Skip to Content

Dorothea Hugessen : Lady Banks

 Dorothea Hugessen, 1758- 1828 - was the eldest daughter of wealthy land owner in Kent, one William Weston Hugessen. She is better known as the wife of the director of Kew, plant explorer and adventurer, Sir Joseph Banks

An Heiress

She was a considerable heiress in her own right and when combined with the East Anglian estates of Joseph Banks, were a very wealthy couple. They were married in the spring of 1779 when she was 20 and he was 36. He was knighted two years later in 1781.
Although Banks was a known womaniser with some well recorded affairs, including ones in the pacific, the marriage was serene and successful, surviving the jibes of his sexual affairs while on his voyages with Cook.

She has been described in various literature as being no great beauty but  generally agreeable, placid, with an accommodating manner.
Biographers of Banks are dismissive of her, describing her as comely and modest, or tubby, or gentle and plain with soft oval features, large gentle eyes and silky curling hair.
She was a noted expert on antique china which she collected.

Devoted to Banks

She was undoubtedly devoted to Banks as was his sister the formidable, unmarried Sophia.
Banks purchased a house in Soho Square where they lived as a threesome using the house as his headquarters which housed an enormous herbarium and library
The selfless devotion of the two women in his household contributed to his success as they both worked tirelessly in his interest. “My ladies, who are a little mad.” is what he said of them.
She was undoubtedly devoted to Banks and was more pliable than Sophia and the household was contented and happy.

Despite her gentleness, she could enjoy herself and keep up with rural partying. As Banks recounts in a letter: “Thank God Dorothea escaped pretty well as only one pot of porter was thrown over her gown, tho’ she danced between more pots of porter and bowls of negus than many couples in the country dance.”

Sophia died 1818, which was a tremendous blow as she was rarely apart from her brother. Banks died two years later 1820, and Dorothea died in 1828.  They had no children.

The Rose – R. Banksiae var banksiae Help google and blind readers

Syn Lady Banks Rose: cultivar, Banksia Alba Plena
1807

There are three women who have had an entire family of roses named after them, Helen Wilson, Lady Portland and Lady Banks.

This rose was first recorded as being found in China in 1807 when it was imported by William Kerr who had been sent to China by the Royal Society. He found a double white form of the rose in a Canton garden.
This variety was followed by a discovery by J.D.Parks (Parks Yellow Tea scented China) of a double yellow flowering shrub, R. banksiae Lutea in 1825. A third variety, a single yellow, followed.
The botanist, Robert Brown, named the white double in 1811, banksiae var banksiae after Lady Banks and is now most usually called Banksia Alba Plena.

Records exist in England of a plant bearing over 50,000 blooms with a trunk circumference of 2ft 4ins, but the most famous plant survives in Tombstone Arizona, where it grows across an arbour which covers 8,000 sq ft.  It was planted in 1855.

The family as a whole are extremely vigorous and long lasting given a warm, frost free climate. They are the harbingers of spring as they are first to flower. The blooms are tiny, held in large clusters, with a sweet perfume. The blooms are insignificant on their own but stunning when covering a mighty bush. Give it room and forgive its short flowering period for the spectacle it presents when allowed to have its head.  The foliage is small, pointed and shiny and the thin pliable canes which are totally thornless.

Banksia Lutea 

The most popular variety appears to be Banksiae Lutea, the yellow double, which needs a sheltered sunny spot to produce cascades of buttery yellow scented blooms in spring.
Alba Plena has small rosettes of double white and is essentially similar to Lutea in all other respects.