125 Years In The Making - A History Of E.W King & Co
19 June 2013
Ernest William King founded E.W.King & Co in 1888 when he was just 18 years old. His great grandfather, John King first started growing seeds in Essex in 1793 initially with just 3 acres of land, but it was greatly enlarged by John's son, John Kemp King who set up his company called J K King Seeds.
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It was Williams son, Ernest who asked his grandfather for a job in this family seed firm when he left school. His grandfather (John Kemp King) refused and the young man left, vowing that one day he would own his grandfather's business.
In 1888 Ernest acquired a small shop near his grandfather's establishment and set up a rival firm, called E. W. King & Co. In 1904 he had moved to much larger premises to grow seeds of all sorts, but especially sweet-peas, for which the firm of E. W. King became (and still is) world-famous. By 1918 E. W Kings became the world's biggest wholesale supplier of seeds with offices and trial grounds near Reading as well as in Coggeshall. It is said that Ernest King always wore a buttonhole of sweet peas, no matter the time of the year.
Unfortunately the rival J K King business suffered a spate of misfortunes and E. W. took over the running of J. K. King as well as his own, keeping their separate identities. E.W explained the reason for the companies success as follows;- "One of the secrets of the progressiveness of the firm is in the purity of the stocks. Every possible care as regards rogueing is most rigorously attended to by the firm's own experts".
In 1905 he devoted much of the catalogue to his favourite flower, the Sweet Pea (with over 100 varieties) and as a result became known in the trade as "The Sweet Pea King". He was also Vice President of the NSPS (National Sweet Pea Society). Clever naming of his sweet peas guaranteed much publicity with names such as '2LO' (the new wireless station) ensuring that the company was the first seed merchant to be broadcast on the BBC.
Today, Kings Seeds continues to thrive as we still offer existing and new customers the finest quality seeds, realistically priced, backed up by good, old-fashioned service. Kings have a well-equipped laboratory under the management of Mr Peter Barralett, our qualified technician, who tests all Kings seed for germination, vigor and purity. Unlike other seed companies, we still farm 325 acres and we grow seed stocks on our own land, where selection and roguing is carried out to ensure that uniformity and trueness to type. The resulting mother seed is then supplied to specially selected, independent growers, throughout the world, to produce a seed stock exclusively to Kings.
Here at Kings we never rest on our laurels and we introduced 55 new varieties in 2012. The Kings Seed catalogue has developed into a one-stop shop, backed up by quality, advice and service, which is why Kings Seeds are still here 125 years later.