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The previous post [1] on the Victorian plant nurseries concentrated in a single Norwich parish seems to have struck a chord in this city with a long history of horticulture. The feedback has been tremendous and, since personal reminiscences and comments brought the topic alive, I felt they deserved to be recorded. The scale of some of the nurseries was astonishing: Adcock’s glasshouses ‘totall(ed) a quarter of a million square feet of glass’. One reader said she’d heard gardeners on Upton Road remarking on how much broken glass they keep digging up. Another, whose garden backs onto the site of Adcock’s nursery, found a subterranean cistern underneath her garden. As we’ll see, other comments provide a fascinating insight into the seed shops maintained by nurseries in the city centre.

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Adcock’s Nursery ca 1904. ©Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society 2014

On Twitter, Huw Sayer made the comparison between Adcock’s nursery and the subject of an article in the Eastern Daily Press. More than a century after Adcock, a giant tomato glasshouse is being built just outside Norwich, using ‘More glass than the Shard.’ [2]

Low carbon project to grow tomatoes at Crown Point, Kirby Bedon. (Crown Point was where Victorian balloonist Colonel Money built his mansion). Photo credit: Step Associates

The only surviving nursery lives on as Notcutt’s Garden Centre. As we saw [1], this started as Mackie’s nursery, which was so large that clients could drive around in their carriages. It became the Townclose Nurseries and, after being sold to the Daniels brothers was bisected in the 1930s by the Daniels Road portion of the ring road.

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Daniels Brothers’ receipt, courtesy of Pamela Clark.

I show the Daniels Bros receipt (1892) again as a reminder that in addition to their out-of-town seed grounds and nurseries around Newmarket and Ipswich Roads, they had city centre warehouses in Exchange Street and Bedford Street. This latter area, around the north-west corner of modern-day Jarrolds Department Store, provided a shop window for out-of-town nurseries. The location is perhaps not surprising since the Corn Exchange was built at this junction between the two streets. The area was therefore a focus for the gardening as well as the farming seed trade.

The arrow points to the entrance to Bedford Street off Exchange Street. The Corn Exchange of 1861 stands at the corner, now replaced by an extension to Jarrolds Department Store. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk
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Inside the Corn Exchange 1960. ©Historic England Archive ref: AA98/12867

In 1854, Mason’s Directory records that William John Ewing of the Royal Norfolk Nurseries, Eaton, had a seed warehouse at 9 Exchange Street, while Mackie’s and Stewart had a ‘seed establishment’ next door at 10&11 [3]. Correspondent Don Watson provides a link with the Daniels store around the corner: ‘I remember Daniels’ shop in Bedford Street because, being at school in Norwich, it became my job to buy the vegetable seeds there – much better quality than Bees Seeds from Woolworths (so I was told). That establishment was one of a few which still in the 1950s had only a beaten earth floor’.

Dick Malt confirmed this recollection: ‘Don Watson is quite right, the shop stood about opposite Little London Street and became The Granary when Daniels left. The facade is still the same as it was.’‘The Bedford St premises were where, at that time, seeds were cleaned and dressed for sale, both horticultural and agricultural. The cleaning floor was the topmost, under the roof. By the time I remember it, that aspect of the business had ceased and orders were packed there for posting out. There was a sack hoist from the ground floor and the warehouse manager’s office on the first floor was connected by a speaking tube to the upper floor’. 

Daniels Bros Seed Store in Bedford Street 1960s ©Richard Malt

Simon Gooch said, I ‘thought you might be interested in a little more information about The Granary in Bedford Street, filling in a bit of a missing link between Daniels seedsmen and Jarrolds taking over. My late father Michael Gooch (who was in partnership with my mother Sheila as M & S Gooch, Architects, in Norwich) converted the warehouse into a new shop for the owners Chapman & Pape in 1971-2. They called it The Granary, and at a time before Habitat or John Lewis had arrived in the city it was a bit of a mecca for good furniture and kitchenware. I have a couple of black & white photos taken just after the shop opened, showing the smart typography of the name on one of the windows; the ground floor facade was painted a dark colour, I think purple (though being the Seventies it might have been chocolate brown). The interior’s handsome pine beams and supports were exposed, and the wood and steel staircase inserted.’ The building is now Jarrolds’ modern furniture and design store and they retained the name, The Granary.

The Granary as redesigned by M&S Gooch for Chapman & Pape c1972. Photo Trevor Wood, courtesy of Simon Gooch

Dick Malt’s account continues: ‘This picture of Bedford St [2 above] shows the shop in the 1960s. It had a long mahogany counter which had almost certainly come from the Arcade. My father, A.E. (Jim) Malt was the firm’s manager and later managing director, having spent his working life in the horticultural and agricultural seed trades, beginning as an apprentice to Daniels. The shop was then in the Royal Arcade – I still have the keys!’

Jim Malt’s keys to Daniels shop in the Royal Arcade ©Richard Malt

‘My father was born in 1909, so was most likely apprenticed to the firm in about 1923. Some of the time he had to work on the firm’s farm at Tunstead, near Coltishall, where seeds were grownHe had to collect the keys to the Arcade from the Guildhall on his way to open up the shop. One sharp March morning he found the lock on the gates frozen up – a policeman thawed them out with a blow lamp’.

‘Daniels Bros, ‘The Royal Norfolk Seed Establishment’, had a shop at 16-20 Exchange Street (as seen on the printing block image (below) – reversed for ease of reading) …

Printing block (reversed) showing Daniels Bros seed establishment 16-20 Exchange Street. ©Richard Malt

The plate shows the building was originally five storeys high but numbers 16-20 are now much reduced.

16-20 Exchange Street to the left of Thorns ©OnTheMarket

The discrepancy is explained by George Plunkett’s photograph of the collapse in 1991 of the north-west end of the street.

Looking from the Duke Street carpark towards the Market, the scaffolding marks the collapse of 16-20 Exchange Street ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

Dick Malt suggests that Daniels may have moved to the Royal Arcade ‘when it was opened in 1899’. Below, Stuart McPherson’s ‘ghost’ photo, shows the location of Daniels’ shop in the arcade.

©Stuart McPherson

Holders of the Royal Warrant awarded by King Edward VII advertise their prestigious address in the newly-opened Royal Arcade.

Newspaper clipping 1903

The list of Daniels’ locations from a 1939-40 catalogue indicates the firm owned seed farms at Tunstead and Ashmanhaugh. It also shows they still maintained the Royal Arcade address up to the Second World War.

From a 1939-40 catalogue. Courtesy of Dick Malt

The shop moved to the Daniels Road nursery site in 1967 – a new phenomenon then – a Garden Centre – and the Bedford St premises became ‘The Granary’.’

Opening of Notcutt’s Garden Centre. L-R, back row, the Directors: A.E. Malt, Managing Director (Dick’s father); Gordon Youngs (Accountant); W. (Bill) Martin, who was the son of a Daniels shop manager in the Arcade days and who owned a florists in Lower Goat lane, and Charles Daniels (Chairman).

The two seated celebrities were Percy Thrower (the country’s most famous gardener) and Ted Moult (farmer, radio and TV personality).

There is a short history of the firm in ‘Norfolk Fair’ magazine Vol.5, No.11, 1973, does anyone have access to a copy?

Thanks. I am grateful to the readers who made comments and those who provided further information, especially Dick Malt whose father’s working life is commemorated in this piece.

Sources

  1. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/01/15/the-nursery-fields-of-eaton/
  2. https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/business/norfolk-and-suffolk-tomato-greenhouses-nearing-completion-1593518
  3. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/62401/62401-h/62401-h.htm