James Kelway – Happy 200th Birthday
James Kelway, the founder of Kelways Nurseries, was born on 2nd November 1815 in Pilton, Somerset.
His father William was Head Gardener on the Westholme estate, which was owned by Major Thomas Clerk, a senior figure in the East India Company. James was probably born in the gardener’s cottage, which is still there.
He was the third of four children. His older brother John became Mayor of Wells, and his sisters Sarah and Mary both married and settled down with local men. He was the only one to follow in his father’s footsteps.
After leaving school at the age of 13 he worked alongside his father for the next 5 years, learning his trade and getting to know the competitive world of flower shows. Then, at the tender age of 18, he was taken on by John Lee Lee, who had just inherited the Dillington estate, and had ambitious plans for redesigning the gardens. James became Head Gardener there and built up his experience over the next 17 years.
In January 1851 he bought a small nursery in Langport, and in May he left Dillington and moved to Langport to set up on his own. The rest is history!