Posts Tagged ‘James Lye’

Finding James Lye

April 28, 2016

James Lye is one of the more famous sons of Market Lavington. You won’t find much about him in history books for James was a humble gardener, working for much of the second half of the nineteenth century as the gardener at Clyffe Hall. Louisa Hay, the long term widow who occupied the hall must have been a bit indulgent with James for she let him have time for his passion – hybridising and showing fuchsias. If you dip a toe into the world of fuchsias you’ll come across the name of James Lye for his cultivars are keenly sought by experts.

We always knew James was buried in Market Lavington churchyard but extensive searches had failed to find his grave. Spurred on by an impending visit by Kristopher Harper, who runs the James Lye Fuchsia Collection, and by the recently given grave location books, we set about finding his grave location. Actually, it wasn’t easy, but with a bit of persistence and a small amount of lateral thinking it was discovered. Almost to our surprise there was and is a headstone. Knowing it was the right grave made it possible to make enough out on the grave to be sure we had found it. We ran it tight for a couple of hours later Kristopher was with us and standing by the grave. James died back in 1906.

Kristopher Harper of the James Lye Fuchsia Collection stands by the grave of James Lye

Kristopher Harper of the James Lye Fuchsia Collection stands by the grave of James Lye


Writing can be made out on the three tiers, but it isn’t readable so no wonder it had proved hard to find.

But it didn’t take all that much to uncover James Lye – not literally, of course – just the writing on the stone. Kristopher set to work with toothbrush and water.


Kristopher cleans the grave of James Lye

And there, clear as anything is the name ‘James Lye’.


After much more work the whole grave was readable. James’ wife Maria is commemorated on the side of the monument. So, too, are a number of their children. It is all clearly visible

We’ll return to this grave and family in the near future.


The Spring – 1978

December 10, 2015

We have another view of the road known as The Spring today. This one is some 17 years newer than the one we saw yesterday. It was taken in 1978 and shows a view across the field once known as the Warrington Field. By 1978 part of this had become the front field at Lavington School and part of it belonged to Dauntsey’s School. Here’s the image.

A Spring view in 1978

A Spring view in 1978

The most prominent feature in this photo is the tree which stands in the grounds of Lavington School. This is a Wellingtonia Fir and was planted in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

To the left of the tree we can see a reminder of an earlier use of this field.

Former cricket pavilion

Former cricket pavilion

This building had been originally erected as the cricket pavilion in about 1910. Charles Awdry, who owned the Manor at that time, was keen on cricket and laid out a very classy ground with a superb pavilion. After Charles’ death in 1912 and then the outbreak of World War One, the cricket pavilion found other uses. At the time of this photo it was probably the home of the Lavington School caretaker. It has now been demolished and a small estate of houses, ‘Pavilion Gardens’ stands on the site.

The photo shows the house once known as The Alban Estate, lining The Spring beyond the pavilion.

There is another house to the right of the tree.

Gardener's Cottage, Clyffe Hall

Gardener’s Cottage, Clyffe Hall

This was the gardener’s cottage for Clyffe Hall and would once have been lived in by James Lye. He was known far and wide, particularly for his skill in raising fuchsias. He developed many cultivars and many are still available. Gardeners could grow these Lavington developed plants for there is a James Lye Fuchsia collection, dedicated to preserving the known James Lye varieties and, just maybe, finding some of the lost ones again. You can see their site at

That’s quite a bit of history in a small area.

Banksian Medals

September 30, 2013


The Royal Horticultural Society issue Banksian medals to worthy horticulturalists. One is awarded each year to the person who gets most points in the local show’s horticulture classes – the fruit, flowers and vegetables. This means there is nothing particularly rare about them.

But one of them, in the museum, was awarded to James Lye, the Market Lavington and Easterton based fuchsia breeder. That one is special to us at Market Lavington Museum.

A Banksian medal at Market Lavington Museum

A Banksian medal at Market Lavington Museum

One side has a profile of the man the medal is named after – Joseph Banks. We can’t do justice to Joseph here. He was a top botanist of his day, was on Cook’s first voyage of discovery and is very much numbered amongst the great and the good.

The other side of the medal (more like a crown sized coin) is engraved with the winner’s name and the reason for the award.


The award was to James Lye and was awarded by the Bath Horticultural Show in 1878 for fuchsias.

The award was to James Lye and was awarded by the Bath Horticultural Show in 1878 for fuchsias.

I wonder if James was annoyed that the engraver got the spelling of Fuchsias wrong!

In 1878 when this medal was awarded, James was the gardener at Clyffe Hall for Louisa Hay.

The other day our curator met Kristopher Harper who holds the National Fuchsia Collection and is actively involved in researching everything to do with James Lye. Kristopher hopes to trial some fuchsia growing at Clyffe Hall to test his theory that James Lye cultivars were fairly hardy plants that could survive the winter. That will be interesting to report on.

But as this post is really about Banksian medals, let’s see a recent one – not in the museum – as issued to a flower show winner.


Well, it isn’t the same material, but no real change in design.


It looks as though the engraving is not as classy these days – but the spelling is correct.


The Welch Family at Home

March 25, 2013

It’s about 1891. The Welch family have decided it is time for a group family photo. Rather than popping along from their Church Street home to see Alf Burgess, and have the photo taken in his studio, they opt to have the photo taken at their home. We can only guess that they made use of Alf Burgess but Spring Villa (it still exists) made an ideal scene for a charming photograph.

The Welch family at Market Lavington in about 1891

The Welch family at Market Lavington in about 1891

The parents are Annie and James Welch and the children are Dorothy and Jack. Although the Welch family had a long association with the village, it was only little Jack who was born in Market Lavington. Dorothy, the older of the two children had been born at Upton Park in Essex. Annie was a Londoner by birth and James was born in Glamorgan.

For this blog, let’s look at Annie and find out about her.

Annie Welch - the former Annie Earle

Annie Welch – the former Annie Earle

Annie was born in 1857 in the Lambeth area of South London. Her father was a clerk in an office. The family were living in Lambeth at the time of the 1861 census.

How Annie met future husband James Welch, we do not know, but in 1881, 24 year old Annie was a visitor at Beech House in Market Lavington. Her hosts were the Welch family. Amongst the Welch family she was among was 25 year old James.

Did this young couple captivate James Lye, the famous fuchsia grower of Market Lavington? Amongst cultivars he produced was one he called Annie Earle – which still exists and another called James Welch which seems to have vanished. You could take a look at to discover more about fuchsias by our local grower, preserved by a true enthusiast and friend of Market Lavington Museum, Kristopher Harper. There you can find an image of Annie Earle, the fuchsia.

But back to the story of Annie, the person. She and James Welch married in 1887 – in West Ham. Dorothy was born the same year before the family moved back to Spring Villa.

The couple had no further children. The four members of the Welch family continued to live at Spring Villa.

Our 1926 electoral register shows the family, still living there in 1926.

Annie died in 1930 and joined her husband in the Welch vault in Market Lavington churchyard.