Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rivers, Thomas

RIVERS, THOMAS (1798–1877), nurseryman, the son of Thomas and Jane Rivers of Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, was born there on 27 Dec. 1798. His ancestor, John Rivers, a native of Berkshire, established nurseries at Sawbridgeworth between 1720 and 1730. On the retirement of his father in 1827, Rivers directed his efforts to the cultivation of roses, of which he obtained the best collection in England. In 1833 he published his ‘Catalogue of Roses,’ and in 1837 ‘The Rose Amateur's Guide’ (11th edit. enlarged, &c. London, 1877, 8vo). His ‘Miniature Fruit Garden; or the Culture of Pyramidal Fruit Trees,’ &c. 1840, 8vo (20th edit. London, 1891, 8vo), gave an impulse to root-pruning. In 1850 he published ‘The Orchard House; or the Cultivation of Fruit Trees in Pots under Glass’ (London, 8vo, 16th edit.; edited and arranged by T. F. Rivers, London, 1879, 8vo). Rivers also contributed largely to gardening journals, commencing with a paper on apple-culture in ‘Loudon's Gardener's Magazine’ (1827). In 1854 he took part in founding the British Pomological Society. As a memorial of his services his portrait was painted in 1870, and placed in the rooms of the Royal Horticultural Society. He died on 17 Oct. 1877, and was buried at Sawbridgeworth. By his marriage in 1827 Rivers left a son, Mr. Thomas Francis Rivers, the present head of the firm and editor of his father's works. As a practical nurseryman, by the introduction of the ‘Early Rivers’ plum, Rivers both extended the native fruit season and enabled British fruit-growers to compete successfully with their continental rivals; while, by his development of small fruit trees, he gave a valuable lesson to English gardeners in the economy of space.

[Loudon's Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum, ii. 350; Journal of Horticulture, 1877, xxxiii. 327–8, 342–4; Repertorium Annuum Literaturæ Botanicæ Periodicæ, vi. 335, vii. 390; information from T. Francis Rivers, esq.]

W. A. S. H.