Llangollen historian Paul Lawton looks back on the rise of some precious packets...

As the spring weather entices us back into our gardens it's worth remembering that Cuthbert's seeds was based at Upper Dee Mill, Llangollen.

James Cuthbert, who is said to have walked from Scotland to London to seek his fortune, started the business in the late 1700s.

The firm was well known for selling its seeds in Woolworth's, a name now gone from the High Streets, with the packets first appearing on the counters there in 1937.

The packets sold for two old pennies per packet. Thanks to colour printing technology, it was possible to package the seeds in bright envelopes with idealised artwork that proved a potent marketing tool.

The firm was originally based in Hertfordshire just 18 miles from the centre of London.

During the Blitz the government ordered that the precious stocks of seed be moved away from the bombing to a place of greater safety – hence the move to Llangollen.

The seeds were too valuable a part of the wartime "Dig for Victory" campaign to be put at risk.

It is said Clayton Russon, the owner of the firm, was travelling home by train to his estate in Barmouth when he spotted the derelict Upper Dee Mill.

He and his wife got off the train and went to enquire and they subsequently purchased the property as the perfect place for the move.

After the war the production of flower seeds quickly resumed and these were eagerly sought by a nation that was keen to have a more cheerful and colourful garden.

Even so, food was still rationed and families were glad of any vegetables they could grow.

Colourful advertising was used to inform shoppers of the exceptionally high yields that could be expected from the Cuthbert range.

"Is this a record," one advert asked, "two pounds and twelve ounces of carrots from a single fourpenny packet?"

In present-day terms that would be about 1.15kg for a few pence.

Cuthbert's took over other firms such as Dobie's 'The Dependable Seedsmen', who were mail order specialists.

At its height there were almost 100 employees. Then in 1970 the Post Office went on strike for six weeks from the end of January, during which time no mail orders were received or dispatched.

Many tons of onions, shallots and bulbs went bad and had to be taken to the tip.

The group went bankrupt in the May of that year.