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Brentford Councillors - Charles Henry Curtis


Janet McNamara has researched details of the men who served as Brentford Local Board Members and Councillors, see intro page for more details of early local government structure.

Charles Henry Curtis FLS, FRHS, VMH, 1870 – 1958

1870 - born in Wimbledon.
1881 census – scholar aged 11 living with parents in Wimbledon and two younger sisters. Father, William was a gardener. Newspaper reports from 1931 and 1948 say that he started working aged 14 and was apprenticed at WD Thompson and Sons nurseries. He then spent some time working in a private garden at Wimbledon. He obtained a first class in botany from Birkbeck Institute, worked for two years at J Veitch and Son’s nursery in Chelsea. He then became sub foreman of the orchid and stone department at Kew Gardens before becoming assistant superintendent at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden. He was subeditor of The Gardener for 21years before becoming editor.
1896 Married Annie Clara
1899 (January) Son, Charles Ralph born in Brentford (registered Brentford 3a 116 March 1899)
1900 Chairman of the United Horticultural and Provident Society (he continued in this position for 50 years)
1901 census living at 68,Whitestile Road aged 31. Horticultural journalist
1904 co-author of The Book of Topiary with W. Gibson
1908 Published a book called Sweet Peas
1910 Published the Book of the Flower Show
1910 Published Sweet Peas and their Cultivation for Home and Exhibition
1911 Census shows his address as 2, Adelaide Road aged 41, horticultural journalist born in Wimbledon. Wife Annie Clara (42) born Hitchin, Herts. Son Charles Ralph born in Brentford.
1912 Published Annuals Hardy and Half Hardy
1913 2, Adelaide Road
1914 Special Constable during WW1. Was a Sergeant by the time of a Smoking Concert reported in Middlesex Independent on April 9th 1919.
1918 Became editor of The Gardeners Chronicle.
1919 Stood in the Brentford Urban District Council election on behalf of the Brentford Allotments Association with Fred Cox and RK Green.
Mr Curtis came 3rd in the poll with 938 votes (see newspaper cuttings for election address and results).
A newspaper report says that occupants of Adelaide Road where houses were due for demolition to build the Great West Road will receive a weeks notice but that it was expected to be at least 18months before building would reach that section.
This is likely to be a reason to move to Boston Road.
1920 Name on Ealing Road Houses as member of the UDC and on the Housing Committee
1922 Was a donor towards publication of History and Antiquities of Brentford by Fred Turner.
1924 JP and Vice Chairman of Brentford UDC.
On September 23rd the Council Minutes say
' Hearty vote of thanks proposed by Mr Bolton and seconded by Mr Flewitt tendered to Chairman and Mrs Curtis for the exemplary and painstaking services, involving a considerable amount of time and attention, rendered by them in connection with the ceremony of opening to the public of Boston Manor Park on the 11th inst.
Carried with acclamation'.

His name is on the plaque at Boston Manor House; it was opened to the public by Lady Cooper.
Address was 2, Adelaide Road.
1925 Awarded the Peter Barr Memorial Cup by RHS
1926 Name on the plaque at Gunnersbury Park when a member of the Gunnersbury Park Joint Committee and B&C Borough Council joined Ealing and Acton Councils.
1928 Living at Brentlea, 24, Boston Road – Fellow of the Linnean Society - Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society - Vice Chairman of UDC
1929 Councillor for Brentford Ward and on the following committees – Burial Acts, Public Halls, Chiswick House, Parks and Open Spaces, Finance Rating and Valuation, Allotments, Public Library and Museums, Education, Gunnersbury Park Joint Committee.
1930 Wrote to the Middlesex Independent on behalf of the Library Committee asking for subscriptions to a Testimonial for Fred Turner. CHC was to be the secretary of the Fund and Thomas Stallabrass the Treasurer.
1933 Editor of the Orchid Review
A judge at the B&C Horticultural Society Summer Show at Boston Manor Park.
Awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by RHS
November 4th 1933 photograph in the Middlesex Independent at the Civic Ball where Mr and Mrs Curtis as Mayor and Mayoress elect meet the outgoing Mayor Cllr and Mrs Hayburn. His hobbies, at the time were given as horticulture, journalism, allotments and nature study.
1933/1934 Mayor of the Borough of Brentford & Chiswick so was ex officio member of all Standing Committees but was a member of the Statutory Maternity & Child Welfare Committee. His deputy was Councillor Frederick Sandland Hayburn. The Mayor’s Chaplain was Rev Frank Chamberlain. Service notified to be at the Methodist Church, Windmill Road on December 3rd 1933.
1934 (November) – presented a cup to the B&C Horticultural Society
1934 (November) - On retirement as Mayor he was presented with an enamelled badge and his wife with a brooch made from a link in his Mayoral chain.
On a photograph with the Mayor (Cllr Lane) at the War Memorial outside Brentford Library on Remembrance Day. That year CHC was Deputy Mayor.
1935 Justice of the Peace
1934/5 Deputy Mayor
1939 Horticultural journalist living at 24 Boston Manor Road with his wife Annie C (1939 Register)
1945 and 1946 on the voters list living at Brentlea, 24, Boston Road.
1946 (August 23rd) death of wife, Annie Clara aged 79.
Administration to CHC, magazine editor. Effects £295.13.10
1947 Married Helen Mary McKeegan (Brentford 5c 149 March quarter)
Both on the voters list at 5, Somerset Road. Mrs Curtis had a J by her name showing she was liable for Jury Service.
Published New Plants of the Year
1950 Awarded the MBE.
Vice Chairman of RHS Orchid Committee for over 40 years
Newspaper report in March says he had just been elected as Chairman of the United Horticultural Benefit and Provident Society for the 50th year, A later report says he was the treasurer.
Was editor of The Orchid Review
Published Orchids: Their Description and Cultivation (published by Putnam & Co Ltd) and presented a copy to Brentford Free Library. (This was not on their computer list in August 2012).
Managing Editor of The Gardener’s Chronicle but retiring that summer.
Chairman (and founder) of the Horticultural Press Club
President emeritus and Hon treasurer of the National Sweet Pea Society
Served for more than 50 years as Superintendent of Windmill Road Methodist Church Sunday School
Chairman then President of Brentford Allotments and Gardens Society
For at least a dozen years had been Secretary of the National Sweet Pea Society and National Chrysanthemum Society.
Lecturer and Flower Show Judge.
Held a Belgian decoration.
At the annual Flower Show CHC put on an exhibition of plants that included a rare seedling of a Mettasequoia. It seems that it had been thought of as extinct and only recently been discovered by a Chinese botanist.
This MAY now (2012) be the tree visible in the garden behind 5, Somerset Road.
According to a Kew Gardens expert who saw a distant photograph it could be a Metasequoia glyptostroboides which should turn reddish brown in the autumn and drop it’s foliage. (Passers by to keep a check on this).
1951 (September) Award of Merit from RHS for a specimen of Tropaeolum ‘Hermine Grasshof’ a Mandarin red Nasturtium raised in Germany 80years earlier.
1957 Awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by RHS.
1958 (March 24th) Died aged 88 at his home, 5, Somerset Road.
Obituary and report of funeral in B&C Times. Buried in Brentford New Cemetery.
Charles Henry Curtis MBE of 5, Somerset Road, Brentford died 24th March 1958. Probate London 28th May to Helen Mary Curtis
widow and Ernest Cecil Coleman accountant. Effects £13,600.15.1d

Chiswick Local Studies Library has these books of his - one at least has a 'presented by the author' sticker in the front.

  • Annuals: hardy and half hardy
  • Book of the Flower Show
  • The Book of Topiary (with W Gibson)
  • Orchids, their description and cultivation
  • Sweet peas and their cultivation for home and exhibition

Other books written by him mentioned on the internet:

  • Phlox (1913-1920?)
  • Orchids for Everyone


Other material

Janet has also provided a photo from his time of serving as a councillor, newspaper articles about his life published in 1948, his receipt of the MBE in 1950 and accounts of his death and funeral in 1958. To be added as time permits. Already on this site: a photo of the last Brentford Council in 1927; Janet also picked him out in a Remembrance Sunday photo from 1934.


Page published October 2012; updated June 2018