The Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 4 (1985) carried an earlier version of this post.

The Fromow family ran a nursery in Chiswick on the west side of Sutton Lane near its junction with Wellesley Road. Later they moved to Acton Lane where they ran the Sutton Court Nurseries. Though these closed in 1970 another branch of the family continued to run the nursery at Windlesham.

William Fromow established his business in Chiswick in 1829 when he purchased an existing nursery with its stock already in the ground. He came from Norfolk and had worked in Epping and Dulwich before he came to Chiswick; his father was a gardener too. William Fromow was succeeded by his son, William Fromow II, who handed over the management of the business to other members of the family in 1869.

Ten years later a further nursery of 14 acres was acquired in London Road, Hounslow, and another nursery ground of similar size, also in London Road, was added in 1891. When William Fromow II died in 1886 his sons James, Joseph and Edwin became partners in the firm, but the eldest son, another William, was already established as a fruiterer in Richmond.

When James Fromow died in 1903 William Fromow III joined his brothers in the family firm and remained a partner until his death in 1917. Edwin died in 1932 and Joseph lived until 1934. Heavy death duties in the 1930s led to the sale of the premises in Sutton Lane and large blocks of flats were erected there. However, the firm could bear the loss of this nursery because of its other property elsewhere. Not only were there the Hounslow nurseries; in 1894 some 40 acres of land at Windlesham had been purchased from a Mr Mason which by 1911 had expanded to cover more than 25 acres. On Joseph’s death his sons took on these Windlesham nurseries.

The Palmhouse and Conservatories, 1890s (Chiswick LS Library)

A modest cottage on the Sutton Lane land had been the original family home in Chiswick. In the 1890s it was replaced by a very grand conservatory and to the west, round the corner in Wellesley Road, stood the building which served as offices and stores. On the other side of the road, where the Victorian shops of Fromow’s Corner were built, there was a seed shop. As well as running the nursery and the seed shop, the Fromows supplied gardeners by the hour for some of the bigger houses in Chiswick especially those in Grove Park. The business prospered and the family acquired other property in Chiswick, including Arlington Cottages. The Acton Lane site, to which the business transferred in the 1930s after the sale of the Sutton Lane nursery, was already in use by them as  stables for the horses which brought the plants from Hounslow and Windlesham for sale in Chiswick.

Miss Lilian Fromow was 89 when James Wisdom and Val Bott interviewed her in 1981. She described the Chiswick of her youth as a lively bustling town where all the shopkeepers knew one another. The Fromows were related by marriage to the Voyseys, one of whom worked at Buckle and Barker’s, a grocer’s which stood roughly where Marks and Spencer’s store is today. A campaign to prevent the building of a music hall on the south side of Turnham Green was led by Miss Fromow’s father. He succeeded and the Chiswick Empire was erected facing the green on the north side of the High Road instead.

Lilian Fromow was one of seven children. Their parents were married at the North Road Strict Baptists Church in Brentford and they lived at first at 7 Sutton Lane. As their family grew they moved to Walpole Gardens, living first at number 16 and later at number 13. They had six daughters and a son who was born seven years after the youngest of these girls. Lilian Fromow’s sister, Rosa, had lived next door to her in Alwyn Avenue, in a house bought for her by her father, while another sister, Emily, then aged 92, was living in Ealing.

Their only brother had lived for many years at 1 Hartington Road, a large detached house with stained glass windows of galleons at sea which still survives. He had been sent to St Paul’s School in Hammersmith while Lilian had been educated at a small private school known as Oxford Road College, near her home. When she left school she went into the family business and kept the firm’s books.

Another sister, Florence, married Harry Baldock and it was their son, John Baldock, who managed the Acton Lane nursery until its closure. This was the only 19th century nursery to survive the change of Chiswick from countryside to suburb. It handled its new market well, maintaining 24 greenhouses at Acton Lane, carrying on an extensive trade with Covent Garden and Spitalfields Markets and supplying 50,000 Christmas trees a year in the late 1940s! The site became the Sainbury’s Chiswick supermarket with its large car park, while in 2003 retirement homes have been built as Fromow Gardens on the Windlesham nursery grounds.

art deco marquetry table from Fromow house

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