Cutbush Nurseries

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Date: 1806 to 1913
Location: Highate, Middlesexmap
Surnames/tags: cutbush gardening nurseries
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Cutbush Nurseries

This is a collection of information from articles about the Nurseries, Wm Cutbush and sons. More articles will be added when I come across them. Feel free to add one of your own!

Highgate Nursery, started by Wm Cutbush Snr was separate business from the Barnet Nursery started by his eldest son William. When Wm Senior died the Highgate Nursery was taken over by son James. When Wm Junior died his widow sold the Barnet Nursery to James for £4,000. Mary Ann died before payment passed for this so £1,000 each (presumably from James) went to siblings James, Reuben and Emma plus Reubens daughter Sarah Ann, who had lived with William and Mary Ann. (see Mary Anne's Will, attached)

When James died his sons William and Herbert took them over and continued the business.

From: Highgate in Old Photographs by Paul Feeney

In 1806 Wm Cutbush b. 1788 took over an exisiting garden nursery business on West Hill, Highgate. In 1834 he built a house and shop on West Hill (now number 80), Highgates first garden centre.

The nursery gardening firm prospered and both his eldest sons were involved, William who ran a nursery in Barnet (who had no children) and James who took over the Highgate business in 1855, after the death of his father.

In 1839 James convened a meeting that resulted in tor formation of the Highate Horticultural and Floral Society, who held shows at Holly Lodge and Kenwood. The Society still exists today.

In 1871 the business was employing 25 men and 2 boys and had premises in Finchley.

James died in 1885 and his sons Herbert and William took over the business. In 1927 they gained a royal warrant from the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The brothers managed the business into the 20th century with premises in Highgate, Barnet and Bishopsgate. They were 'the largest nurseries in London' according to the brothers.

Early in the 20th Century William Bignall, who was a former employee and ran a rival business took over the nurseries and by 1913 it passed out of the Cutbush family. By then the nurseries had royal warrants from Queen Victoria and George V.

Directly quoted from 'Highgate in Old Photographs. [1]

The Nursery building: from XI—NOS. 45 AND 46, WEST HILL (SITE OF THE WHITE HART) Ground Landlord, Leaseholders, Etc. The house was originally copyhold of the Manor of Cantlowes, but has been enfranchised.

The occupiers are, No. 45, Mrs. Bonser. No. 46, Miss Parker.

General Description And Date of Structure. Nos. 45 and 46, West Hill were originally one house, and although they contain no features of special architectural importance the lower part of the external walls is of brickwork of early character. The bricks are very narrow and are laid in English bond. The house can easily be identified on the map of 1804, where it is marked as "Mr. Bowstreed's Nursery," which later passed into the hands of Messrs. William Cutbush & Sons. [2]

Nursery Addresses, Trade Directory

Cutbush, William and Son, 47 West Hill, North Road, Highgate N (T N 160 North) & b16 & 16 New Road (T N 2 Barnet) & Wood St, Hi Barnet [3]

The Nursery Business, from Planting From its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, Curtis argues, topiary in England fell out of favour as the influence of landscape gardening gathered pace, and Victorian gardeners like William Robinson advocated a more naturalistic approach to planting. However, with the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th century and its focus on medieval art and architecture, there was a revival of interest in topiary for domestic gardens.

Curtis mentions two nurseries, William Cutbush & Sons of Highgate, London and J. Cheal & Sons in Crawley, Sussex that in the early 1900s were supplying topiary specimens to the public and showing plants at RHS shows. The aptly named Herbert J. Cutbush was a regular visitor to Holland, travelling there on most weekends, and it was here that he came across topiary specimens that interested him. Curtis says:

‘He discovered that some of the best trained and the best furnished specimens of sculptured yew and box were to be found in the farmhouse gardens, in small, almost unknown villages, far from the usual routes of tourists and business-men, and this led to still further explorations.’

Over time, Cutbush got to know the Dutch topiary growers who were located in the Boskoop district, inland from The Hague and Rotterdam. He persuaded them to sell him plants from their nurseries for import to England, but would also buy specimens from private gardens:

‘One big tree that for sixty years had been the chief ornament of a Dutch blacksmith’s garden was only purchased after a whole day spent in persuasion and the consumption of much Schiedam, and after the purchase was made another week was spent in lifting and packing and removing the tree to the London steamer.’

The trouble and expense of importing plants like this one suggests that the market in England was sufficient to make the effort worthwhile. The topiary designs that Cutbush saw in Boksoop are described in detail by Curtis:

‘There is a great variety of form in the Dutch clipped trees, but spires surmounted with birds seem to be among the most common and are as easy to produce as most. For these, and for the peacocks and the spiral or serpentine columns, yew is almost invariably used.’

‘Pyramids, mop-heads and blunt cones are among the commonest designs; they do not call for the exercise of much ingenuity, but when these pyramidal trees are cut into several regular and well graded tiers their cost increases considerably.’

Cutbush also reported examples of topiary furniture such as tables with turned legs and armchairs, churches and crosses as well as ‘verdant poultry’:

‘Sitting hens, geese and ducks are common designs, and to protect the verdant poultry one may obtain equally verdant dogs, with or without kennels’

The Dutch topiary shrubs were field grown and Cutbush says that box birds might be trained for 10 – 12 years before they were lifted for export – dogs would need a little longer at 12 – 14 years. To make the eventual lifting easier, the roots of the shrubs were pruned after a year’s growth. Curtis and Gibson’s book doesn’t feature any photographs from Holland or the Cutbush nurseries, but there are several photographs from Cheal’s nursery at Crawley, showing many of the topiary forms described. [4]

The Cutbush firm entered many Horticultural Shows and won many prizes including the First Spring Show of the Royal Horticultural Society;

Horticultural Exhibitions. Royal Horticultural Society's, London, First Spring Show On March 13th the battle of the floral exhibitions opened for the present season. Hyacinths were the prime feature, and they were produced to an extent almost unprecedented in a London show. In addition to the usual prizes given by the Royal Horticultural Society for Hyacinths, there were also some special prizes given by the bulb-growers of Holland severally for thirty-six Hyacinths, distinct sorts, and the same number in twelve sorts, three of a sort. In each instance Messrs W. Cutbush & Son, Highgate, London, were first, and Mr W. Paul, Waltham Cross, second, [5]

Bankruptcy 1883 THE LONDON GAZETTE FEBRUARY 20, 1883. The Bankruptcy Act, 1869. In the London Bankruptcy Court. In the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by James Cutbush, of the Nurseries, Highgate, the Nurseries, Finchley, both in the county of Middlesex, the Nurseries, Barnet, part in the county of Middlesex, and part in the county of Herts, and also Wood-street Nursery, Barnet aforesaid, in the said county of Herts (trading as William Cutbush and SON), Nurseryman, Florist, and Seedsman. NOTICE is hereby given, that a First General Meeting of the creditors of the above-named person has been summoned to be held at the Law Institution, No. 123, •Chancery-lane, in the county of Middlesex, on the 2nd day •of March, 1883, at three o'clock in the afternoon precisely. —Dated this 10th day of February, 1883. P. COLLINGS, 19, Buckingham Street, Strand, in the county of Middlesex, Solicitor for the Debtor.


BIGNALL, Michael Arthur of West End House, Bramfield, Herts, Accounts Clerk, lately Trading under the style of Bignell and Cutbush from Bignell's Corner, South Minims Potters Bar, Herts as sole proprietor of a Garden Centre. Court—HERTFORD. No. of Matter—25 of 1979. Date of Adjudication—25th March 1980. [6] Date of Annulment—26th July 1989. Grounds of Annulment. Debts paid in Full.


  1. Highgate in old Photographs by Paul Feeney
  2. British History online
  3. file:///C:/Users/aliso/Downloads/p16445coll4_317364.pdf
  4. Planting
  5. The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.

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