Lawson, Charles

Biography: Seed merchant and agriculturist. Born Edinburgh 1795. Educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University before entering the family nursery business, which he succeeded on his father's death. The business became one of the largest seed and nursery firms in Britain, and Lawson was Honorary Seedsman to the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in 1828. He promoted the introduction of new species and varieties of crops to Britain. In 1833, he created a museum at the firm's premises in Edinburgh. The contents were transferred to the Highland and Agricultural Society in 1838, and moved to the firm's new premises on King George IV Bridge. This blurring of interests between the firm and the society caused a public row in 1858. He exhibited grasses at the Great Exhibition, and donated part of the collection to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Lawson specialised in grass seeds and coniferous trees, introducing Italian ryegrass and exotic varieties of conifers to Scotland. He believed that conifers could improve forestry, and published the Pinetum Britannicum between 1863 and 1884, which described (with illustrations) all of the pine trees grown in Britain. He purchased Borthwick Hall at Heriot, Midlothian in 1851, and became more active in public life, serving as justice of the peace and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce from 1859. He became Master of the Edinburgh Merchant Company in 1861, and was elected Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1862. He liked to entertain lavishly as Lord Provost, and the expenses of this may have led to the financial trouble which befell the company in later years. By 1868-9, the family was considering winding up the business, but decided to enter into the trade of phospho-guano fertiliser. This was a disaster, and bankruptcy proceedings began in April 1873, which Lawson was too ill to attend. The bank took possession of Borthwick Hall, and the contents of his Edinburgh house were auctioned off. He died in December 1873.

Biography Date: 1795-1873

Biography References: DNB;


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