MENTION roses and the name Mattock inevitably springs to mind.

The Oxford family produced roses in rich and vivid colours for more than 100 years, delighting customers locally, nationally and internationally.

The firm started at Headington by professional gardener John Mattock in 1875 became one of the best known in the world.

He began with a small nursery off what is now Wilberforce Street and gradually expanded it eastwards towards Windmill Road.

By 1889, he was also running a stall in Avenue Four at Oxford Covered Market, offering customers fruit as well as roses.

Oxford Mail:

The house in Headington where the firm began

An advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal in the run-up to Christmas that year proudly announced that he had “a large stock of 30,000 well-grown roses to choose from, five shillings to 18 shillings per dozen”.

When John Mattock died in 1913, he was well established as a rose grower and market gardener.

His eldest son, John Robert, continued the business, but when he died in 1936, rose growing was at its lowest ebb, and even the general nursery side of the family firm had declined.

However, his only son, John William, took over, nursed it through the depression and the war, and revived its fortunes.

He decided to concentrate all the firm’s energies on rose growing and, in 1964, steered it to its new home at Nuneham Courtenay, where eventually customers could admire 400,000 rose trees growing in nurseries and on surrounding farmland.

Oxford Mail:

Mattock's staff in 1906

On a typical Sunday, more than 1,000 people would drive into the countryside to enjoy the aroma.

Gardening had developed into a boom industry and with more time on their hands, customers were becoming more adventurous in the types of rose and colours they were choosing.

The founder’s first catalogue issued in the 1880s was circulated to 186 customers. In 1980, 100,000 copies were printed.

By that time, the firm was being run by John William’s three sons, John, Mark and Robert, and had won international status, with sales in Europe, Scandinavia, the United States and some Iron Curtain countries.

Oxford Mail:

Founder John Mattock

The Mattock stands at shows throughout the country were admired by many, including members of the Royal family, and the exhibits earned a host of trophies, cups and medals.

One memorable year was 1975 when the firm celebrated its centenary with a spectacular display of 20,000 blooms at Chelsea Flower Show. Two years later, it produced a special rose called Royal Salute as its contribution to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

However, the good times did not last much longer. In the mid-1980s, after 110 years’ trading through four generations, the family sold the Nuneham site and the retail side of the business to Notcutts, which ended rose growing in Oxfordshire and sold roses grown elsewhere under the trade name, Mattock’s Roses.