

The exhibition selected the more artistically-inspiring herbarium sheets, along with the least-damaged wax flower models.




pressed and wax flowers from the Rev Crispin Wilberforce collection


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While you are at The Alex don't forget to visit the Ace Caff, with a collection of vintage playing cards displayed under the glasstop tables.

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Text and previously unpublished images copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2019