James Kelway established a plant nursery on this site in 1851. He built himself a house on the corner of Wearne Hollow, from where he could keep an eye on his nursery. He called it Gladioli Villa, after his favourite flower. He started with just over an acre of land, and by the end of the century Kelways either owned or leased over 200 acres, employed well over 100 people and had 45 glass houses, each 50 ft (15m) long. The original nursery buildings included warehouses where seeds and bulbs were packed and stored.
In 1990 the nursery business moved eastwards along Somerton Road to Barrymore Farm, prompting the original buildings, now known as Old Kelways, to become listed Grade 2 to save them from demolition. They now house offices, a B&B, a cafe and a bathroom showroom.
Sadly, Peony Valley is no more, but Kelways are still known for their excellence in peonies and irises. They regularly win medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, and are major suppliers of plants to Chelsea Show Gardens.
You can read more about Kelways in the Businesses section. There is also a history of Kelways, called Kelway’s Glorious: the story of a pioneering Somerset nursery. More details are on our Publications page.
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