We meet Tom Horsfield, Rose Grower and Nurseryman

We meet Tom Horsfield, Rose Grower and Nurseryman

An article by Brian Elliott:

Tom Horsfield made me most welcome when I called at Pot House Hamlet
on a lovely spring day. We were served coffee in daughter Kate’s
Potting Shed Cafe, part of the historic corn mill, lovingly restored in
a project that took almost four years. Although it was a Monday morning
several customers were already enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Tom
knew a good number of them and there was a cheerful exchange of
greetings – even the ducks seem relaxed and enjoying themselves on the
beck.

Like his father, Tom has a great passion for building, very much a
hands-on interest. Later, walking around the site, I was amazed how
much had been achieved with just one main helper, Tommy Beet. It
reminded me of the kind of mixed skills and feeling for natural stone
and wood that monks used in the same locality over 400 years earlier.
The site is well-named (see our main article). The latest building
phase relates to the old furnace, a wonderful tribute to 17th Century
Silkstone glassmakers. An impression of the conical furnace structure
has been thoughtfully recreated on the gable. Inside, equal care has
been expended in complementing its usage as ‘Pookie’, a women’s fashion
outlet, run by daughter, Rose.

Tom took me into the nursery where another daughter, Emma, has
responsibility and I also met son, Tom, who studies Estate Management
at university. The plants are of outstanding quality. We walked
towards the old barn, a restoration project already being thought
about.

A champion rose grower and rose breeder, Tom’s interest began at the
tender age of twelve when he was given a thousand roses – and his own
cheque book – by his father, Henry. On a farm of only 36 acres, roses
seemed to be the right choice. At the height of the business some
55,000 roses were grown.

Tom told me that a good grower needed a lot of patience and dedication
– and, most importantly, a love of roses. He began the long processes
of breeding and getting accreditation for his own varieties and was a
regular exhibiter at Yorkshire shows, winning a variety of awards.
Tom’s gold medal roses were listed in catalogues and people were drawn
to his nursery. He recalled standing alongside one of the legendary
figures of roses: the flamboyant Harry Wheatcroft. The development of
‘instant gardening’ and ‘all season’ planting via containers – and the
decline in fashion of growing beds of roses – meant diversification
into a far wider range of plants in the garden centre age. But quality
roses are still grown, about 5,000 a year along with a few hundred
standards.

Nowadays, it is the name of the modern hybrids which are important to
customers, bought for special occasions such as anniversaries and
birthdays. However, Tom told me that old breeds such as Fragrant
Cloud, Peace and Just Joey are among his favourites: ‘Hold the rose in
your hand, look into it, at its form and colour and the beauty is quite
remarkable.

Tom Horsfield and his family have done much to attract people to this
lovely part of South Yorkshire and it is good to know that the future
of Pot House Hamlet has been safeguarded in a Trust.

Article written by Brian Elliott for Spring edition of Around Town

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