The L-shaped 8-acre plot, shown shaded in peach on Milne’s Land Use Map of 1800, was cultivated by a series of important 18th and 19th century gardeners. Today the Victorian houses of Thornton and Mayfield Avenues run across the land.
The Chiswick Nursery was established in about 1740 by James Scott,and became famous for its pineapples, a great test of the nurseryman’s skill. Scott supplied the first pineapples to be fruited in Scotland from here. His ‘stoves’ or heated greenhouses for raising pineapples were highly recommended as were his cauliflower seeds.
Scott’s elegant trade card advertises his famous pineapples and also the stoves, fire walls and frames he could supply for forcing fruit. Scott died in 1770 and his nursery passed into other hands; between 1776 and 1785 Roberson and Hodson (or Hudson) were running it, though no information has been traced about their garden work.
In 1786 Richard Williams took it on and was to remain for over forty years. He specialised in heathers and introduced many new plants from the Cape of Good Hope, from Australia and America.
He propagated the Salopian Pippin, an apple which may have originated on his Shropshire estate at Hadnoll. This was commended by Hugh Ronalds, the Brentford nurseryman, in his book, Pyrus Malus Brentfordiensis, published in 1832.
Williams is known today because he propagated the Williams Pear. He developed a sapling obtained from a Berkshire schoolmaster to a quality and reliability that saw William Hooker recommend it to a meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1816. Hooker called it the Williams Bon Chretien.
The quality and reliability of this variety saw it increasingly cultivated in England and across the world. It is still widely grown and is also known in America as the Bartlett Pear. The eau de vie, Poire William, produced mainly in Alsace, and the similar liqueur from the former Yugoslavia, viljamovka, still use Mr Williams’ name and are frequently produced with a pear grown inside the bottle.
The history of the nursery is obscure for a few years after Williams’ death in 1830. The detail in the newspaper advertisement shown here suggests that the nursery had become predominantly a fruit-growing ground.
The newscutting is preserved in a scrap book in Chiswick Local Studies collection and is annotated with the date of 1837. A little research by Simon Francis has pinned it down to the Morning Chronicle where it was also advertised on the day before the sale. A John Graham seems to have been at the nursery from 1836 until Robert Glendinning took it over in 1843, so it seems odd that the plants should have been sold off so soon after he took over when the nursery was to continue, unless, perhaps, the executors had debts to pay. It is possible, however, that having arranged to take over the land, he had to bid separately for the stock on the ground.
Glendinning was born in Lanark in 1805 and had been working on the estate at Bicton in the West Country in the 1830s; his Practical Hints on the Culture of Pineapples was published in 1839. He was therefore already an experienced gardener when he took on the Chiswick Nursery; he re-organised it and installed new hothouses. He was sufficiently confident about its future to issue a long advertisement in The Gardeners’ Chronicle in December 1843 announcing the improvements and seeking business.
Glendinning’s horticultural interests were wide-ranging. He grew heathers and had a high reputation for conifers and fruit trees. He was an active member of the Royal Horticultural Society whose gardens were then in Chiswick, about 10 minutes’ walk from his nursery. Amongst many articles which he wrote for the Journal of the Horticultural Society was one on transplanting large trees in 1849, and he published The Pinetum, a list of conifers, 10 years later. Many other articles followed and he won numerous RHS awards. Robert Fortune’s third expedition to China supplied him with imported plants including rhododendrons.
By the time of his death in 1862 Glendinning had become so firmly established locally that he was one of the Chiswick Improvement Commissioners. His wife and sons continued the business for nine years after he died until it was taken over by Henry Ewen, Nurseryman and Florist. The 1881 Census lists The Ewen family, and describes Mr Ewen as employing 5 men and 34 boys. The 25″ OS map of about 1870 shows the extensive garden grounds but they were to become a building site as Chiswick was absorbed into London’s western suburbs.
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