Robert Tosswill Veitch

The plaque at 11 Elm Grove Road, Exeter, EX4 4LL, reads:

Robert Tosswill Veitch, 1823-1885, Horticulturist and Nurseryman, lived here, 1865 – 1884

Robert Tosswill Veitch was a member of  the Veitch family dynasty of pioneering horticulturists who introduced hundreds of new plants and flowers from across the world into people’s gardens, conservatories and homes. Many of them were available from the famous Veitch “Exotic” Nurseries in Exeter run by Robert Veitch after the death of his father, James.

Robert Veitch, whose career spanned the middle of the nineteenth century, was influential in making gardening a serious popular pastime. He extended the nurseries to run along New North Road and to cover the area that is now Velwell Road.

He bought 11 Elm Grove Road and the adjoining property in 1865. From there he had direct access to the nurseries which had relocated the previous year. One of his specialities was fruit trees and developing varieties suited to Devon’s climate.

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Robert Veitch was also a noted garden designer, creating the grounds at Streatham Hall, which are now part of Exeter University campus, as well as laying out Exeter’s Higher Cemetery.

He and his partner F. W. Meyer, a German garden designer who moved to Exeter, also helped to popularise the fashion for domestic rock and water gardens, changing the country’s suburban “gardenscape”.

Robert Veitch was born at Killerton, near Exeter, and spent time farming in South Africa before returning to England. He died at Torquay in 1885 and is buried in Exeter’s old St. Leonard’s Cemetery. The blue plaque was unveiled by the Exeter-based garden designer Hugo Bugg, winner of a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2014 and a silver gilt in 2016, the youngest person to achieve this level of success.

Exeter Civic Society received sponsorship for the plaque from Bury Meadow Residents Association. Sixteen refurbished Garton & King lamp posts, each with a painting of a Veitch plant on it by botanical artist Kate Wilson, form Exeter’s Veitch Lamp Post Trail. One of them stands outside Robert Veitch’s former home in Elm Grove Road. JM