The memories of Caldwell family, staff and customers have been recorded and can be listened to online, or read as a transcription.
Everyone remembers things in different ways, a mixture of fact, opinion and perception. These recordings provide fresh insights and perspectives on how the nurseries operated in the latter part of the 20th century. They recall the lives of staff and the experiences of customers.
To listen or see a written summary of the recording, simply click on the image to the left of each entry below.
Sid Taylor was an employee of Caldwell's Nurseries from 1946 until the business closed. He started work in the Herbaceous nursery. When Bill Caldwell took over and began to get mechanised a tractor was bought and Sid was put in charge of it. Sid ploughed the ground at the different sites, collected plants for assembling into orders at the main nursery, travelled to Christmas tree suppliers and collected sundries from Altrincham.
Donovan Caldwell Leaman, Managing Director of Caldwell's Nurseries. One of Donovan's earliest memories is of walking through the rose nursery with his grandfather Arthur Caldwell (1865-1939). In 1958 when Bill Caldwell, his second cousin, acquired an orchard at Goostrey cum Barnshaw he invited Donovan to manage it. Donovan recalls discovering and naming Acer campestre 'William Caldwell' in 1976, and having worked in all departments of the nursery.
George Sanderson, an employee of Caldwell's Nurseries for 30 years until the nursery closed in 1991. George worked part time at Caldwell's before becoming a full time employee, first as under study transport manager and eventually as transport manager. He recalls the different areas of the nursery and nursery operations, the staff, salaries, customers and participation in regional flower shows.
Wife of William (Bill) Caldwell, last owner of Caldwell's Nurseries. Mavis met her husband Bill at Knutsford Fair. They lived on Chelford Road, first in Bramble Cottage and then at the nursery. Mavis grew to love gardening, walking through the nursery and choosing plants for her own garden. She recalled the family growing up at the nursery, the staff and the carthorse, and celebrating Caldwell's 200th anniversary.
David, son of Bill and Mavis Caldwell, has fond memories of growing up on the nursery. He trained at Writtle Agricultural College with a sandwich year spent at Notcutt's Nurseries. He worked in the family business from 1974 — 1978. As a foreman at Ollerton tree nursery David introduced several innovations and experimented growing trees from seed. David wanted to explore more opportunities than were on offer at Caldwell's so, like his college friends, he went to Australia.
John Prince was an employee of Caldwell's Nurseries from 1960-1990. John worked at Barnshaw and Ollerton Nurseries becoming foreman at both. He learnt budding and grafting, pruning fruit trees and roses, as well as the Latin names of trees from Mr Leaman. He also went out on site with the team of landscape gardeners. He recalls the nursery closing, the stocktaking and selling off trees, and then getting a job at Tatton Park.
Pete Lofthouse was the gardener at the Red House and Tatton Park. Pete went to work at the Red House straight from school, and then after a period of self employment worked at Tatton Park. While at the Red House he shopped at Caldwell's 5 or 6 times a year, purchasing seeds and bedding plants. When at Tatton he purchased plants on behalf of Tatton Garden Society.
David was an employee at Caldwell's. David recalls staff at the rose nursery including a Latvian, a Ukrainian, Big John and Bill Mullings. During the season additional staff came to help with the budding. About 75,000 roses were grown annually, many sold to local authority customers in the north-west. Bill Caldwell came each day to give instructions about orders, and if the weather was bad, some of the staff went to help at Caldwell's tree nursery.
Tom Acton is the former head gardener at Arley Hall, Cheshire. Tom recalls Lady Ashbrook's artistic sense of colour in the restoration of the gardens at Arley after their wartime use as a market garden. Mr Haliburton, a salesman from Caldwell's Nurseries, recommended a hardy catmint called Six Hills Giant. This plant continues to grow at Arley today.
With the exception of a period of National Service, Frank worked for Caldwell's all his life. At first he packaged seed, and then became responsible for buying bulbs, chemicals, pots and sundries, but helped to unload wagons and make wreaths as required. He also prepared the catalogues and kept the accounts. He recalls a happy atmosphere and everything being very labour intensive.
Peter Evans, customer, proprietor of Peter A Evans Garden Design and Maintenance. Peter was introduced to Caldwell's by a customer. Peter recalls the beautiful long shrub borders at the nursery on Chelford Road and how staff helped him as a young gardener, sharing their knowledge and introducing him to new plants.
Sam became acquainted with Caldwell's as the local nursery when he first took up his post as propagator at Tatton Park. He regarded Caldwell's as proper nurserymen and seedsmen and the people who worked there as knowledgeable. He recalls how the historic daybooks fascinated him because they demonstrate how some of the same vegetable varieties continue to be grown at Tatton while other species are no longer available.
Jeremy came into contact with Caldwell's when Lawton's started to undertake contracts for house builders. They could rely on the nursery for good quality plants and Bill Caldwell would come to site and advise them on appropriate plants for show gardens. He recalls the layout of the nursery and offices. Lawton's continued to be customers of Caldwell's. After they closed Lawton's undertook the landscaping of the houses constructed on the site.
Tony Gentil worked at Caldwell's as a young man having previously worked at Altrincham parks, Clibran's nurseries and having studied in Northop. He drove a Triumph Spitfire car to work, which caused some jealousy, and remembers various staff, clients and William Caldwell. He left Caldwell's to gain commercial glasshouse experience and then went to work in Tameside.
An employee of Caldwell's Nurseries from 1946-1952. Ken grew up in Timperley and developed an early interest in growing plants. At Caldwell's he worked in various departments and remembers the staff, customers and the Caldwell family. He left to seek higher remuneration, set up his own business and then worked for 30 years as a salesman for seedsmen Thompson and Morgan.
Alan Lane is Director of Lane's Landscapes and Brentwood Moss Nurseries. Alan was a regular customer of Caldwell's from the mid 1970s. He recalls the different nursery sites, people, practices and specific plants he bought or that were introduced or named by the nursery including Acer 'William Caldwell'.
Customer, former Head Gardener at Chester Zoo (1976-1985). Walter worked for a number of private owners and local authorities before taking up a post as gardener at Chester Zoo in 1960. When promoted to Head Gardener he kept a diary which records the lime trees supplied by Caldwell's for an avenue beside the monkey house. Caldwell's also supplied roses, thousands being planted and contributing to the Zoo's reputation for fine flower displays.
Linda's mother and grandfather worked at Caldwell's. She joined the firm as an office junior in 1965. She remembers the staff, family and herbaceous border, the love of plants in her family, and the part Caldwell's played in her life.
Alan and his father, who was a keen gardener, were customers of Caldwell's. When Alan laid out his first garden he purchased most of the plants from the nursery. A knowledgeable member of Caldwell's staff provided a plan for the herbaceous borders.
Peter Acton worked at Caldwell's for thirty years finishing in 1991 when the nursery closed. He remembers the nursery sites and staff, and also particular customer orders from delivering and planting sites throughout the north west. Peter has a number of unusual trees from Caldwell's in his own garden.
Mark's grandfather was a customer of Caldwell's. Mark spent his childhood holidays at his grandparents home, the Red House at Chelford where Pete Lofthouse was the gardener. Mark recalls his grandparent's garden, visiting Caldwell's Nurseries, and various shops in Knutsford.
Jane's parents were customers of Caldwell's. For ten years they ran a cafe in Knutsford where coaches stopped before the M6 was constructed. They purchased plants from Caldwell's to decorate the cafe, place on the tables and for their own garden.