Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Betsey Ronalds

Betsey's watercolour of Greville's Red Camellia, imported from China. Western Archives

Betsey's watercolour of hummingbirds on a orange tree. Western Archives

Sir Francis Ronalds' cousin Elizabeth Ronalds (1788-1854), called Betsey by the family, was a talented horticultural illustrator.

Her best-known work is in her father's Pyrus Malus Brentfordiensis: or, a Concise Description of Selected Apples (1831), which has been described as "possibly the most beautifully illustrated of all English fruit books".

She also prepared illustrations for John Loudon's Arboretum et Fruticetum Brittanicum (1838) and numerous original watercolours and pencil sketches survive. Her beautiful pictures of fruit and flowers did much to promote the family's nursery business.

Betsey and Sir Francis were just a few weeks apart in age and both were well educated, travelled widely and chose not to marry. Betsey had a more conservative and serious outlook on life than her cousin, but they shared interests across architecture and engineering as well as art, and both created books in the 1830s containing their lithographs. Sir Francis' youngest brother Alfred also published a self-illustrated book at this time and later established himself as a professional lithographer, engraver and copperplate printer in Australia.

Artistic ability continued to flow through subsequent generations, as exemplified by Alfred's daughter Maria Shanklin and granddaughter Henrietta Gulliver, as well as his sister Maria's descendants Hugh Carter and William Francis Carter.

Further Information

Elizabeth Ronalds (1788-1854): Horticultural Illustrator (2018)
- published in Archives of Natural History

Elizabeth (Betsey) Ronalds (2018)
- published in the Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016)
- published by Imperial College Press

Alfred Ronalds: Angler, Artisan and Australian Pioneer (2022)
- published by Medlar Press

Ronalds Nurserymen in Brentford and Beyond (2017)
- published in Garden History, Volume 45:1

Royal Horticultural Society article (2010) on Betsey's illustrations

Prints of Betsey's lithographs for sale at the Royal Horticultural Society

An Ancestor's Life seen through her Recipe Book (Spring 2021) - published in Women's History

Mrs Hugh Ronalds' Recipe Book (1795-1820) (2020)