Elizabeth Twining

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Elizabeth Twining06.jpg

Elizabeth Twining (1805–1889) was an English botanical illustrator.

Biography and drawing[edit]

Elizabeth was born in 1805 into the Twinings tea merchant family, one of the nine children of Richard Twining and his wife Elizabeth Mary Smythies.[1] Raised in a privileged area of London, she learned art and drawing as part of her upper-class education. Inspired by Curtis's The Botanical Magazine and the Royal Horticultural Society at Chiswick gardens, Elizabeth began drawing plants and flowers; she practised by making sketches from works in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and toured famous museums thanks to her father's patronage.

She wrote and illustrated a number of books on the subject, most notably the two-volume Illustrations of the Natural Order of Plants (volume I in 1849, volume II in 1855), which included a total of 160 hand-coloured lithographs, royal folio, reportedly based on observation at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and at Lexden Park in Colchester. Interestingly, the subsequent 1868 quarto edition features cheaper colour-printed plates, demonstrating the transition from expensive hand-colouring to a lower-quality, cheaper alternative.

Elizabeth Twining lived in the old family residence of Dial House, in Twickenham. She died in 1889, and by her will, Dial house was given to the people of Twickenham for use as the vicarage. Most of her original artwork is now part of the collection of the British Museum.[2]

Elizabeth was an elder sister of the social reformer Louisa Twining.

Other activities[edit]

Apart from her artistic endeavours, Elizabeth Twining was a notable philanthropist. She set up and managed a temperance hall in Portugal Street, renovated the parish almshouses near her Twickenham home (a fact commemorated by a plaque on Saint Mary's church, Twickenham), and, after a long association with King's College Hospital, she established the Saint John's hospital for the treatment of the poor. She was the first to organise "mothers meetings" in London, for which she wrote ''Ten Years in a Ragged School and Readings for Mothers Meetings, and contributed to the founding of Bedford College for Women by Elizabeth Jesser Reid.


  1. ^ Phillips-Evans, J. The Longcrofts: 500 Years of a British Family (Amazon UK, 2012)
  2. ^ BBC
  3. ^ IPNI.  Twining.