Botanical drawings in the Bermondsey Annals
Historically annals have been kept by each Mercy congregation as a method of producing a record of events year by year. All Institute of Our Lady of Mercy convents still produce annals on a yearly basis and whilst in the present day these are much more likely to be digital and full of photographs as well as text, the earlier examples were largely prose, reading as diary entries, with some featuring the occasional stylised lettering, decorative borders, and illuminations. Whilst consulting the Bermondsey annals we found some beautiful botanical illustrations. They appear at the end of annual entries, acting as demarcation between the previous and oncoming years. As the volume in question is a series of bound annals spanning the years 1856-1905, there is a sizable collection of vibrant illustrations of which a sample can be seen below:
We have no confirmation of who the artist is but speculate that between 1856 and 1874 it is very likely to have been Mother Clare Moore, one of the ten original members of the Sisters of Mercy and the first Bermondsey Mother Superior, as the letters in her writing match the hand in the annals. We also know that her blood sister Sr Clare Augustine Moore was a talented draughtswoman so it is possible that Mother Moore inherited the same creative flair.
We were fortunate to have the expert eye of Dr Mark Spencer, botanist of the Linnean Society, London, cast over the illustrations in hope of identifying the plants depicted. Whilst the drawings are largely heavily stylised renditions, Dr Spencer managed to deduce what they might be, please see captions.
Vida Milovanovic, Archivist