The land and the river formed the basis of our local economy for centuries. Indeed, Chiswick’s name is said to mean “cheese farm” and the parish was famous for its barley, much of which was supplied to support the owners of the manors at St Paul’s Cathedral. From at least the mid 17th century Brentford farmers were cultivating orchards alongside the more general farming of the area.
In the late 17th and during the 18th century a number of skilled nursery gardeners were working here, in walled garden grounds on the lower land near the Thames. They were supplying trees and hedging plants for the laying out of formal gardens and the lanscaping of parkland, and shrubs and plants for the flower garden and kitchen garden. Fine gardens were to be found at Boston Manor, Gunnersbury, Sutton Court and Chiswick House.
By the 19th century it was becoming more profitable to cultivate market gardens, intensively manure with London’s stable sweepings, to supply the capital’s growing population. A few specialist nurseries survived and the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden ground was at Chiswick until it moved to Wisley in 1904.