Charlotte, Lady Wheeler-Cuffe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Charlotte Isabel Wheeler-Cuffe (née Williams) (1867–1967) was an amateur botanical artist, plant collector and gardener.


Williams was born on 24 May 1867 in Wimbledon, London, to a family with Irish connections, her maternal grandfather being the Rev. Sir Hercules Langrishe, third Baronet of Knocktopher, County Kilkenny. Her father, William Williams (1816-1907), was a President of The Law Society of England and Wales.

Charlotte, whose pet-name was Shadow, was taught by a governess at home, and later studied painting under the guidance of Frank Calderon.[1] In the summer of 1897 at Lodsworth parish church in Sussex, she married Otway Fortescue Wheeler-Cuffe (who was to inherit the Wheeler-Cuffe baronetcy when his uncle, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, second baronet, died in January 1915; see Wheeler-Cuffe baronets). Otway Wheeler-Cuffe (1866-1934) who was born in Southsea, Hampshire, was a civil engineer employed by the 1890s in the Public Works Department in Burma. Charlotte travelled with him to Burma immediately after their marriage. In Burma she sometimes was able to accompany Otway when he went on official inspection tours of the roads in remote regions. Shadow described these tours in some of the hundreds of weekly letters to her mother. After her mother's death in 1916, Shadow continued the routine of writing once a week to her husband's cousin, Baroness Pauline Prochazka (1842-1930) who then lived at Leyrath, Kilkenny. Another correspondent was Sir Frederick Moore,[2] the Keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin.

In 1911, on Mount Victoria - the native name of the mountain is Natmataung - Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe found two new species of rhododendron: Rhododendron burmacium has pale yellow flowers and is a low, bushy shrub, whereas the second species, later named Rhododendron cuffeanum, has white flowers and grows on pine trees. Living plants of these were sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, where they grew and bloomed. Another plant from the mountain, known as Shadow's buttercup, was the blue-flowered Anemone obtusiloba f. patula. Shadow was a keen gardener and would collect living plants in the wild and bring them into her garden, sometimes also sending material to family and friends in England and Ireland, including the exquisite Shan lily (Lilium sulphureum).[3][4]

Lady Wheeler-Cuffe was invited by the authorities to undertake the formation of a botanical garden at Maymyo (now Pyin U Lwin). She readily agreed and worked on the layout and planting of this garden between 1916 and 1921 when she and her husband left Burma. They returned to Europe, and settled in the Cuffe family home at Leyrath, outside Kilkenny, Ireland. Lady Wheeler-Cuffe died at Leyrath on 8 March 1967, just 11 weeks short of her one hundredth birthday

While in Burma she produced The Burma alphabet, a book illustrated by her watercolours. This was sold at five rupees a copy to raise funds for a new hospital, the Queen Alexandra’s Children’s Hospital, in Mandalay.

Lady Wheeler-Cuffe instructed that her watercolours of Burmese orchids and other plants should remain "indefinitely" in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin.[5] Later, her correspondence with her mother and Polly Prochazka was also deposited there through the good offices of the late Captain Anthony Tupper, as well as a number of her sketchbooks.[6] However, watercolours (landscapes of Ireland and Burma) and miscellaneous other items were sold when the contents of Leyrath were auctioned in September 1993,[7] and so are widely scattered.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. C. Nelson, 2014. Shadow among splendours: Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe's adventures among the flowers of Burma 1897-1921. ISBN 978-0957594814
  2. ^ E. C. Nelson, 1982. The Lady of the rhododendrons – Charlotte Wheeler Cuffe 1867–1967. Rhododendrons 1981–1982: 33–41.
  3. ^ E. C. Nelson, 2002. Glowing with a soft light. The Irish garden 11 (8): 52–54.
  4. ^ E. C Nelson, 2009. An Irishman's cuttings. Tales of Irish garden and gardeners, plants and plant hunters. Cork. pp 136-140. ISBN 9781848890053
  5. ^ E. C. Nelson, 2014. Shadow among splendours, pp 194-195
  6. ^ E. C. Nelson, 2004. The Wheeler-Cuffe archive: papers about a Burmese serow and Kilkenny during the Civil War. Ossory, Laois and Leinster 1: 182–201.
  7. ^ Christie’s Scotland Ltd, [Catalogue of auction] Lyrath, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland ...15 September 1993.

External links[edit]