When a researcher approached the Barnes & Mortlake History Society seeking information on a family of Barnes gardeners named Blinde or Blind I was asked whether I could help. The inquirer was following up a mention of a Mr Joseph Blinde, gardener at Barnes, in the first edition of Philip Miller’s Gardeners’ Dictionary (1731). Blinde had found growing wild in Barnes a double-flowered form of Saxifraga Granulata (Meadow Saxifrage), ‘transplanted it into his garden and afterwards distributed it to several curious persons; since which time it hath been multiplied so much, as to become a very common plant in most gardens near London, where it is commonly planted in pots, to adorn court-yards &c in the Spring’.

Miller’s mention of Joseph Blinde

Who was Joseph Blinde? Miller’s mention of him suggests that he had some standing in contemporary horticultural circles.  The original inquirer had shared two wills [i] from the Surrey History Centre. One was for a Joseph Blinde of Barnes and its contents suggested that this was probably the man who found the double-flowered Saxifrage.

Though a Blinde family archive does not appear to have survived, as is the case for most 17th / 18th century gardeners, it may be possible to discover his name in some of his customers’ accounts in order to understand the size of his business. Information from other researchers is welcome.

When James Wisdom and I studied the accounts kept by Arthur Palmer, the steward to Lord Fauconberg of Sutton Court in Chiswick, we found several payments to a ‘Mr Blind’. The first was in October 1693 ‘for plants’ at £3.10s and in the same month the waterman, John Hearn, was paid 7 shillings ‘for bringing 56 trees from Mr Blind’. Another £8 was paid for two bills ‘for plants’ in August 1698 and £2 ‘for hollies’ the following September. A year later, in October 1699, £6 was paid for 8 hollies [ii]. Joseph Blinde’s hollies may have been particularly fine, though Fauconberg had purchased them in the 1680s from other suppliers.

The marriage of this Joseph Blinde and Elizabeth White, both ‘of Barnes’, took place at St Mildred Poultry in the City of London in 1687, but it was the Barnes parish registers (available online) that recorded their children’s baptisms. The first I traced was a daughter, also Elizabeth, baptised in June 1689 but buried in August 1690, the same year in which her brother, John, was baptised and buried. Two more daughters and a son were born in the 1690s, all dying in infancy. After a long gap, another Elizabeth was baptised in 1708, then Mary who lived from 1710 to 1714. Only this second Elizabeth seems to have survived into adulthood.  

Nursery gardens were family businesses so the two Elizabeths, mother and daughter, would have worked alongside Joseph. After his wife died in 1732 he wrote his own will the following year [iii]. His witnesses included father and son, Edward and John Courtney. Edward’s will shows he was a Barnes barber and perriwig-maker who bequeathed a house and garden with an arbour, a pump-well and a necessary house (or privy) plus adjoining garden ground. Was he one of Joseph’s customers or simply a local friend?

Joseph Blind’s shaky signature on his will of 1733 (Lambeth Palace Library VH 96-272 a)

Joseph left his entire estate to his beloved daughter, Elizabeth – freehold and copyhold land in Barnes, garden stock, household goods, money and personal property. She could sell part of his Barnes freehold property if necessary to pay the entry fine on the copyhold property but he surely expected her to continue running his garden grounds. In April 1738, at St Luke’s Chelsea, she had married another gardener, William Blows; the note confirming the grant of probate written on her father’s will in February 1740 confirms that she was now Elizabeth Blows.

Where had Joseph gained his expertise? Probably from his father, gardener William Blinde Snr, who died aged 63 in 1693. One of the witnesses to William’s will [iv] was Richard Pearson, the Mortlake schoolmaster; according to John H Harvey’s Early Nurserymen (1974) Pearson was related to a family of Hoxton gardeners and two of his sons were apprenticed to gardeners.  Online family history records show that William had married Anne Node, both described as ‘of Barnes’, at St Andrew Holborn in 1651, though he was buried in the Quaker Burying Ground in Hammersmith [v]. His will in Lambeth Palace Library was made on 14 May, when he was ill, and proved on the 25th. He left the residue of his estate to Anne and their son Joseph ‘share and share alike’. They were to benefit from his garden grounds and stock for their natural lives and Joseph’s children were to inherit his share should he die before his mother. This would ensure that the business continued with a prosperous future.

William Snr made money bequests to his other sons, John and William, and to his daughter, Love. She had married Nathaniel Snignall, with whom she had two children, but she was widowed by the time her father died. John had married Mary Partridge, both ‘of Barnes’ at St Mildred Poultry in the City of London in 1686. He was working garden grounds in Brompton, Kensington, and took on apprentices there in 1712 (John Edsar) and 1723 (Henry Stevenson). He died in 1729.

Maisie Brown wrote up the 1693 inventory  of William Blinde Snr’s estate in the June 1992 issue of the Barnes & Mortlake History Society Newsletter. It described Blinde’s house as having a parlour, kitchen, buttery, main bed-chamber and a long chamber for the servants. His well-furnished parlour had a clock, 14 pewter dishes and an ample supply of table linen. The house contents plus £10 ‘in cash and debts owing to him’ were valued at £34.12s.6d while his garden stock, listed separately, was valued at £139.18s.0d, a substantial sum.

Maisie Brown wrote: “His nursery stocked apple, pear, cherry, lime, elm, plane and walnut trees, together with crab apple, plum, cherry and pear stocks for grafting. They were valued at nearly £32. Other items such as large quantities of holly, yew, juniper, myrtle, laurel, box, fir and cypress came to £50. The main interest of the inventory lies, however, in the highly specialised list of plants which at the time were rarities. Whilst ‘all the ordinary sorts of flowers’ are lumped together as a single item valued at £5, the rarer beauties are carefully listed and valued in total at £55. These were ‘tulups, emanayes, junkquills, renonkalists, arickaleses, polyantayes and jelly flowers’, or, as we know them today, tulips, anemones, jonquils, ranunculus, auriculas, polyanthus and carnations. All were either relative newcomers from abroad or native flowers which had been improved in colour and form.”

So the nursery held a good range of fruit trees and plants for the kitchen garden, shrubs and trees for the pleasure garden, including hedging plants for formal garden designs, and expensive flowering plants – some relatively recently introduced from overseas.

Rose House, 70 Barnes High Street

Elizabeth Blows drafted her will in November 1757. Her witnesses included the Mortlake schoolmasters, Jonathan and John Wild Tomlinson. Her husband was her primary heir and her executor. She left him Barnes properties held in her own name (probably those inherited from her father, Joseph) – Rose House with its garden (which still stands) and the Peaked Acre in West Field (then occupied by Richard Clemenshaw) – with both to go to their daughter, another Elizabeth, after her father’s death.

Barnes Terrace with malthouses, Thames Panorama of 1829

She also left her husband freehold tenements and a malt-house on Barnes Wharf. In the first draft of her will Elizabeth left him another 5 acres of copyhold land in Windmill Field but in a codicil written a few days later offered him the alternative of a messuage and 3 acres called Gibbons Close, then occupied by Samuel Taylor and Abigail Partington.

Barnes West Field sketch map which records Peaked Acre as ‘Piked Acre’

Elizabeth’s widower lived until 1768. Their son William, born in 1745, was listed as a gardener in the Jury-Qualified Freeholders and Copyholders Lists [vi] with property in Barnes in 1770. He was also recorded in the London Poll Books [vii] in 1774, with property in Barnes which he owned and occupied. However, by 1780 he was resident in Isleworth and his Barnes property was occupied by Abraham Ayton, a Brentford maltster.

In May 1786 The European Magazine recorded William Blows, market gardener and seedsman of Isleworth, as a newly-declared bankrupt so this was probably the end of this gardening business. William died aged 71 and was buried at All Saints Isleworth in 1816, where his most recent residence was recorded in the register as St Dunstans.

This is an expanded version of the article published in the Barnes & Mortlake History Society Newsletter 236, March 2021, from which the sketch map is taken

[i] QS3/10A/1–9. Digitized images. Surrey History Centre

[ii] North Yorks Record Office, ref  ZDV V 10

[iii] Surrey History Centre, information from original inquirer

[iv] Surrey History Centre, information from original inquirer

[v] TNA RG6/499

[vi] Freeholders Lists 1696–1824. QS3/10A/1–9 Surrey History Centre

[vii] London Metropolitan Archives