The Exeter firm of Veitch & Sons became one of Britain’s most important horticultural firms. Employees travelled the world in search of botanical specimens. Between 1840 and 1880 they went to South America, South-east Asia, India, Japan, China, the Pacific Islands and Africa. In amongst the carefully packed botanical specimens were sometimes placed ethnographic objects, which were later to find a home at RAMM.
Henry, later Sir Harry Veitch, was born and went to school in Exeter. He travelled to France and Germany before joining his father at a new branch of the nursery opened on King’s Road, Chelsea, in 1853. Henry was to become one of the leading horticulturalists of his day. He is most famous for promoting the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition of 1912 – the first Chelsea Flower Show. This earned him his Knighthood.
During his life Sir Harry and his wife also amassed a significant art collection. It included Meissen figures, Venetian glassware, drawings and paintings. The pictures form a distinct group of 19th century British works. Many of these adorned the walls of the couple’s country home East Burnham Park, Buckinghamshire. The collection was bequeathed to RAMM in 1924, following Sir Harry’s death.