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High Street History

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Laxton's - Seedsmen, Nurserymen and Florists
63a High Street

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The Laxton Family

What made the Laxtons so special?

Laxtons 63a High Street, Bedford. Source BARSThomas was one of the earliest nurserymen to use scientific methods in plant breeding. He selected parent plants from close observations of their most desirable characteristics rather than simply from well-known varieties as was common at that time. Thomas Laxtons trials and observations aided the work of Charles Darwin and were referred to in Darwins published works. His aim was to improve the quality of plants, rather than make money and he believed that seed from all commercially produced plants should be saved. Three generations of the Laxton family and over 100 years of horticultural work raised at least 182 new varieties of plants.

Thomas Laxton (1830-1893)

Born in Tinwell, Rutland, he originally trained as a solicitor. Developing an interest in the hybridization of plants, by 1858 he had started plant breeding. In 1872 he began to develop strawberry varieties from his work. Moving to Bedford in 1879, he is listed in Kellys Directory in 1885  as seed grower and merchant, at 1 Harpur Place, Bedford (now 41 Harpur St, Bedford). By the time he had retired in 1890 he was living at 78 Tavistock Street, Bedford. Twice married, he had three daughters from his first marriage and four sons from his second.

William Hudson Laxton (1866-1923)

The son of Thomas Laxton, in 1888 he formed a partnership with his brother Edward and was also the joint owner of a brickworks in Kempston Hardwick. He died in 1923 at 28, The Embankment, Bedford.

Edward Augustine Lowe Laxton (1868-1951)

The son of Thomas Laxton, Edward was the driving force behind the nursery. In 1888 he went into partnership with his brother William to form Laxton Bros. By 1890, Laxton Bros were at 4-6 Bromham Road and subsequently opened a shop at 63a High Street, Bedford. He was awarded an MBE in the 1951 New Year Honours and died at 73 Bushmead Avenue in the same year.

The brothers concentrated their attention on crossing the best varieties of apples, pears, plums and small fruits. Lord Lambourne, a dessert apple, raised by Laxton Bros. in 1907 was awarded the RHS Bunyard Cup in 1921 and an award of merit in 1925. In about 1900 they set up Tollgate Nurseries (140 acres) at Goldington Road, opposite Newnham Avenue where the University of Bedfordshire is now.

Edward (TED) William Henry Laxton (1894-1942)

Son of Edward A.L. Laxton, he inherited the horticultural talents and enthusiasm of his father and in 1923 became a partner in the Laxton nursery business shortly before his Uncle William died. He produced new varieties of fruits, roses and garden peas. Tragically he was killed by direct hit on his home at 176 Kimbolton Road, Bedford during an air raid in 1942.

John Edward Laxton (1925-2011)

He became head of the firm in 1951. In 1956 the decision was made to sell off the land belonging to the firm and in 1957 the nursery (the land was overworked) and shop were sold and the firm went into voluntary liquidation.


63 High Street, Bedford Timeline

1860s Private house
1868 James Corocan, Distiller
1884 Edward Verdon Corocan, Wine Merchant
1890 63 Edward de V. Corocan, Wine Merchant
63a Laxton brothers William and Edward open a shop selling seeds
1893 63 Edward de V. Corocan, Wine Merchant
63a Laxton Bros., Florists
1895 63 P.Phipps and Co., Wine Merchants
63a Laxton Bros., Florists
1903 63 P. Phipps and Co. Ltd., Brewers
63a Laxton Bros., Florists
1938 63 Mrs L. Monger, Baby Linen
63a Laxton Bros. Bedford Ltd., Florists
1955 63 The Baby Shop
63a Laxtons
1959 63/63a Currys Ltd., Cycle Dealers
1986 63/63a Currys
c.2009 Tescos Store

Information from David Fowler, 2011


Bedford Local Studies Library and Heritage Library (HL)

  • Bedford Local Directories. HL
  • Where to Buy at Bedford, an illustrated local review, 1891 p.51. HL BED/WHE
  • Thomas Laxton and his successors. The Gardeners Chronicle, 29th November, 1930
  • Modern Florists:  Messrs Laxtons New Shop Front. Bedfordshire Times & Independent, 29th September, 1933 p.12
  • Laxtons to close down nurseries. Bedfordshire Times, 13th July, 1956
  • Famous Bedford firm now closes down. Bedfordshire Times 7th July, 1957
  • E. A. L. Laxton noted horticulturist and plant breeder. Bedfordshire Times, 22nd February, 1963
  • Wildman, R. Laxton of Bedford: the family and firm, Bedfordshire Magazine, volume 23, number 182, 1992, pp. 244 ff.
  • Readman, Sue. Laxton of Bedford: pioneers of plant-breeding, Bedfordshire Magazine, volume 23, number 182, 1992. p.250 ff.
  • Ricketts, Bob. The Laxtons in Bedford (1879-1957), Bedford Architectural Archaeological & Local History Society, Newsletter 82, October 2008, pp.14-28

See also:


Laxton Catalogue Laxton Catalogue Laxton Catalogue Laxton Catalogue

Images from Laxton catalogues; The Higgins, Bedford. Not for publication or reproduction for commercial purposes

Page last updated: 28th May 2020