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John Veitch - nurseryman and tree expert

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These pages are often about people who have had an influence upon Exeter, without necessarily being native born. The Scotsman, John Veitch fits this profile perfectly, as there are reminders of his work all over Exeter, which are rarely noticed.

Born 1752 at Jedburgh, Veitch had shown an aptitude for gardening from an early age. With his father's encouragement, he walked to London after employment, with the customary 10 shillings in his pocket. He found work with the nursery of Lees of Hammersmith, and was quickly noticed by local benefactor Sir Thomas Acland, the 7th Baronet of Killerton, who invited him down to Killerton House to improve the estate.

Veitch was soon estate manager and busily engaged in creating new borders, paths and sympathetically landscaping the grounds. Acland helped Veitch to establish his own nursery at Budlake, near Killerton, which, within a short time was prospering. After Sir Thomas died, in 1785, John Veitch devoted all his time to his tree and landscape consultantancy. He married Anna Davidson and had six children, the youngest, of whom James, born in 1792, would follow his father into the business. By 1800 he was well established and was gaining a high reputation - he had a single order for trees, worth £1,212 from Luscombe Castle, for the landscaper Humphrey Repton.

At this time plants were being discovered by enthusiastic plant hunters right across the globe, and when the Napoleonic Wars were over, Veitch imported many of these new varieties through the port of Topsham. Work was resumed at Killerton for the 10th Baronet, and the estate became a trial ground. His son James expanded the business, by purchasing land at Gras Lawn, Mount Radford in 1832. It was James who started sending out their own plant hunters to search for new specimens, and several important collectors, including William Lobb, John Gould, James Herbert and Peter Veitch roamed the furthest reaches of the world, for the nursery. James also opened their first seed shop in the High Street. Many will remember their last shop that was on the premises of the Well House Inn, Cathedral Yard, until the 1980's.

John Veitch continued to run the Budlake nursery until his retirement. He died at the age of 85 in 1839, leaving some outstanding specimen trees growing around Exeter, which survive to this day.

Many parks and gardens in Exeter were laid out by the House of Veitch, including the Heavitree Pleasure Ground, and further afield, Poole Park in Hampshire and Merrow Grange in Guildford. Veitch's were eventually sold to St Bridget Nursery in 1969.

John Veitch John Veitch.

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