Herbert, William (known as Dean Herbert)

In his Presidential Address to Royal Institute of Cornwall, November 1998 F J Williams when writing about the Cornish hybridiser J C Williams asserts that “The original amateur hybridiser seems to have been William Herbert (1778-1847) who was the first in a long line of amateurs. Until his time the main sources of new plant varieties had been nurserymen and florists.”

Similarly Violet Niles Walker in the American Horticultural Society’s Daffodil Yearbook 1936 wrote “(William Herbert)…began to make crosses between the Trumpet, Incomparabilis and Poeticus sections then in existence. The success of his experiments was probably far beyond even his expectations, for they established conclusively and immediately his revolutionary theories ; and moreover they opened up the hitherto unsuspected field of vast possibilities to the hybridist, which has resulted in the superlatively beautiful and diversified forms of modern times.

The HONOURABLE WILLIAM HERBERT, third son of Henry, first Earl of Carnarvon, descended from the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, was born January, 1778, educated at Eton, afterwards of Exeter College, Oxford.

After two periods as a Member of Parliament he was ordained as a minister of the church and in 1814 he was presented to the Rectory of Spofforth, near Wetherby, in the county of York, by his relative Colonel Wyndham, a living of £1,600 a year, which he held up to his death.

All Saints’ Church at Spofforth dates from various times:  the doorway in the south porch from Norman times, other parts from the late thirteenth century and the tower from the mid-fifteenth.

William Herbert took up residence in the Rectory (now the Old Rectory) pictured below, and soon developed an interest in botany. 

Having crossed N. pseudonarcissus (which grew in North Yorkshire) with N. poeticus to produce
N. incomparabilis he then demonstrated its own fertility.

N. incomparabilis was crossed with N. poeticus to produce N. ‘Spofforthiae’ pictured below from Herbert’s Botanical Register 1843

None of Herbert’s raisings still exist, though Engleheart ( a kinsman of Herbert) asked many years later if there were any still growing at the Old Rectory.

Herbert left Spofforth in 1840 to become Dean of Manchester and here he met and mentored Edward Leeds who gave his name to the section Leedsii in the old daffodil classification. Leeds raised hundreds of new seedlings, one of which he named ‘Dean Herbert’ .

Spofforth is just five miles away from Yorkshire Showground where the Northern Group administer the Daffodil Show at Harrogate Spring Show.

3 thoughts on “Herbert, William (known as Dean Herbert)”

  1. James,

    This was a fun “teaser” as well as educational. As a bit of a history buff, I enjoyed reading about Dean Herbert. Your photos of the home and gardens are truly lovely and I find these older plates very charming.

    Thank you for organizing and writing this wonderful post!


  2. I concur with Nancy. A great piece of history that has sparked my interest to learn more about the origins and breeding of our modern daffodils.


  3. Well John. There is a challenge!. James has raised the bar. Irresepective of what medal the display achieves i feel that if this wealth of information could be brought together you would deliver something very special to the Daffodil World. And to the North in particular.

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