Cheshire's nursery heritage celebrated
27 January 2012
The history of Caldwell's Nurseries, one of the oldest and finest plant nurseries in the North, is gradually emerging under a project to open up records going back to the 18th century.
Volunteers from the Cheshire Gardens Trust have won a grant from the Royal Botanical and Horticultural Society of Manchester and the Northern Counties to transcribe the company's 17 surviving business ledgers. They contain a remarkable amount of detail from information on prices and workers' wages to the vagaries of plant fashion.
The nursery supplied some of the country's finest gardens from the late 18th century until it closed in 1991, including Tatton Park and Dunham Massey in Cheshire, and the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire. Also among their first customers was John Wedgewood, who in 1804 with Sir Joseph Banks co-founded the Horticultural Society of London, later the Royal Horticultural Society.
Other orders came from France and further afield, building a reputation as one of the most sought-after plant nurseries in the north at a time when family-run nurseries such as Veitch's in Devon were shaping British gardening.
As well as transcribing the ledgers, volunteers have been recording the memories of surviving members of the Caldwell family, their staff and customers, to build an oral history of the Nursery. The Trust is also planning a garden celebrating Caldwell's legacy for this year's RHS Tatton Park Flower Show.
Eventually it's hoped the transcribed ledgers and the oral history will become a searchable database available to the public, alongside research into some of Caldwell's customers and their gardens.