Brompton Park Nursery

From: An Economic History of the English Garden (2019), by Roderick Floud:

“In June 1818, at the height of that year’s London Season, Mrs Henry Baring – wife of a banker turned politician – gave a party in her new house in Mayfair…600 guests, led by princes of the blood royal, were entertained in rooms bedecked with 1,004 plants, hired for the night from James Cochran, nurseryman and florist of Duke Street and Paddington…installed by five men and costing the Barings £50,000 (£65 15s)…Meanwhile, two miles to the west of Cochran’s shop, Harrison’s Brompton Nursery Gardens, covering at least 27 acres around what is now South Kensington Underground station, were providing trees, shrubs, seeds and bulbs to the aristocracy and gentry, as they had been doing for several decades. In 1808, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, Samuel Harrison and his partners took orders for plants worth at least £8 million (£9,938) during the six months from April to October…

…the King’s Road…was built originally by Charles II as literally the king‘s own road, his private route from the palaces of Whitehall and St James’s out west to Kew and Hampton Court. Access to it was granted originally to the favoured few, who from 1731 were given tickets, and then more generally, but it did not become a public road until 1830.

Long before then, however, nurseries had set themselves up along the road, with their nursery grounds behind them; others clustered a short distance to the north, from Knightsbridge to Gloucester Road – the areas now occupied by Harrods, by the museums, the Albert Hall and Imperial College.”

From the website Hidden London:

“The heathland village of Brompton was first recorded in 1294 and its name derives from Old English words meaning ‘farmstead where broom (see image) grows’. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s coat of arms is topped with a sprig of broom representing Brompton.

The marshy ground was drained in the 16th century and converted to fruit gardens. The Brompton Park nursery was established here in 1681 and has given its name to the Brompton stock: a large, usually red, biennial variety of the species Matthiola incana.”

Until 1760 no special development had occurred on either side of the turnpike road. The character of the land was generally speaking horticultural. Since Brompton like much of Kensington was excellent nursery ground, it was intensively cultivated. Nurserymen, some very prosperous, feature often in early property transactions in the district, the most celebrated being Henry Wise of Brompton Park Nursery. A surviving inventory of 1760 lists the effects of David Anderson, nurseryman, who tended lands in the region of the modem Beaufort Gardens, Beauchamp Place and Ovington Square; it evokes an air of quaint, rustic cottage life at Brompton which was then soon to be broken. Another deed of 1763 concerning the garden of Sir Thomas Dyer (where Ovington Square now stands) requires the lessee, John Hooper, gardener, to reserve annually for Sir Thomas and his wife a peck of apples, a peck of pears and a quantity of cherries and plums, ‘the best and choicest fruit and produce of two hundred standard trees growing or to grow on the said demised premises’.

Interspersed between these walled nursery gardens were occasional cottages and, more particularly, frequent hostelries of the type that dotted the main thoroughfares around London. These grew commoner as the road approached Knightsbridge, a district well known in the early eighteenth century, not to say notorious, for its inns.”

From the website of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:

“Kensington and Chelsea were largely rural in character, with the southern part noted for market gardens and nurseries. These were introduced in the late 16th century and flourished until the mid 19th century when the land was required for building purposes. The best known nursery was Brompton Park owned by George London and Henry Wise which covered some 100 acres.

The King’s Road became a centre for horticultural enterprises including Colvill’s Nursery, famed for its cut flowers including chrysanthemums from China, and the Exotic Nursery, known for its camellias, magnolias and orange trees.
Northern Kensington was mainly arable, supplying hay to the London market. Two farms, Notting Barns and Portobello – named in honour of the capture of Puerto Bello by Admiral Vernon in 1739 – dominated the area, occupying some 400 acres of land. By 1828 Notting Barns, comprising some 150 acres, was mainly used for dairy farming. The old farm house was finally demolished in 1880. Portobello Farm with its extensive cornfields and meadow-land was sold in 1866 for building purposes.
Earl’s Court Farm spread over some 190 acres and was tenanted by generations of the Hutchins family. It was used for mixed arable and market gardening. After Samuel Hutchin’s death in 1844 most of the land on the western side of Earl’s Court Road was let to Samuel Alloway, a market gardener. The farm buildings were demolished and the land sold between 1875 and 1878.”

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