Xmera / Garden History / Nurseries: Jessops

Jessop's Nursery, Cheltenham

Jessop's nursery was founded around 1823 by Charles Hale Jessop, the son of a local solicitor. The nursery occupied over 20 acres from St James's Square down to the river Chelt, bounded to the west by Workhouse (now Knapp) Lane. The working part of the nursery was within a walled enclosure close to the house. As befitted their location within a Spa town, the nursery Gardens were laid out to attract visitors and boasted a pond stocked with fish, a vinery, a warehose selling seeds, bulbs and tools, hothouses and beehives. Rustic arbours, rose walks and rockwork grottoes encouraged loitering, as did the fancy breeds of rabbit and exotic birds on display.

In 1843 Josiah Jessop, the eldest son, set up 'The Aviaries', a separate but connected establishment next door. He was subsequently joined by his younger brother Jesse and by 1851 they employed 5 men and three boys.

In 1845 some of the land of Jessop's nursery was sold to GWR for the building of a railway station at St james Square. This necessitated the sale of 1,100 fruit trees, 400 grape vines, 1.600 roses, 600 Italian cypress and other trees and shrubs. Subsequently a 150-yard stretch of a new sewer for the Chelt passed through the nursery, necessitating the disposal of further nursery stock. In July 1855 after two days of continual rain the sewer failed and the Chelt broke its banks, innundating the nursery.

The nursery never fully recovered from the disaster and Charles Hale Jessop was declared bankrupt in 1858. His sons continued to develop 'The Aviaries', developing it as a menagerie and later adding a maze, but as the popularity of Cheltenham as spa declined it was not a commercial success. It closed by 1872.