James Scott was running the Chiswick Nursery at Turnham Green from about 1740. Henry Scott, his brother, was gardener to Lord Burlington at Chiswick House by 1738. In that year he travelled north to Burlington’s estate at Londesborough, to visit Thomas Knowlton (1692-1781), the gardener there whose wife had recently died.
The extract from Milne’s Land Use Map, published in 1800, shows the grounds of Chiswick House as ‘Chiswick Gardens’ while James Scott’s Chiswick Nursery occupied the L-shaped plot coloured peach in the north-east quarter of the map – they were only a short stroll apart.
These two men with Chiswick connections became known for their expertise in growing pineapples. John H Harvey thought the two brothers were Scots though I have not yet traced records of their birth or family connecions. However, James’ skills were particularly valued by James Justice, a Scots horticulturist. In his The Scots gardiners director (1754) Justice recommended Scott’s cauliflower seeds and recorded that Scott supplied him with a pineapple stove and pineapple plants shipped from Chiswick to Edinburgh: “Mr James Scott at Turnham Green London will serve them as well and as cheap as any person”.
Additional expertise in pineapples may have come through Henry’s connection with Thomas Knowlton, for this older man was also a specialist in cultivating these prized fruits. They were close enough for Henry to visit Londesborough at the time of the funeral of Betty, Knowlton’s wife, in 1738.
Blanche Henrey’s book on Knowlton, No Ordinary Gardener (1986) includes extracts from a number of his letters, many written to gardening friends. They help us appreciate how highly prized pineapples were in 18th century England. Knowlton’s letters show that Lord Burlington valued them highly and sometimes had them sent as special gifts to friends. On 3 October 1738 Knowlton wrote to Samuel Brewer
“his L[or]dship being heare I have cutt a Large nr of pineaples some of them very Large & fine & have still a considerable n[umbe]r to spare to sarve his taible he talks of staying till Xmas before he will seat forward for London.”
He went on to mention projects for new heated “stoves” or greenhouses for pineapples being built at Raby Castle and at Chatsworth and also one in Lincolnshire where “his man”, John, had gone to live, “so that the pine aples will gain very much in this Island in a few yeares time”.
In another letter to Brewer, on 8 December 1742, Knowlton wrote
“I have abundance of fine frut wch is a grat Pleasure to his L[or]dshipe & creaditt to me . . . I am apt to belive my new pine aple fram[e] or Bead beats all that ever I see yett for that purpose and is much less Exspense than any thought of . . .”
His letters often accompany plants and seeds which he was exchanging with friends. He often praised fellow gardeners for their achievements. For example, on 23 July 1754 he added a postscript to a letter to Richard Richardson saying
“this days post brought me a Lettr from Mr James Scot Turnham green & tells me he has published a cutt of the Sarracen or Side Sadle flower wch grew in his garden cullour 2s plain 1 shilling if you have a mind to have it of any Body in yr parts will ordr you on[e] as he desires me to promote the sail of it he says he exspects the mignificant nymphea next Xmas by a shope from north america if you remember I told you of it he had seeds but not on[e] come up”.
The print of Sarracenia purpurea was drawn by Timothy Lewis and engraved by Francis Vivares. The plant is shown as it appeared in his garden “at The Pinery Turnham green the 18 April 1754”. Scott clearly knew Knowlton well enough to ask him to help encourage sales of the print; Knowlton is well aware of the rare plants Scott was trying to cultivate and his past successes and failures.
Later in the same year both Scotts are mentioned in another letter when on 5 November Knowlton wrote to William Stonehouse, gardener to Richard Richardson. He not only mentioned James’ print of Sarracenia but also the fact that Henry had
“published a fine print of Knowledge and Lab[ou]r assisted by the 4 Elements presenting the gard[ene]r with the fruits of the hotest Climates Extreemly well done in ye maner of a place bill & is the neatest thing of the Kind I have seen he sent me on[e] down”.
The handsome trade card was published in October 1754; the design was by Samuel Wale and the engraving again by Vivares. A pineapple is shown growing in a pot in the foreground while the gardener – is this a portrait of Henry Scott himself? – holds one aloft. So for a few years, Henry was well established at Weybridge, with his wife and their daughter Martha. However, Martin Hopkinson has referred me to a newspaper reference about the sale of Henry’s stock in trade in Weybridge in March 1761 (The Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer 5-7 March 1761). The edition of the same newspaper for 11-13 November 1760‚ reported that on the previous Tuesday Henry Scott had been arrested for stabbing James Buck of Weybridge and John Gale, the Constable of Weybridge, and was committed to the New Gaol in Southwark. At the time of the sale Henry must have still been in prison; The London Evening Post of 2-4 April 1761 reported that his trial at the Kingston Assizes had been postponed as the Constable was still very ill and more likely to die than recover. We have so far failed to find a record of his trial or its outcome.
James Scott’s advertisement, with its sumptuous border of fruits and exotic plants, makes clear that Pineapples are his speciality.
“Plants and Fruit of Ananas or Pine Apple
NB The Plants may be convey’d in health and ripe Fruit in perfection, any Journey of Sixteen Days.”
and, stressing his inventiveness and cost-effectiveness, he states that he
“directs Building Stoves, Walls & Frames for raising Ananas in any pt of Great Britain or Ireland, of materials cheapest in each respective place, & adapted for any sort of Fuel that is most plentiful. Likewise the most conven[ien]t and least expensive Fire Walls for Forcing Grapes, Apricocks, Cherrys, &c and new invented Fire Walls to raise early Melons & Cucumbers, free from the Watery quality they have in wet Seasons, & cheaper than common Frameing”.
Henry’s beautiful trade card, of which there are copies in the British Museum’s collection, has text in English and French, headed “Pine Apples, raised and sold by Henry Scott, Gardener at Weybridge at Surrey, where Persons may be supplied with ripest Fruit during their Season and Plants of all Sizes sold at the Lowest Price”. He makes a virtue of the good transport links between London and Weybridge – the Chertsey coach daily and the Weybridge boats twice a week – for conveying both plants and fruit to customers. His business embraces the same sort of contracting that James was offering along with the sale of plants and as the image makes clear, the sale of the greatly prized pineapples!
It has not so far been possible to trace a will for either of the Scott brothers. James’ burial is recorded in 1770 in the registers of St Nicholas Church, Chiswick with a note that he was buried inside the church; a Mrs Scott, probably his wife, was buried in 1758, also in the church. This suggests that they were of some standing in the parish.
Find out about the pots in which pineapples were served at table on the Spode History Blog
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