Edward Pierce was born on 25 April 1799 at Axminster, Devon, the fifth of the six children of John Harvey Pierce (1748-1818), originally from Upchurch, Kent, and Jane Duncan née Miller (1761-1839) originally from London. He lived all his early life in Axminster and on 25 April 1826 he married Elizabeth Michell (1794-1874), originally from Langport, at Seaton, Devon. Edward and Elizabeth moved almost immediately to Merriott where their children were born; Harriet Duncan (1827-1899), Jane Frances Michell (1828-1881), Mary (b 1830), Edward Michell (1832-1887), Henry (b 1835) and John (b 1836). Another son, George Henry Pierce 'Gentleman of Yeovil' is also known but there are no further details.
By 1840 Edward had moved his family to Yeovil and established his nursery on Hendford Hill. He was listed in the Somerset Gazette Directory of 1840 as a Nursery & Seedsman of Hendford. In the 1841 census Edward and Elizabeth, together with their six children, were listed in Hendford and Edward gave his occupation as a Nurseryman. The 1846 Poll Book confirms that Edward occupied a freehold nursery which, in the 1846 Tithe Apportionment, was shown to be owned by Elizabeth Duffett, the widow of Samuel Duffett.
His nursery was intended specifically for forest trees for plantations, game coverts and the like. The large copper beech tree planted by Edward at the entrance to his nursery, and still standing, is photographed below. Edward was listed as a Nursery & Seedsman in Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850. He was similarly listed in Slater's Directory of 1852 although this latter directory called Edward's nursery 'The Yeovil Nursery'.
In the 1851 census Edward, Elizabeth and three of their children (Jane, Edward and Henry) were living at Hendford Hill together with three servants. The following census recorded just Edward, his daughter Jane, a visitor, a cook and a general servant.
The Post Office Directory of 1866 listed 'Edward Pierce, Nurseryman, Hendford'.
In the autumn of 1869 Elizabeth died in Yeovil, aged 75. In the 1871 census Edward was listed as a 71-year old widower and gave his occupation as a Nurseryman. Living with him was his married daughter Harriet Paul aged 42, unmarried daughter Jane aged 39 and two general servants.
Edward died in Yeovil on 23 May 1874 and his will was proved at Taunton in December by two of his sons; Edward, a wine merchant of Exeter, and George the 'Gentleman of Yeovil'. Edward's effects were valued at "Under £2,000" (that is, under about £1.25 million at 2017's value).
Edward's last listing in a Yeovil trade directory was after his death in the 1875 Post Office Directory. His nursery was taken over by Benjamin Richard Davis.
Map based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey showing the Royal Nurseries, either side of Hendford Hill. By this time the nurseries belonged to Benjamin Davis. As an indication of size, that part of the nursery to the west of Hendford Hill (top right of the map) is about six acres. The nursery on the eastern side of the road is now occupied by Southwoods.
A drawing of Edward Pierce's 'Yeovil Nursery' enlarged from his bill of sale below.
A bill of sale, dated 1843, from Edward Pierce's 'Yeovil Nursery'.
Looking north down Hendford Hill, the large copper beech tree at centre was planted by Edward Pierce and is a lasting reminder of his nursery that once covered acres either side of the road.
A sketch of the western part of the nursery during the time it was owned by Benjamin Davis (who succeeded Edward Pierce in 1875). Hendford Hill is running across the bottom of the sketch and the railway lines runs diagonally across the top right.