Sue Young Histories

Stephen Abbott Notcutt 1865 - 1923

May 07, 2009

Stephen Abbott Notcutt 1865 - 1923 was a British Solicitor from an old established British family. His brother Roger Crompton Notcutt developed Notcutt Nurseries which still flourishes today.

Notcutt consulted a homeopathic chemist who prescribed podophyllum for him.

Born in Ipswich in 1865, Notcutt came to St John’s College in 1883. He graduated B.A. in 1886, being placed in the Second Class of Part I of the Natural Sciences Tripos, and in the same year was awarded a B.Sc. from London University.

Notcutt subsequently practised as a solicitor in Ipswich with his father’s firm, and received his LL.M. from Cambridge in 1893. He was a member of the Geological Association, Clerk to the governors of Ipswich School, and Cambridge University’s representative on the East Suffolk Education Committee.

He played both cricket and football for Suffolk County. Letters from Notcutt to his mother written whilst studying at St John’s College. The letters give a fascinating insight into the life of a Victorian Cambridge student, including information on food and accommodation, the Debating Society, sporting events, his studies and his social life.

In Elizabethan times it was probably “Northcote” as in those days names were spelt as they sounded, so in a West Country dialect it evolved to “Norcott”.

By the time William Notcutt moved from Wrington in Somerset to Ipswich in 1724 to become the pastor at the Tacket Street Meeting House, it had taken its current form - “Notcutt”.

The early Notcutts were ministers, then linen traders, before Thomas Foster Notcutt (1752-1803) became a lawyer. There were lawyers in six generations of Notcutts until 1988, with 5 given the name of Stephen Abbott Notcutt. The father of the first Stephen had married into the Abbott family and it had been made clear that, if their name was perpetuated, family money would be left to the eldest son. The money soon ran out but the tradition continues and the youngest, Stephen Abbott Notcutt (VI) was born in 1982.

In Victorian England many professional men were interested in the natural sciences, and the Notcutt family was no different. Stephen Abbott Notcutt (III) had 2 sons. Stephen Abbott Notcutt (IV), born in 1865, had to join the family legal practice. He won a scholarship to Cambridge, where he took a National Science Tripos degree before reading for a BSc in Law in London.

His younger brother Roger Crompton Notcutt (later known as RCN) was born in 1869. He was in a way more fortunate as he was not burdened by obligations to enter the legal practice. It was recommended that, due to ill health, he should pursue an out door life.

Fortunately he also had a keen interest in nature, particularly in the growing of plants. This was an interest he was able to pursue when in his teens, he acquired the Broughton Road Nursery in Ipswich.

In 1901 Roger Crompton Notcutt married Maud Hetty Smith Fielding of Ipswich and in 1902 Roger Fielding Notcutt, known as ‘Tom’, was born, later followed in 1906 by Hetty and Marjorie in 1912. Tom took a Natural Science degree at Cambridge, like his uncle, SAN (IV), before him.

Whilst training at Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens, he met Jean Macpherson and they married in 1929, two years after Tom returned to the nursery. In 1934 their son Charles was born. Tom’s technical training was invaluable and this soon became apparent in the catalogues. In 1935, Tom, working with his father, published “Flowering Cherries” in the Journal of the RHS.

After devoting himself to the breeding and propagation of chrysanthemums, Roger Crompton Notcutt (RCN) bought Broughton Road Nursery, Ipswich, employing 45 staff.

Of interest:

The Stephen Abbott Notcutt Memorial Prize is still offered by the Charity Commission.


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