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Now a valued sub-division of French Garden Ltd, the company John Connell has a rich and detailed history, and can boast records dating back as far as 1770.
It has traded in many guises throughout its long and well-established past, through the Industrial Revolution, during the Victorian Era and across two World Wars, being handed down through generations of the same family, until finally becoming a part of The French Garden in 2013.
The first recorded trading of the company took place during the eighteenth century when Hertfordshire farmer, Joseph Harrison, of Boxmoor, drove his horse and cart to London to sell his wares to the city folk there.
Demand grew and he started trading in the old Covent Garden Market area, located in the streets between Westminster and the City.
The business passed down from father to son, until another descendant, this time a woman, Mary Connell, neé Harrison took over.
She continued handing control down the female line, first to her daughter, Jane, then to Jane’s niece, Margaret, before finally handing it back over to Margaret’s son, John Frank Bunney.
1770 - Watercress grower, Joseph Harrison, of Boxmoor, Hertfordshire, drives his produce to Seven Dials in London, by horse and cart.
1800 – Joseph Harrison is trading regularly in the Covent Garden Market Area.
1826 – The Charter Market is built and James’ son is now trading at the bottom of James Street.
1860 – Mary Connell (neé Harrison) carries on trading as “Mrs Connell”.
1911 – Mary Connell dies and the business in Covent Garden is taken over by her daughter, Jane.
1924 – Jane Connell’s niece, Margaret, moves from Boxmoor to live in Covent Garden, and works with her aunt six days a week, and at Billingsgate, on Sundays, selling watercress. By this time many of Jane’s nieces and nephews are also running businesses in Covent Garden, and at Borough and Farringdon Street Markets.
1941 – Jane and Margaret are living in “The Cut” next to Waterloo Station when, on May 10th, during the last and biggest air raid on London, their home is destroyed by an incendiary bomb. Jane moves back to Boxmoor and Margaret eventually moves into a flat in Covent Garden.
1944 – Jane dies, aged 75.
1965 – Margaret retires and her son, John Frank Bunney, inherits the company.
1974 – The move to Nine Elms enables the business to expand into selling Fruit and Vegetables, as well as specialising in its original produce, Watercress, and Salads.
1990 – With the decline of the retail greengrocery trade the decision is made to expand the delivery service, supplying London’s top West End eateries.
2013 – John retires and the business now becomes part of The French Garden, continuing to supply the city’s finest restaurants. By now some of them have been customers for more than 40 years.