Frank P Matthews History
Roots in the past - eyes in the future
The nursery was established in 1901 by Frank P Matthews. Mr Matthews was born in 1878 (the same year as Isadora Duncan), left school in 1894 (the year Robert Louis Stevenson died) and trained with some of the leading nurserymen of his day.
Founded on £800 borrowed from an uncle and six acres of rented land, the nursery began in the aptly named Cherry Lane in Harlington, Middlesex.
In the one hundred years since the roots of the business were first put down, there have been remarkable changes in both horticultural practice and the wider world.
For example, in the early years natural fertiliser was plentiful: barge loads of horse manure came from London stables. With the disappearance of horse-drawn vehicles, horse manure was replaced in turn by hoof and horn from Argentina (a by-product of the huge beef canning plants), spent hops, shoddy from Yorkshire, even goose quills from the former Yugoslavia.
The land at Harlington was originally prepared for planting by a steam driven gyrotiller - although deliveries to and from the nursery were by local horse-drawn carriers and the railways. It could take three or four days for a load of trees to reach Scotland.
The business has been stopped in its tracks by two world wars during which time only cereals and potatoes were grown as part of the war effort. We have worked through the reigns of five monarchs, more prime ministers than we can count, and, in the process, supplied millions of trees to thousands of ornamental and fruit tree growers and nurserymen the length and breadth of the British Isles - and overseas. In the 1950s the business was found to be occupying land needed for the development of a new road network near Heathrow so the search was started for a new home.
The present site on the banks of the River Teme was found in 1956. We are settling in nicely. As with every business it is the people in it who make it work. When Frank P Matthews retired, his son-in-law Andrew Dunn took on the leadership role supported by Frank P Matthews’ daughter, and, as we have always been, by first rate people in every part. Andrew's son, Nick Dunn (a previous chairmain of the Hardy Nursery Stock Board of the Horticultural Development Council and Chairmain of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Committee) now carries the business forward. His daughter and son-in-law are also involved with this family business, taking it into its fourth generation.
This nursery, born in the year that Queen Victoria died, has always been keen to grow the very best quality trees using the best horticultural practice. Down the years we have seen (and embraced) the coming of the telephone, the fax, the computer, and the mobile phone. We shall welcome newer technologies as and when they arrive since we know that by doing so we can continue to do what we do best: growing Trees for Life®