Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The bulb industry in Lincolnshire - Tulips and Daffodils

Rachel Griggs, in April 1955 - aged 3 years 4 months!

My father Herbert Leslie Griggs was a bulb grower in Moulton, Spalding, Lincolnshire, in the 40s, 50s and 60s - he grew both daffodils and tulips.  He originally bought bulbs from Mr Van Geest, from his barrow and later imported bulbs from Holland and bought locally.

The history of the bulb growing industry in Lincolnshire

1900 – 500 acres of bulbs, the main crop was daffodils.

1907 – the first large plot of tulips grown by Sam Culpin.

1931 – 1,500 men and women employed on 3,000 acres of bulbs.

1936 – 2,000 workers on 3,256 acres of bulbs.

1939 – 10,000 acres of bulbs.

1943 – 915 acres of bulbs

1965 – 4,000 acres of daffodils, 3,000 acres of tulips and 130 acres of glass.

1966 – Spalding Bulb Company employ 500. 3,000 acres of bulbs of which 500 are tulips.

1967 – Geest take over Spalding Bulb Company.

1975 – 10,000 acres of bulbs, 1,500 of which are tulips.

1985 – 10,000 acres of bulbs, 2,000 of which are tulips.

1999 – less than 1,000 acres of tulips grown by a small handful of growers

Spalding was known as a market gardening area in the 1880s, but it was J T White of Little London, Dick Wellband and Oscar D'Alcorn (in 1901 Oscar was 38 and listed as a bulb farmer of 50 London Road, Spalding) who pioneered the bulb industry, growing tulips, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and iris.  Other early growers were: Elizabeth Quincey of Fulney, George Dickenson of Whaplode and Henry Knipe of Bourne. Records also show that Sam Culpin grew the first plot of tulips commercially in 1907.  In fact Darwin tulips were first introduced in 1905 and Samuel grew three: Clara Butt, William Copland and Rose Copland, which are still popular varieties today.

The Culpin family carried on bulb growing over many years. In 1881 Sam ran the Punch Bowl and in 1891 son Fred ran the Royal Oak, but by 1901 Frederick was listed as a farmer and bulb grower.  By 1911 it was a real family business Sam was now 83, Fred aged 45 is listed as a bulb grower and son Fred 20, son Robert Samuel 14 and daughters Florence Ann 18 and Elizabeth May 16 were all assisting in the bulb growing business and they all lived at Narcissus Gardens, Spalding.  In 1930 Fred of Low Road, Spalding died leaving £11,141 to his sons: Fred and Richard  were  bulb growers and Robert Samuel was a farmer.

Another important family was the Taylor's.  Otto Augustus Taylor (founder of AO Taylor) took over a small holding in 1919, provided by the Government of the day, for ex serviceman, from the First World War.  He decided to grow flowers and bulbs and became one of the pioneers of bulb growing.  My father bought bulbs from the company and today they sell to most nurseries in the UK!

The Dutch links arose when the Geest brothers John and Leonard Van Geest came to Lincolnshire in the 1930s.  The family had been involved in flower growing and horticulture since the late 19th century in Holland.  In 1935 Geest Horticultural Producers began growing their own flower bulbs, rather than relying on Dutch imports.

With the coming of the railways, flowers were sent to markets, towns and cities, which cheered dark, polluted, industrial areas and homes!

Les and Daisy Griggs, boxing up bulbs, note the Ransome tractor

By 1931 1500 men and women were employed on 3000 acres of bulbs.  Early flowers were sold open, with no central heating, flowers lasted well!  People also liked to see what they were buying.  They were bunched on frames and tied with raffia.  Boxes were lined with paper and the boxes were then sent to the markets.

Les Griggs's bulb growing business, Cobgate Road (now East Cobgate) Moulton.  It shows greenhouses and fields and the dark square in front of the greenhouses was a cold store, quite an innovation and one of the first in the area.


Spalding Bulb and Produce Auction

Before the Second World War, smallholders and small farmers could only work with dealers if they wanted to sell their bulbs and produce, but after the war, four auctioneers held their own individual auctions.  By 1948 it was felt it would be a good idea if the four auctions were amalgamated.  The first combined auctions were held in a marquee, but as the auction was so successful, within two years several permanent buildings were constructed.  Bulb sales were held between August and December, with the sale of gladioli taking place on Tuesdays in season.

People used to travel from all over the country to buy, and bulbs were entered into the sale from Holland, Ireland, Cornwall and Scotland!  At the end of the 1950s the four auctioneers were Mr R A Longstaffe; Mr G Kingston; Mr N Price and Mr J H Tateson, selling 30 million tulip bulbs through a season and 1500 tons of daffodil bulbs, not to mention the cut flower sales!  In 1955 a dozen Rose Copeland made 1s.2d to 4s.9d and a dozen Fortune daffodils 1s.4d to 2s.6d and the ever popular Cheerfullness 1s.7d to 2s.11d!  That was the year that The Tulip Queen, Janet Naylor,  was crowned on 20 April, in Ayscoughfee Gardens by Derrick De Marney, an actor.  He is perhaps best known for his starring role as Robert Tisdall, wrongly accused of murder in Alfred Hitchcock's Young and Innocent (1937).

Do watch -
Which shows girls picking/gathering daffs from the fields in 1929, and the end shows bunching the open daffodils on frames, 4 lots of 3, for the traditional dozen open flowers - each bunch was tied twice with raffia, in later years twist ties were used!! They are then put into boxes for market!


  1. Hello there,

    I am a student at new college stamford looking to promote and revive interest in the 'Spalding Flower Parade'.

    I would highly appreciate it if you could email me to perhaps arrange an interview of which would enlighten me on the origins of your family and their importance on bulb planting and production in Spalding, and the local area.

    My email address is:

    Thank you very much,


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