Xmera / Garden History / Nurseries: Spa Nursery, Gloucester

The Spa Nursery, Gloucester

The Spa Nursery was established by John McLaren, who was gardener to Lady Guise at Highnam and following her death set up in business as a nurseryman in 1797. Initially he had a seed shop near the Black Dog Inn in Lower Northgate Street, within 9 months moved to Eastgate Street. He advertised that

having formed a correspondence with some of the first seed and nurserymen, in the vicinity of London, he will (at all times) be enabled to execute orders, in a manner that he doubts not will secure him a liberal portion of public patronage.

McLaren also offered to lay out gardens and pleasure grounds in the most approved style. In addition to his nursery he also dealt in 'foreign spiritous liquors'. By 1820 when Gell & Bradshaw published their Gloucestershire directory McLaren's nursery was described as 'near the Spa'. The nursery's site was on Parkers Row (now Brunswick Road), on land leased from the dean and chapter. McLaren also leased land in Kingsholm and Sandhurst for growing stock. He continued to supplement the income from the nursery, running a coffee house with a licence to sell ale. He died in 1822. Both the nursery and the coffee house were carried on by his wife Charlotte. In the nursery she was assisted by her foreman Joseph Bond, who had worked in the nursery for two decades, and by her elder son John.

When Charlotte McLaren died in 1826, Joseph Bond set up on his own as a fruiterer and greengrocer in Eastgate Street. By the following autumn he had acquired the site of the Spa Nursery and its stock from Charlotte's surviving children. John McLaren continued to work in the nursery under the new ownership.

Bond died in 1837, when the business was initially conducted by his widow Sarah and then taken over in 1844 by his sons Joseph and William. (In 1847 Sarah was listed in Hunt & Co's Directory as operating a retail outlet in Eastgate Street.) It was from this time that newspaper advertisements for the Spa Nursery appeared regularly. These indicate that the nursery was run by Joseph, who sold 'fine trees' of the local apple Ashmead's Kernel at 'moderate' prices. In May 1868 he had 100,000 bedding plants in stock. Joseph Bond served as secretary of the revived Gloucester Horticultural Society between 1846 and 1854 and provided support to a number of shows in the surrounding area. From the 1860s the nursery was also occasionally described as the Brunswick Nursery. He continued to run the nursery until around 1880, when he retired and the stock was sold, although he 'retained an interest in floral work'. He died in 1898.

The site of the nursery now lies under the St Michael's Square car park.