Surrey Botanical Society

History of the Society

The Society adopted its current title of "Surrey Botanical Society" only as recently as 2003. The purpose of the change from its earlier title of the "Surrey Flora Committee" was to emphasise the inclusiveness of the group, with all those who have an interest in the recording of wild plants welcome to join. The aims of recording the distribution of plants in the wild, of understanding their ecology and of the conservation of their habitat, remained the same.

Undoubtedly the most active and influential founder of the Society was Ted Lousley who, although a banker by profession, was also a gifted naturalist and became not only a Vice President of the Surrey Trust for Nature Conservation (now the Surrey Wildlife Trust), but also President of the London Natural History Society and President of the Botanical Society of the British Isles (now the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland). On the 26th January 1957 Lousley convened a meeting of Surrey botanists at the Linnaean Society to form a working group to update Salmon's Surrey Flora of 1931. It was this working group that became the Surrey Flora Committee chaired by Lousley and included among its members Oleg Polunin, Ted Wallace, Donald Young, and Barbara Welch who was elected as Secretary.

The Committee held its first field meeting at Effingham on the 12th May 1957 and as field work progressed meetings were attended by other interested botanists who helped and supported the Committee in achieving its aim of publishing an updated Surrey Flora. Each year about seven full-day field meetings were held as well as an AGM and slide show in early spring at which future work was discussed and planned. In 1963 Joyce Smith took over as Secretary and held the position for the next 32 years.

Ted Lousley died in 1976, sadly just before his brainchild the new Flora of Surrey was published. Its completion was undertaken by Cecil Prime, Charles Petch and Ted Wallace. Subsequently, following ten more years of recording meetings, in 1987 Alan Leslie, a former chairman, produced a valuable Supplement and Checklist to the Flora of Surrey, a publication that is still available from the Society Secretary. More recently, Derek Hill took over the Chairmanship from Alan, who was subsequently followed by Paul Bartlett. Currently Bill Stanworth is Chairman.

In recent years the Society has taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the digital revolution. Paper based records have been largely superseded by computer based systems which provide a powerful means of data analysis and also enable the Society's records to be made much more accessible to both the membership and to other organisations. In addition, GPS technology enables plant locations to be mapped with considerable accuracy.

The detailed recording of changes in the composition and distribution of the Surrey flora remains the key activity and there is a continuing emphasis on the protection of our flora by sharing information with other conservation bodies.