Nurseries in Fishergate
The map above shows part of the Backhouse nursery in Fishergate in 1852, where Tower House now stands. You can see other maps and read more by clicking on the links below.
We have compiled the following short overview of York's pioneering nurserymen from the wonderful 'York Stories' website ( http://yorkstories.co.uk/histories/york-early-nurserymen-telford-backhouse-1/ ) (thanks Lisa).
And there are links below to further articles, so read on - beginning with the story of Telford's nursery in Tanner Row...
"The garden and its nursery business was clearly well-established by 1736 when Francis Drake described the ‘spacious’ garden occupied ‘by Mr Tilford a worthy citizen … of credit to his profession; being one of the first that brought our northern gentry into the method of planting and raising all kinds of trees for use and ornament.’
Telford’s clients among the ‘northern gentry’ included the owner of Studley Royal. Closer to home, in 1740, the nursery supplied 340 elm trees to complete the ‘New Walk’ in York, alongside the Ouse. (Many of these trees were later replaced (in 1824) by a variety of species from the Backhouse nursery.)
James Backhouse felt the nursery business at Tanner Row was too large for him to manage alone. His brother Thomas agreed to go into partnership with him. They took over the Telford nursery in May 1816.
The nursery business at Tanner Row flourished, despite the departure of James Backhouse in 1831, on Quaker missionary work. He travelled to Australia, and after ten years returned, via Mauritius and South Africa. His absence perhaps helped, rather than hindered, as he sent back exotic plants and seeds to the York nursery, many of them mentioned in the horticultural journals of the time as new arrivals of great interest.
A glimpse of the impressive set-up at Tanner Row comes from a letter written by the Backhouses’ gardener, Henry Bains, on 4 December 1827. He describes the plant-raising facilities: ‘The three cisterns in three of their houses are built with brick and Roman cement, and are 24 ft. long, 1 ft. 10 in. wide, and 2 ft. 9. in. deep, and are all heated by one boiler, the flue, to which is continued through the houses, and gives out a considerable quantity of heat.’
The Backhouses had to move from their Tanner Row nursery, to allow for the creation of York’s first railway station. They took over the Riggs’ nursery grounds adjacent to Cemetery Road in Fishergate. The Floriculture Magazine of 1839 recorded the change of ownership, and the fact that James Backhouse was still sending the nursery interesting seeds from far away: York. – Backhouse’s Nursery. – The site of what was formerly the home ground, occupied with greenhouses, pits, stool, ground, &c, is now the terminus to the North Midland Railway, Mr. Backhouse having removed the whole of his establishment, to what was formerly Mr. Rigg’s nursery, on the Selby road, a short distance from York. Here we noticed several new and interesting plants raised from Australian seeds, sent home by Mr. Jas. Backhouse.
The Backhouse nursery on Fishergate is shown on the 1852 OS map occupying a large area between Fishergate and Cemetery Road.
Other Rigg land across the east side of Cemetery Road (which in 1852 was known as ‘East Riding Parade’) was sold to the newly-formed York Public Cemetery Company, and since 1837 has been part of York Cemetery.
And later …The Backhouse nursery moved again, in 1853, to a site in Holgate (now West Bank Park) where it remained until the mid-20th century.
You can read more about the Telford, Backhouse and Riggs nurserymen in an article we have compiled from a range of websites by clicking HERE
Burnby Hall, near Pocklington, has a large Backhouse rockery (pictured above). It was extensively refurbished in 2018 following a Heritage Lottery Grant and restored to its former glory.
Below is a photograph of an information panel at the rockery, but you really need to visit Burnby Hall to see it in its full glory!
A trustee of Burnby Hall Gardens, Peter Williams, has kindly passed us a copy of an article he has written for the Journal of the Hardy Plant Society (vol. 40. No.1 Spring 2019, pp23-29) about the amazing story of how a wonderful narcissus 'Weardale Perfection' (pictured above) was rescued from plant oblivion.
Download the article HERE and enter the world of dedicated narcissus enthusiasts.