A Summary of Market Gardeners of Feltham

Presented by the Chairman of The Feltham History Group.
July 2013

“The 18th & 19th centuries saw a marked increase in the demand for fresh fruit and vegetable the demand was met by those with horticultural expertise and entrepreneurial acumen some of those are here noted.

Lee & Kennedy the former first being employed at Syon House and later at the estate of the Duke of Argyle at Whitton. Lee’s partnership with Lewis Kennedy began in 1760 managing The Vineyard at Hammersmith. The partners sons, under the Enclosure Act of Feltham, acquired land on what was then known as Feltham Common ‘the land enclosed by Hounslow Road, Staines Road and Harlington Road West, the partnership was dissolved in 1817. James Lee junior acquired further land and by the time of his death in 1924 owned many acres of good growing land in Feltham. The Fuschia which was introduced in 1788 is the subject of a story in which Lee is credited with the propagating of this beautiful plant from South America via acquisition from a Sailor who had brought the plant to England for his mother – Lee bought the plant and took 300 plus cuttings thus beginning a Fuschia explosion!

John Veitch a well known name in horticultural circles came from Jedburgh in 1752 and was employed by Sir Thomas Acland at Killerton Devon. In 1870 sixty acres of land were bought in Bedfont Lane ‘generally the Southville Junior School area’ Veitch Close being named in his honour. The Veitch family are responsible for importing some 2000 species these included Orchids, Lilies, Ferns and many evergreens together with a number of deciduous trees.

Harry Veitch great grandson of the founder was connected with Feltham playing an active part in local affairs and donated an Oak, which was planted on Feltham Green, [Red Lion Pond] to commemorate the coronation of Edward V11 in 1902. He was a member of the Royal Horticultural Council from 1887 and Chairman of the Orchid Society. In 1906 the Royal Horticultural Society awarded him the Royal Victoria Medal of Honour and in 1912 was knighted by the King for his part in organising the International Horticultural Exhibition. The Veitch Memorial Medal is still awarded to persons who have supported advancement and improvement of the science and practice of horticulture. He retired [ill health] in 1914 and died some 10 years later. The sale of trees and shrubs lasted 9 days with much of the land being bought by Middlesex County Council [Feltham Smallholdings] the remainder being purchased by Wills & Seagar.

Wills worked under Sir Joseph Paxton and was involved with laying out Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. He developed new strains of Verbenas, Pelargonium and Violas he also wrote many papers and articles for gardening magazines. They specialised in floral decorations of church buildings and even Buckingham Palace. The firm, in Feltham, closed after the Second World War.

Watkins & Simpson had a seed testing grounds in Feltham in the Middle Field area; they tested seeds bought from other firms and also developed new strains such as the Feltham Pea and Feltham Bean which are still available. Simpson’s work was honoured by the award of several gold medals by the Royal Horticultural Shows. In 1927 he was awarded the prestigious Henry Eckford Gold Memorial Medal and the Victoria Medal of Honour for his life-long work with Sweet Peas. Alfred Watkins died in 1937 when his firm was one of the most famous in Europe.

The land was the subject of gravel extractions in the mid 20th century but now is a pleasant area with a perimeter walkway and in the summer many wild flowers blossom and bloom.

William Cole who was born in 1830 worked, before coming to Feltham, at Stratfield Saye – on arrival in Feltham he worked for Veitch & Sons but by 1875 he had established himself as a grower of Strawberries and Grapes at the Vineyard Nurseries [Vineyard Road/Charleston Road] he also held land in Bedfont Road, east and north of the railway bridge, the site of Thanet House and other dwellings.

There have been many other market gardeners and growers in Feltham who, apart from AW Smith, achieved not such illustrious heights.

It is worth noting (Hon Sec) that Alexander Dean, a local man, and a well known horticulturalist often wrote of the produce grown in this area and mentioned fruits such as, apples, pears, cherries, plums, greengages, damsons, blackcurrants, redcurrants, strawberries and walnuts. Mr Dean was the Middlesex Chronicles’ correspondent for Feltham.

Acknowledgement is here made to the late Mary Beamson whose original work was featured in Feltham Notes History Group magazine ‘Summer 1999’ from which this abridgement was derived.