Artefacts and records of Clarence Bicknell’s work can principally be seen in 5 museums in Italy, France and the UK…
1. Museo Bicknell, Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, Bordighera, Italy
The museum was founded by Clarence Bicknell himself, in Bordighera in 1888 where he lived. The British settlers already had a library in the 1870s and Clarence was keen to have space to display both those books, his own books and his growing collection of plants and drawings. He was one of the prime movers in raising the necessary finance and completing the building. The neo-medieval design was most likely by an English architect, Clarence Tait. The building has a rectangular plan and is preceded by a porch. Inside there is a raised choir that makes it look like a church, but which was, an is, used as a stage or pdium for presentation of all kinds. The interior, which is used as a reading room and auditorium, was one of the principal meeting places for the British colony of Bordighera.
The Museo Bicknell is still a working library, home to Clarence Bicknell’s library (including many botanical drawings), over 85,000 books (classified according to a scheme adopted by the French CNRS), 3,000 magazines on the local area’s history, art and archaeology, 14,000 reproductions of rock engravings by Clarence and his collection of butterflies, one of the best in Europe. There are also paintings by Pompeo Bordighera Mariani (1857-1927), and ancient maps and manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 20th century
His work was continued by his nephew Edward Berry, British Vice-Consul who with his wife Margaret wrote an interesting guide of art history in the area: the western gate of Italy. They were supported actively by Prof. Nino Lamboglia, whose Historical & Archaeological Society founded in 1932 was generously supported by Margaret Berry. The Museo Bicknell was later integrated into the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri along with their other museum in Genoa.
The fig tree (Ficus macrophylla or magnolioïde) planted by Clarence at the gate is a more common sight in Australia and New Guinea where they are called banyan trees. It has done so well in the climate of the Italian Riviera that it is now 8.6 metres in circumference, about 21 metres high and has proliferated wildly, destroying walls, the roadway and the gate itself. The wisteria on the front of the museum has done just as well but has been trimmed enough over time to be ornate and decorative.
The staff of the museum, led by Prof. Daniela Gandolfi, are expert and passionate about Clarence and act as a centre for research, conferences and further publications on the subjects dear to Clarence’s heart.
2. Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, Genoa, Italy
The Genoa section of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri was created by Prof. Nino Lamboglia in 1946. It houses many of Clarence Bicknell’s reproductions of the rock engravings of the Merveilles and Fontanalbe. The library is managed solely by volunteers and includes some 7,000 volumes including monographs, periodicals and miscellaneous, divided into 10 sections: I-Prehistory, Archaeology, II and III-Linguistic and place names, IV-Genoa and Liguria, Piedmont and Savoy- V and VI-Provence and Languedoc; VII-History; VIII-History; IX philology and literature, X-Misc.
3. Musée de Cuneo, Italy
Cuneo’s museum matches Tende’s Musée des Merveilles in that it aims to make its exhibitions accessible to a wider public. At the time of writing we are seeking details of the Clarence Bicknell items available here and would be grateful for input.
Musée de Cuneo, Piazza Tancredi Duccio Galimberti, 6, 12100 Cuneo Province of Cuneo, Italy
Phone:+39 0171 693344 www.comune.cuneo.gov.it/cultura/museo.html
4. Musée des Merveilles, Tende, France
The new museum in Tende is a way for tourists to get a feel for the Vallée des Merveilles without having to take a day or two’s walk in the high mountains. This works as a means of safe-guarding those engravings still visible up in the valleys because tourist traffic had been tending to erode the engravings and had exposed them in certain cases to vandalism. Some original engravings have been moved to the museum and many others can be seen as casts. The museum documents stone age and other historic artefacts, mostly from the Mercantour National Park. The permanent exhibition shows life-size men and animals to recreate life in the Mercantour mountains 2 to 3,000 years ago.
The Musée des Merveilles was constructed in 1996 at the instigation of the regional authority, Conseil Général Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur based in Nice and is housed in a custom-built and modernistic building in the centre of Tende (where Clarence was buried). The staff of the museum are well-informed and expert about the Vallée des Merveilles and act as a centre for research and further publications.
Musée des Merveilles, Avenue du 15 Septembre 1947, Tende, France 06430
5. Giardini Botanici Hanbury. La Mortola, Italy
Giardini Botanici Hanbury, also known as the Hanbury Gardens or the Villa Hanbury, are major botanical gardens covering 18 hectares, operated by the University of Genoa. Many of Clarence’s 3,349 flower paintings are preserved in the Hanbury Institute or at the University of Genoa. We have enquired about the Clarence material and will publish more information here.
In 1867, the young Thomas Hanbury, who lived in the nearby Cote d'Azur, struck by the beauty of the location and its peculiar climate, decided to buy it and turn the farmland into a place for botanical experimentation and the acclimatising of extra-European exotic plants. With the help of his brother Daniel, a scholar of medicinal plants, major German and English botanists and highly-skilled gardeners - some of whom lived in La Mortola, whilst others came from northern Europe - he carried on working on his project and created the "Hanbury Botanical Gardens", which soon became a model for the villa-garden system of western Liguria as well as being an outstanding example for their scientific value (in particular, special importance should be attached to the Hanbury Library and the herbarium) and their beauty.
Giardini Botanici Hanbury, La Mortola, Corso Montecarlo, 43, 18039 Ventimiglia (IM) – Italia. telephone +39 0184 22661 / fax +39 0184 226632. www.giardinihanbury.com
6. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England
Peter Bicknell, Clarence great grand nephew and Marcus’s uncle, gave to the Fitzwilliam in the 1980 those parts of the family collection of Clarence’s books and art which he considered particularly artistic or museum-worthy. To our dismay, the Fitzwilliam has neither displayed them nor photographed them for researchers, nor do they have any plans to do so as at April 2013. A list of the material, 416 items, is available on their web site. Christopher Chippindale, Susie and Marcus Bicknell were at the museum in May 2013 to examine the collection, correlate the catalogue with the items (all present and correct!) and arrange for photos of the most important items to be taken.
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington St Cambridge, CB2 1RB
01223 332900. http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/
Other museums and institutions
Numerous organisations have an interest in Clarence Bicknell’s output. Several have, in the past, hosted events or seminars related to Clarence Bicknell; they and others would be qualified to do so in the future. We provide a list here. If you know the institution in question, or can add to the information here, please email
- Museo Bicknell, Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, Bordighera
- Ufficio Attività Culturali Bordighera
- Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, Genova
- Musée de Cuneo
- Musée des Merveilles, Tende
- Maison de la Patrimoine, La Brigue
- Association Patrimoine Traditions Brigasque
- AMONT – Association Montagne et Patrimoine, Centre des Etudes Vésubiennes
- Musée de Saorges
- Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes
- University of Nice
- Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris
- L’Association Nationale Espéranto France
- French Héritage
- Vieilles Maisons Françaises
- Association Montagne et Patrimoine, Centre des Etudes Vésubiennes (AMONT)
- Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University
- Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
- Federazione Esperantista Italiana
- Esperanto Association of Britain
- London Esperanto Club
- Artworkers Guild of London
- Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew
- Royal Botanical Gardens at Edinburgh;
- Royal Horticultural Society, London
It is also hoped that each of these organisations, and others, will be able to contribute skills and resources to the development of a programme leading up to the Centenary celebrations in 2018.