Sarah Carpenter Botany Tote Bag

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These four tote bag designs each feature an orchid species first brought to the UK on Brunel's SS Great Britain. These detailed drawings originate from an illustration by artist Sarah Carpenter, designed to reflect this history of Brunel's ship and plant migration.

Victorian botanists used new technology - the Wardian Case - to transport exotic plants back to Europe. There they would fill the conservatories and glass houses of the wealthy.

The impact of this new trade in botany can still be felt today. Nurserymen like Thomas Lang also used steamships like the SS Great Britain to take native European crops and plants out to Australia. Intended to provide food, or perhaps make the British abroad feel more at home, these plants in their own way formed part of European colonisation.

In the UK, many of the plant species now familiar to us first arrived on our shores as part of this Victorian fascination with botany.