Smell the roses

PUBLISHED: 15:52 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:52 18 May 2015

Front of the Hall

Front of the Hall


An incredible historic collection of roses bred by Joseph Pemberton are in bloom this month at Havering-atte-Bower. Philippa Pearson enjoys the colour and fragrance of these garden-worthy roses

June is rose time and one of my favourites is ‘Buff Beauty’, a superb Hybrid Musk rose with double repeat-flowering warm apricot flowers and a strong tea rose fragrance. I was delighted to discover the rose was bred in Essex by a gardener working for clergyman Joseph Pemberton who lived at the Roundhouse in Havering-atte-Bower, near Romford. Revd Pemberton adored roses from an early age and after his father died he entered some of his family’s roses into a local show, winning second prize. He became a rose show enthusiast, assisted by his sister Florence, and was particularly fond of the old fashioned roses he grew up with in his parents’ and grandmother’s gardens. After exhibiting a group of his favourite grandmother’s roses at the National Rose Society Show in 1882, it became apparent that many visitors also liked their appeal, so he set about breeding roses from his large garden at the Roundhouse.

Joseph Pemberton’s roses are still popular choices for gardeners today. The green-fingered rector, his sister Florence and later his gardener John Bentall raised some 69 different types, now called the Pemberton roses. Known as Hybrid Musk roses, the flowers have a delicious rich scent, strong growth and flower continuously from June to the first frosts. Pemberton had no children and on his death in 1926 the estate was left to relatives and later to the Bentall family, who sold the rose fields when they became unprofitable. All the roses were destroyed. The house and estate still remain and are now home to specialist care provider Saint Francis Hospice.

A few years ago the then head gardener and rose grower, Dave Collins, decided to try and re-establish the collection of roses introduced by Pemberton and Bentall and the project attracted a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant to develop, maintain, preserve and promote a collection of these famous roses on the site where they were originally bred. Around 14 volunteers now help to look after the roses and gardens at the hospice, as well as getting involved with research and cataloguing the collection.

The roses now have National Collection status from leading plant conservation charity Plant Heritage and the hospice has 48 of the 69 plants in the collection throughout the gardens, but would like help locating the missing 21 roses to complete the collection. The garden’s website lists cultivars that the hospice is still looking for, so do take time to look at this if you can assist.

Many of the Pemberton roses have historic connections including Pax (1918) created to commemorate the end of World War I, and Nur Mahal (1923) named after the wife of the Emperor Jahangir of India who is credited with the discovery of the scent Attar of Roses. After Pemberton’s death, his gardener John Bentall carried on growing and breeding roses successfully introducing The Fairy (1932), Ballerina (1937) and Buff Beauty (1939), the latter it is believed was bred by Pemberton but he died before it could be trialled and tested.

Saint Francis Hospice is a registered charity which employs 150 nurses, doctors and specialist healthcare staff who are supported by 800 volunteers. Together they provide care and help to more than 4,000 people across the boroughs of Havering, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and Brentwood. Saint Francis Hospice provides all of its services free of charge to support patients from this local community with any life-limiting illness.

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