Allan Cunningham statue
Public Art: Allan Cunningham statue
Sculptor: © Tommaso Sani
Description: The balding botanist Allan Cunningham stands with his
right hand clutching freshly cut plant specimens whilst his left hand rests on a tree stump that is sprouting
ferns and waratahs. He is wearing breeches and stockings.
Date Unveiled: c1891
Location: The Allan Cunningham statue is located on the Bent
Street exterior niche of the Land Department Building, Bridge Street, Sydney, Australia.
So Who Was Allan Cunningham?
Allan Cunningham (13th July, 1791 – 27th June 1839) was an English botanist and explorer.
He was born in Wimbledon, Surrey, the son of Allan Cunningham who was the Head Gardener at Wimbledon Park
After graduating from school Cunningham worked for the superintendent of Kew gardens where he hobknobbed with
the likes of Robert Brown and Sir Joseph Banks.
In 1814 Banks suggested that Cunningham join an expedition to Brazil to collect plant specimens with Kew Gardens
botanical collector, James Bowie. Following this, Cunningham journeyed to Australia and set up home in Parammatta.
There he joined several expeditions including John Oxley's 1817 exploration of the Lachlan and Macquarie
rivers where he managed to collect specimens of about 450 species.
In 1817, he began the first of four sea voyages with Phillip Parker King to survey the whole of the Australian
coastline. These journeys started on the 85 tons HMS Mermaid and ended on the much bigger Bathhurst. On board the
first voyage were King, Frederick Bedwell , John Septimus Roe, Allan
Cunningham, 12 seamen, 2 boys and the Aboriginal, Boongaree.
Alan Cunnigham became the Colonial Botanist for a short time in 1831 but was furious at being delegated to
nothing more than the government officials vegetable gardener. The newspaper of the day
printed, he 'would no longer consent to remain a mere cultivator of cabbages and turnips'.
Cunningham died in 1839 of consumption and his remains were later interred in an obelisk within Sydney's
Royal Botanic Gardens in 1901. The plants surrounding the obelisk are examples of those collected by him
during his 1818-1822 expeditions.