Albert Edward Peter Griessen (1875–1935)

Kew Gardener, 1896. At Botanic Gardens, Calcutta, 1898. Superintendent, Taj Gardens, 1900; at Delhi 1913, Deputy Director (Garden Circle), Agricultural Department, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.

b. London, England, 1875; d. London, England, 6 Oct 1935

Born in London and educated in Paris, Versailles and London, Griessen entered Kew as a student gardener in June 1896, where he was appointed sub-foreman in the same year. At that time he was the youngest sub-foreman to have been appointed to the role, being just 21 years old.

He continued as sub-foreman until 1898 when he was appointed to the Government Botanic Gardens at Sibpur, Calcutta. He soon transferred to Agra to act as Superintendent to the Taj Gardens. Griessen was tasked with restoring the grounds surrounding the Taj Mahal, including McDonnell Park, the grounds surrounding the Queen Victoria Memorial Statue and the Circuit House.  At Agra he also reclaimed the historic gardens of Etmad-ud-doola and Sikandra, and laid out Hewett Park and the People’s Park. He planned and laid out many gardens in Agra and wrote extensively about his work in India. He laid out the landscape and horticultural amenities of the immense camps at Delhi on the occasions of the Coronation Durbar under Lord Curzon and of the Imperial Durbar under Lord Hardinge, and also the camps at Agra on the occasion of the visits of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1905, and the Emir of Afghanistan in 1907. At times up to 2000 men were working on these projects. For his service there he was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal and the Kaiser-i-Hind medal for distinguished service to the British Empire in India.

After thirteen years of service in Agra, he transferred to Delhi. His work there included the re-afforestation of the dry and barren Delhi Southern Ridge and town planning in Muttra and the Native States.  For the King Emperor Durbar of 1913 State Camps were prepared to accommodate more than 4000 guests. More than 105 000 plants were grown specially and 160 railways trucks of decorative plants were sent from distant government gardens. Superintendents from the provinces came to lay out their respective camps. Griessen noted that ‘never before did any town in India witness so large a gathering of Kewites: —Messrs. Locke, Mustoe, Long, Little, Johnson, Head, Krumbiegel and others’. He rose to the position of Deputy Director (Garden Circle), Agricultural Department, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (now Uttar Pradesh). He was involved in archaeological excavation and the preservation of ancient tombs situated on lands under his care.

In 1928, when due to return to England for two years’ leave prior to his retirement, he was asked by the Government of India to continue for a further three years but, for family reasons, he declined. In 1930 he retired after thirty-two years of public service, returning to England and settling at Craven Park, London.

Griessen wrote extensively, in English and French, on horticulture in France and his experiences in India. He retired to Craven Park, London, in 1930.

Sources

Griessen, A.E.P. (1926), A retrospective glance after twenty-seven years in India, Journal of The Kew Guild 4 (33): 405–410.

Proudlock, R.L. (1936), Obituary, Journal of The Kew Guild 5 (43): 582–584.

Desmond, R. (1994), Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, Taylor & Francis and The Natural History Museum, London.

Desmond, R. & Hepper, F.N. (1993), A Century of Kew Plantsmen: A Celebration of The Kew Guild, The Kew Guild, Royal Botanic gardens, Kew, Richmond.