Headington history: People

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The Mattock family

Mattock’s Roses originated in Headington, and were grown there for nearly a hundred years.

John Mattock first lived in Bath Buildings (also known as Silman’s Row and Mattock’s Row), on the south side of Wilberforce (formerly William) Street, and had a small nursery behind. The four maps below show how between 1876 and 1939 the Mattock nursery spread eastwards to Windmill Road over the land now occupied by Mattock Close.

Mattock’s Nursery, 1876

Mattock’s Nursery, 1898


Mattock’s Nursery, 1921

Mattock’s Nursery, 1939

By the end of the nineteenth century there was a large detached house belonging to the Mattocksat each side of the nursery on Windmill Road:

John Mattock’s house, 88 Windmill Road, Headington

Above: 88 Windmill Road (built for John Mattock in c.1890), photographed in the 1990s (now the site of Champneys Court)

Below: 90 Windmill Road (built for John Robert Mattock in 1899) is shown boarded up in 2006 (now the site of Edna Rose Court).

90 Windmill Road

John Mattock (1837–1913)

The first John Mattock to settle in Headington was born at Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire in 1837. He was the son of William and Mary Mattock, and was baptised at Steeple Ashton on 11 June.

Near the end of 1860 in Bath he married his first wife Harriet Westacott (who originated came from Swimbridge in Devon). They had five children:

  • John Robert Mattock (born in Bath in 1863)
  • William Thomas Mattock (born in Bath in 1866)
  • George Henry Mattock (born in Bath in 1869)
  • Harriet Rosa Mattock (born in Headington in 1872)
  • Amelia Mattock (born in Headington in 1878).

In 1865 Harriet's sister Betsey Westacott had been working as a servant in Headington Quarry, and on 17 January that year she married the widower Joseph Lovatt, who was a tailor, at Holy Trinity Church. They settled in the Croft in Old Headington, and ran a grocer's shop there. At the time of the 1871 census Mrs Mattock and her first three children were staying with the Lovatts in the Croft, while her husband, described as a gardener, was boarding in Bristol.

Soon after this census John Mattock moved with his family to Headington. He started off as a servant gardener to the Davenport family of Davenport House, but by 1873 had set up his own business, and an 1876 directory for Headington lists him as a “tea dealer, gardener and florist” at Bath Buildings in Silman’s Row. These premises (which he had presumably named after the city he had left behind) were situated on the south side of Wilberforce Street in New Headington village, and soon the whole terrace of humble cottages became known as “Mattock Row”. John and his wife Harriet were still living there at the cottage on the west end of the row in 1881 with their three sons and two daughters (Harriett and Amelia) who had been born in Headington.

In 1885 Mattock beat W. G. West of West’s Nurseries into second place at a horticultural display at the Manor House Park.

His first wife Harriet Mattock died in February 1886 at the age of 45 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church. Less than a year later, on 20 January 1887 at Ss Philip & James's Church in north Oxford, John Mattock married his second wife, Emma Bates, the daughter of Joseph Bates junior, owner of the Blenheim Nurseries on the Woodstock Road in Oxford.

By 1889 Mattock was already specializing in roses. The advertisement below was published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 14 December 1889, shortly after he opened a business in Oxford’s Covered Market:

JOJ 1889

Mattock’s nurseries on the south side of Wilberforce Street had spread eastwards as far as Windmill Road, and in about 1890 he built a fine new house for himself and his new wife at the south end of Windmill Road (later numbered 88). It can be seen in the photograph below with a greenhouse in front inscribed “J. Mattock Florist”.

Mattock's Roses

John Mattock’s eldest son, John Robert Mattock, remained in the poorer cottage in Wilberforce Street with his brother George and two sisters, but in 1899 built his own villa next door at 90 Windmill Road. In 1891 John’s youngest son, William Mattock, was boarding with an agricultural labourer in Lime Walk.

In 1892 Mattock showed 36 varieties of roses at the Headington Horticultural Show in 1892.

The Oxford & District Trades Directory of 1908–9 lists the two branches of the Mattock firm thus under Nurseries (alongside his nearby rival Samuel West):

Mattock, John, Rose Grounds and Nursery, New Headington; also at 130, 131, and 134 The Market, Oxford. Telegraphic address, “William Mattock, Headington”

Mattock, W. T., Barton End Nurseries; rose growing a speciality. Telegraphic address, “William Mattock, Headington”

The 1911 census shows John Mattock (73) and his second wife Emma (64) living at 88 Windmill Road with his daughter Harriet Rose Mattock (34), who worked in a fruit and flower shop on her own account.

John Mattock died in Headington in 1913.

Mattock bill-head

John Mattock’s sons

The three sons of the first John Mattock all remained in Headington:

  • John Robert Mattock (1863–1937)
    John Robert Mattock remained in Mattock’s Row (Wilberforce Street) for a short while in the 1890s, but after his marriage at St Andrew's Church on 22 May 1892 to Elizabeth Drake (mistress of Headington National School girls’ section) , he moved to Summerville House in Lime Walk, where he ran his own business as a florist, and their children Gladys, and John William were born there. In 1901 John Mattock junior came back to work for his father, building a new house for himself and his wife at 90 Windmill Road, and his daughter Phyllis was born there. After the death of his wife Elizabeth, John Robert Mattock married the widow Mrs Mary Ann Knowles, who was the daughter of the baker William Berry.
  • George Henry Mattock (1869–1934)
    George Henry Mattock married Jessie Caroline Gardner at Woodstock in 1900, and they moved to a house on the west side of Windmill Road, which was in Headington Quarry parish. They had three children in Heaington: Evelyn Jessie Mattock (1901), Edna Rose Mattock (1902, died aged five weeks and buried in Holy Trinity churchyard) and George Edward John Mattock (1905). By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved into Rose Cottage on the corner of Osler Road and London Road, and grew roses in Old Headington. George died at the age of 66 was buried at Headington Cemetery on 29 November 1934; his son George died at the age of 30 and was buried with him in 1936, and his widow Jessie Caroline Mattock died at the age of 80 and was buried with him on 18 November 1950.
  • William Thomas Mattock (1866–1939)
    William moved to Barton from his lodgings in Windmill Road after he married Mary Jane Higgins at Kingham on 11 April 1896 and opened his own market garden there (Ash Grove and Chestnut Avenue now occupy the site). His daughters were born there: Lucie Iris (1897) and Violet Olive (1898). In 1910 William bought 1 St Andrew’s Lane. He was on the Headington parish council and his wife founded the Headington Women’s Institute. He died in 1939 and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 7 October. His wife Mary Jane was buried with him on 21 February 1955.

The Mattock family grew roses on a thirty-acre estate leased from Magdalen College that was purchased by Oxford City Council in 1924 to build the Gipsy Lane estate. The council did not get full possession until September 1926, as Mattock’s were cultivating thousands of rose trees for sale on part of the site.

John William Mattock (1898–1973)

John William Mattock, the grandson of John Mattock and the only son of John Robert Mattock, followed in the family tradition, and the rose nursery continued to flourish in Windmill Road until the 1960s, when the land of their original nursery to the south of Wilberforce Street was compulsorily purchased by the Council. When a new council estate was built in 1983 on the site of the former nursery, it was appropriately named Mattock Close. The one restrictive covenant on all the property in that close is that the owners are not allowed to sell roses on their land!

Robert Mattock Roses

During the late 1950s (in anticipation of the compulsory purchase of the Headington land) John William Mattock bought the nursery at Lodge Hill (at the old lodge of Radley College, on the A34 between Oxford and Abingdon) and installed his son, Robert Hunter Mattock there to develop the family’s research and development programme, which included rose breeding.

In the 1960s John William Mattock bought more land, this time at Nuneham Courtenay, which was developed to accommodate the family company’s head office and garden centre, but in the mid-1980s his two other sons, John S. Mattock and Mark W. Mattock, sold the site together with the retail side of the company to Notcutts Garden Centre, who no longer grow roses in Oxfordshire but sell roses grown elsewhere under the trade name “Mattock’s Roses”.

The family rose-growing tradition that started in Headington is now carried on by the business called Robert Mattock Roses at Lodge Hill. Robert Hunter Mattock died in 2002, and the business is now run by Robert Ermest Mattock, the great-great-grandson of the John Mattock who started the business in Headington. About 90% of all the roses at the Chelsea Flower Show are still produced today at Lodge Hill.

Robert Mattock Roses website

© Stephanie Jenkins

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