Brundall Local
              History Group

Roses make a village bloom - the stories of Henry Morse and Ronald Tooke

 Morse rose fieldsBrundall once had a thriving horticultural industry. It’s said that coaches used to stop just so the occupants could admire the sight and scent of fields of roses.

One of the best-known was Henry Morse & Sons, whose fields ( pictured right) covered a large part of the east end of the village around Highfield Avenue. The business was started in 1902 by Henry Morse at Eaton. Two of his sons, Ernest and Frederick, set up the Brundall nurseries in 1924, while a third, William, stayed at Eaton. At the peak of their trading the brothers were working in the region of 80 acres between them.

Ernest and his wife, Florence, lived at The Knoll in Highfield
Avenue, while Frederick and Emma lived in Blofield Road.
Rose fields linked the two properties.

The Morse family in the 1930s The firm gained an international reputation for its contribution to horticulture and its
 influence in originating and introducing several rose varieties. Many Brundall
villagers worked for them over the years. In 1961, an EDP report described the brothers’ “undiminished enthusiasm for roses”

They had 100,000 plants in their nurseries and they despatched orders around the world. Brundall, of course, had the advantage of having a station, from where flowers could be sent around the country, and during the 1950s and 1960s many thousands of blooms were sent to London.

Local florists were not ignored, and many were regularly supplied with fresh flowers from Brundall.

 Henry Morse & Sons introduced new rose varieties, although not one named ‘Brundall’, as far as we know. There was Westfield Star, Westfield Beauty, Henry Morse, Florence Mary Morse and more. Some can still be found: Norfolk rose grower Peter Beales’ catalogue includes Ernest H Morse, described as very fragrant.

The story of how it was named was given in a local paper in 1964.
Ernest was at that time 81.

The paper recorded that “a new and important bloom developed in Germany” had been named after him. “Its creator is Wilhelm Kordes, a grower with a long-standing international reputation. He and Mr Morse have been friends for nearly half a century, and the new rose fulfils a promise Herr Kordes once made that he would give Ernest’s name to one of his flowers.” The two had met when Mr Kordes was interned in England during the first world war.

Ernest founded the Westfield Mission in 1934, which was built in the grounds of his home and which, rebuilt, flourishes today. Fred retired in 1963 and Ernest died in 1965, and the land went the way of so many other sites at that time – it was used for housing.

Right: Henry Morse (front centre) with his children in the early 1930s. Back: William, Ernest and Frederick. Front: Lily, Henry and Mabel.

Ronald Morse TookeThe Morse brothers were not the only rose growers in Brundall.

Ronald Morse Tooke, grandson of Henry Morse and nephew of Ernest, Frederick and William, had worked in electrical engineering before joining the RAF for the second world war.

After the war he retrained in horticulture, and, while not invited to join the Morse business, was offered land to rent from his uncle and established his own four-acre nursery on Strumpshaw Road.
He soon acquired a second field on Blofield Road, known as Deacon’s Field. Having bought the Strumpshaw Road plot, he sold it for housing in 1966-7 and transferred the entire business to Salhouse, where he continued growing roses, trees and shrubs until 1977.

During the 1950s and 1960s Mr Tooke was contracted to supply Selfridges in Oxford Street with fresh blooms twice weekly during the summer to display in the new garden department. The flowers were sent by overnight train from Brundall Station to Liverpool Street and then by special delivery to the store on a Sunday and Wednesday.

Left: Ronald Morse Tooke at work in his nursery in the 1960s. Until this time all the nurseries would have been hand-weeded and hoed. Photo: Alan Savory.

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There are many little odds and ends which don't seem to come under any other category and which can be found in these 'Bits and pieces'. 

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