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Henry Eckford was born in Midlothian in 1823, and worked as a gardener on various Scottish estates before moving to England in 1847. In 1874 he became head gardener to Dr. Sankey, a noted Gloucestershire plant breeder. Here he began his work on improving the traditional sweet pea, winning a Royal Horticultural Society First Class Certificate in 1882 for his Bronze Price variety. He soon moved to Shropshire, as an assistant to Dr. Hunt at Boreatton Park. In 1888, he set up his own nursery in Wem. At first he operated from his house on the corner of Noble and Market Streets, with his 10-acre nursery on the Soulton Road. Soon, his business became so successful that he bought hte adjoining three houses in Market Street to accommodate warehousing and packaging his seeds. He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour, the highest accolade of the Royal Horticultural Society.