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Collection FKW - Ward, Francis ‘Frank’ Kingdon

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Ward, Francis ‘Frank’ Kingdon


  • 1885 - 1958 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

Comprehensive collection; ephemera, 5 boxes of correspondence, notes & photographs

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Name of creator

Ward, Frank Kingdon (1885-1958)

Biographical history

Born Manchester 1885, died London 1958
Frank Kingdon-Ward took part one of the natural sciences tripos at Cambridge but was forced to leave university after 2 years when the death of his father left the family impoverished. After teaching in Shanghai, in 1909 he joined an American zoological expedition up the Yangtze to the borders of Tibet which gave him a lifelong passion for exploration. Through a family contact he became a professional plant collector for AK Bulley of Bee’s Nursery (replacing George Forrest), setting off to south west China for a year long expedition in 1911. A second commission saw him returning to the Himalayas in 1913-14 before moving west into Burma, Assam and Tibet. After serving in the army in the First World War he returned to collecting with a successful fifth expedition in the upper section of the Brahmaputra in 1924-25 where he collected 97 different rhododendrons as well as the elusive blue poppy Meconopsis betonicifolia which became one of the most prized garden plants. As a botanist Kingdon-Ward had an excellent knowledge of several plant groups including primulas, lilies and gentians as well as rhododendrons and poppies and also published on plant geography. A plantsman and horticultural ‘connoisseur’ with a flair for collecting good flower forms, he was a keen observer of scenery and an excellent photographer. His main reputation however was as an explorer and one of the last great plant collectors (he went on 25 expeditions in total, latterly with his second wife) with the temperament and resilience to work, usually alone, in challenging and largely uncharted country.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Gardeners Chronicle 1958; obituary folder; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists).

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Scope and content

•Box containing filed notes and lists
•Box containing photographs from China and Tibet (1911)
•Box of correspondence and lists (1919-1925)
•Box of correspondence (1926-1930)
•Box of correspondence, list and expedition information (1930-1956)

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