History of Rivers Nursery

A full history of the nursery is available in the book "Rivers Nursery of Sawbridgeworth" published in 2009 by our own Elizabeth Waugh based on our archives of the family business and interviews with family and former employees. This book are available to buy. RHSO members are available to talk about the history of the site to other local groups. Contact the committee if you are interested.

Rivers Nursery dates back to 1725 when it was established by John Rivers who came to Sawbridgeworth from Berkshire. The very significant influence of the Rivers family on the history of Sawbridgeworth is permanently acknowledged and enshrined in the town's coat-of-arms which depicts a fruit tree garlanded with attractive blossom.


Thomas Rivers (1798-1877)

Thomas Rivers (1798-1877) took over the thriving family business in 1837. He became one of the most respected pomologists of all time. He corresponded with Charles Darwin on botanical matters and worked closely with Robert Hogg, whose status in the fruit world is second to none. Thomas Rivers developed a plethotra of horticultural techniques, was an early pioneer of fruit cultivation under glass, developed many fruit and rose varieties and helped restock the Californian orange industry. He authored many books on fruit and rose culitivation that still sell today.

His son, Thomas Francis Rivers (1830-1899), continued the introduction of new fruit varieties including the Rivers Early Peach (apple), the Thomas Rivers Apple, the Late Transparent Gage, the Czar plum and the renowned Conference Pear. All these fruit varieties (and many others) can be found in the Rivers orchard today.

The Thomas Rivers and Son Nursery declined through the the 20th centuary and was sold at the end of the 1980s as it was no longer commercially viable due to the rise of supermarkets.

At the height of its prosperity in the late 19th century, land owned or rented by the Rivers family for horticultural purposes amounted to approximately 400 acres. It is a remarkable fact that the 21st century remains of the orchard is only one-hundredth (1%) of this figure. It is a very significant part of the 'green lungs' of Sawbridgeworth, whose residents enjoy its appeal on many levels. Every effort must be made to ensure that this haven of enormous bio-diversity attracts, and is given, higher levels of security and stewardship.

Cultivars introduced by the Rivers Nursery

The nursery developed many cultivers of fruit, many of which are still available to buy (EEAOP provides many on dwarfing rootstock). Those marked * are recommended for a home orchard. The following is an incomplete list complied principally from Rivers Catalogues and the EEAOP website.

Apples

Early Rivers
Rivers Early Peach*
Rivers Nonsuch
Rivers St. Martins
Prince Edward
Thomas Rivers
New Hawthornden*

Pears

Beacon
Conference*
Fertility
Magnate
Parrot
Princess
St. Luke
Summer Beurre

Plums and Gages

Admiral
Archduke
Autumn Compote
Blue Prolific
Blue Rock
Bittern
Curlew
Czar*
Early Rivers Damson
Early Cluster
Early Favourite
Grand Duke
Heron
Late Prolific
Late Rivers
Late Orange
Mallard
Monarch*
President
Primate
Rivers Early Damson
Rivers Early Prolific (Early Rivers)
Stint
Sultan
Sawn
Early Transparent
Golden Transparent
Late Transparent*

Cherries

Archduke
Early Rivers*
Peggy Rivers*
Ursula Rivers*

Peaches

Albatross
Alexandra Noblesse
Condor
Crimson Galande
Dagmer
Doctor Hogg
Duchess of Cornwall
Duke of York
Early Albert
Early Alfred
Early Beatrice
Early Louise
Early Rivers
Early Silver
Early Victoria
Falcon
Gladstone
Golden Eagle
Goshawk
Kestrel
Lady Palmerston
Magdola
Merlin
Nectarine Peach
Osprey
Peregrine
Prince of Wales
Rivers Early York
Sea Eagle
Thomas Rivers

Nectarines

Advance
Albert Victor
Byron
Cardinal
Chaucer
Darwin
Dryden
Early Rivers
Goldoni
Humboldt
Improved Downtown
Lord Napier
Milton
Newton
Pineapple
Prince of Wales
Rivers Orange
Spenser
Stanwick Elruge
Victoria
White Nectarine

Apricots

New Large Early

Red Currents

Rivers Late Red

Raspberries

Hornet

Strawberries

Royal Hautbois