Other Nurserymen of the Harvey District

By Irma Walter and Heather Wade, 2017.


The carving up of the Korijekup area around the Harvey River into small blocks for the development of a citrus industry began in 1896 and soon attracted nurserymen to the area. The first to come was Jacob Hawter, already a well-established nurseryman in the Helena Valley and at Mullalyup, who decided that raising citrus stock in the area where they were to be planted made good sense. He set up a 22-acre nursery by the Harvey railway station in 1903.

The opening of the SW railway made it possible to compete with nurseries around the Perth area, in catering for the needs of growers around the State. Their varied requirements brought some smaller nurserymen to the district, which by that time was named Harvey. Others, who learnt the trade at Jacob Hawter’s nursery, became nurserymen in their own right. As well as providing citrus and deciduous stock, some specialised in providing flowering plants and vegetable seedlings.

The Hawter Citrus Nursery at Harvey closed around 1940. A few years later one of the former Hawter-trained nurserymen, Charles Horace Fielder, set up his own nursery, which eventually became the biggest in Harvey. (See article on this website)

Some of the nurseries were as small as 2½ and 6 acres, but by dint of hard work they provided a living for their owners. The names of the following nurserymen will be remembered by many people in the South-West and beyond.


George Henry Atkins established his Harvey nursery as early as 1905. Jacob Hawter had set up his extensive Harvey Citrus Nursery just two years earlier.

George was born in Collingwood, Victoria in 1878 and came to WA, where he married an Irish girl Elizabeth Alexander in 1906. In that year he was advertising his Uduc Brook Nursery in Harvey. In 1909 a description of Atkins’ nursery, written by a reporter from the West Australian, probably indicates that Atkins learnt the nursery trade before he came to WA:

I was particularly interested in the little nursery of Mr. Atkins. Mr. Atkins, who has been a nurseryman 15 years, is doing wonders on his six acres. I saw here some one-year-old Dunholm peach trees bearing heavily, for, as a test of the variety, they have been left unpruned. [1]

After WW1 another small nursery was opened in Harvey by John Hepton. Despite increased competition, Atkins continued in the nursery trade. Unable to compete for large scale orders, he wisely targeted the small grower as his clientele:

FRUIT TREES. Orders now booked. Deciduous trees, 15s. doz. £6 100; Citrus, 30s. doz. £10 100; Grape Vines from 4s. doz., 20s. 100. Or try one of my choice collections: No. 1-8 assorted deciduous Trees, 10s.; No. 2-16 for 20s. ; No. 3-9 deciduous trees, 2 citrus and 1 doz. vines, 20s. Cash with order. Write for catalogue to Geo. H. Atkins, Uduc Brook Nursery, Harvey.[2]

His last Uduc Brook Nursery advertisements appeared in 1925:

FRUIT Trees: All varieties of Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, etc., 15s. dozen, £6 100: Oranges, Lemons, Mandarins, 25s. to 30s. dozen, from £7 10s. per 100: Grape Vines, from 4s. dozen, £5 to £7 10s. per 1,000; choice collections of Trees for small growers. No. 1, 6 deciduous trees, 10s.; No. 2, 12 for 20s. ; No. 3, 6 deciduous, 2 Citrus and 12 Vines, 20s.; No. 4, 12 Grape Vines, as sorted. 7s.6d. Freight paid on collection. Write for a catalogue to Geo. H. Atkins, Uduc Brook Nursery. Harvey.[3]

George’s nursery stood on two 10-acre blocks in Korijekup, Sec. 1, 198 and 199, on Ninth Street.[4] Over the years he regularly entered his produce in the Harvey Show. In 1926 he won places in the pigs and poultry sections of the annual Harvey Show, and in 1927 he won best baconer and best bag of onions.[5]

Up until 1930 GH Atkins continued to advertise fruit trees and farm produce such as oranges, lemons and seed potatoes for sale, but no longer under the Uduc Brook Nursery name.

Elizabeth and George Atkins were becoming well-known in the district for the increasing size of their family. At one time seven of their children were enrolled at the Harvey school. Elizabeth gave birth to 14 children altogether, and, apart from one child who died at the age of two weeks in 1916, eight boys and five girls survived childhood.

Their Harvey properties had increased in size also, extending from 20 acres to 163 acres. However George decided to surrender his Harvey farm, having made the decision to apply instead for a larger property in an area being opened up in the wheatbelt at Lake King, in the belief that the move would offer better opportunities for his growing family.

In 1929 the bank called for tenders on Atkins’ Harvey property:

Agricultural Bank of WA

Tenders Returnable at Bunbury,


Portion of Wellington Location 50a, Lot 177 on Plan 2492, being the whole of the land comprised in Certificate of Title Vol. 918. Fol. 89, standing in the name of George Henry Atkins. Area, 163 acres, situated 2 miles west from Harvey, described as all first class land shallow sandy loam on heavy clay subsoils, all under irrigation scheme all cleared. 40 chains 6-wire boundary fence, 11 chains 2 barb internal fence, 11 acres orchard.[6]

A year earlier George had successfully applied for a virgin block at Lake King, Location 1680. At first he went there with his five older boys, and the rest of the family remained in Harvey for six months until the basic facilities had been set up. The large family was prepared for the hard work involved in getting the farm established, and George Atkins’ capacity to grow their own food and raise pigs and poultry would have ensured that the family was well-fed, in spite of the lean Depression years which followed.

Mr and Mrs Atkins still retained ownership of several blocks in Harvey well into the 1940s. Mrs EJ Atkins of Lake King appears in the 1944 Harvey Rates Book, paying rates on a shop on Lot 39, as well as Lot 15 on Uduc Road, and a residence on Lot 23 on Peet Street.

When WW2 broke out, Mrs Atkins was widely praised for her contribution to the war effort when six of the Atkins boys enlisted in the armed forces. Those who served were Henry, Frederick, Herbert, Robert, Douglas and William. All were pictured in the article:


MRS. G. H. Atkins, of Lake King, has every reason to be proud of her family. She has six sons in the A.I.F. In New South Wales there is also a family with six sons in the army, so Western Australia shares the outstanding record with New South Wales.

The patriotic family consists of eight boys and five girls.

The eldest sons, Pte. Harry and Pte. Robert Atkins are twin brothers. They enlisted from Lake King together in June, 1940. Harry is a member of the 2/16th Battalion abroad, and Robert is attached to the 2/32 Battalion in the Middle East.

WX5367 Pte. Bert Atkins, the third eldest son, was the first of the family to enlist. He joined the 2/28th Battalion in Harvey more than two years ago. Prior to his A.I.P. enlistment, he was in the 10th Light Horse Regiment.

Thirty-year-old Pte. Fred Atkins is the fourth son. He could not resist his country’s call, so he joined the reinforcements to the same battalion as his brother Bert (the 2/28th in June of last year.

In civilian life a wheatgrower, Pte. Douglas Atkins, aged 24, enlisted from Lake King into a West Australian machine-gun unit in May, 1940. The unit was sent to Malaya.

The youngest son to don khaki is Pte. Bill Atkins. He joined the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion in March of last year and is now abroad. All of the sons are overseas. None of them are married.

The seventh son, Thomas, offered his services, but was rejected by the manpower committee, because they considered six enough enlistments out of any one family.

The youngest son Brian is too young for military service. He is only 13.

Yet, in spite of these enlistments the farm is still kept going. The two youngest girls, aged 17 and 19, have taken over their brothers’ jobs of haycarting and other odd jobs. The other three girls are married.[7]

The girls’ names were Emily, Alice, Iris, Margaret, and Barbara.

All of the Atkins boys were listed as single men of Lake King when they joined up, with Henry and Robert described as truck drivers, and the others as farm labourers. All came back home, apart from Robert Joseph, who was killed in action in New Guinea, 1943. Herbert had been captured in Italy and was transported to Germany, where he was incarcerated in a prison camp, Stalag 7A.

George Atkins remained in the Lake King area up until his retirement to Mandurah. He passed away in 1966 at the age of 88 years, after 60 years of marriage. His wife Elizabeth died three years later, also aged 88 years. They are buried in the Mandurah Cemetery.

Image from Billion Graves website.


Another Harvey identity who operated a successful small nursery was John Joseph Hepton, a Yorkshire man, born in 1888. Records show that on 21 August 1911 John J Hepton, gardener, left England for Fremantle on the Papanui. However, the ship was destroyed half-way through the journey when a fire, which had smouldered in a coal bunker for several days, eventually spread to the rest of the ship, forcing the captain to turn back to the island of St Helena. The crew and emigrants were safely off-loaded, but their luggage was destroyed, leaving them with only the clothes they wore. They were kindly treated by the islanders for weeks while they waited for alternative transport. The WA contingent waited five weeks before they boarded the Opawa and were very relieved when they finally disembarked at Albany in November.[8]

Undeterred by this misadventure, John found employment at Hawter’s nursery in Harvey, where he saved his money and set sail once again for England in 1914, this time on a German mail ship, the Friedrich Der Grosse, with the intention of marrying his sweetheart Annie Wilson Dunwell in Leeds. Not long after WW1 broke out, the couple returned to Australia, leaving London in August 1914 on board the Osterley, with John listed as a nurseryman.

[Two of John’s relatives also migrated to Harvey, arriving from England in 1913. They were his brother Richard (farm labourer) and his sister Emily (domestic duties). Richard Hepton appeared in the electoral rolls in 1943, employed at Riverton, a property owned by RO Hayward. Richard passed away in Perth in 1944. Emily spent several years in Harvey, but later went to Queensland, where she married Frederick George Brodribb in 1931.]

John Hepton and his new wife Annie settled down in Harvey, where John had been working for Jacob Hawter prior to his trip. Like several other employees from Hawter’s Harvey Citrus Nursery, John Hepton joined up in WW1, enlisting at Blackboy Hill in April 1916.

John Joseph Hepton and wife Annie, 1916.

However John’s military service was cut short when he became ill while serving in France. Following a diagnosis of goitre in December 1916, he was treated in England before being discharged and returned to WA in 1917.[9]

On his return John Hepton set up his own small nursery in Uduc Road, Harvey. As can be seen from this 1927 advertisement, he cultivated a range of plants suited to his small acreage:

ONION Plants, Brown Spanish, Globe, White, 3s. 6d. 500, 6s. 1000. Cabbage Plants, 1s. 6d. 100.

PASSION VINES, strong plants, 6d. each, 5s. dozen. Beet, Swedes, Lettuce, 1s. 100.

ORANGE TREES, strong, local grown trees. Navels, Valencias, Lemons, 2s. 6d. each, 25s. dozen, £7 10s. 100.

HEDGE PLANTS, Cupressus, Macrocarpa, Pinus Insignis, Arbor-Vitae, three-year-old, strong trees, 10s. doz.

J. Hepton, Harvey.[10]

A newspaper article in 1929 praised the hard work that John Hepton put into this enterprise, in spite of his ongoing health problems:

Astonishing results have been won from a three-acre holding of Mr. J. J. Hepton, at East Korijekup. Two acres of second class land cost him £65 each, and the front portion, as a town block, considerably more. Although he does not enjoy robust health, since he started (on returning from the war) he has paid for his property, erected a good home and considerable plant and bought a cow and a good motor car (fully paid for). Such an achievement from three acres is extraordinary, considering that he has had no assistance from the Department of Repatriation. He has a prolific nursery of orange trees, ornamental trees, vines and tomatoes. His tiny property also supports his cow. Mr. Hepton’s progress is the more commendable considering that he started with almost nothing.[11]

John Hepton was frequently asked to judge entries at local shows, specialising in flowers. In 1927 a successful garden fête, organised by the Harvey Methodist Church, was held at his property, with Mrs Annie Hepton in charge of a stall selling drinks and ice-cream.

In 1930 the Harvey Shire Rates Book gives their address as Grieves Road. In the 1943/44 Rates Book his address is recorded as Palmers, Lots 12 and 13.

At the Harvey Horticultural Society display in 1933, John earned a special mention for an outstanding display of 80 dahlia blooms.[12] In 1938 he gave a rose-pruning demonstration to interested members of the Brunswick Horticultural Society.[13] In 1939 he inserted the following disclaimer into his newspaper advertisement:

HEPTON’S Nursery, Harvey, established 21 years.

Proprietor J. J. Hepton wishes to draw attention to the fact that he has no connection whatever with that advertised as the Harvey Nursery.[14] 

[Editor’s Note: The Harvey Nursery mentioned was run by another local nurseryman, Robert Montagu Boyce. See following article for details.]

After losing one child at birth in 1916, John and his wife Annie raised two children, Dorothy and Wilfrid. A few months before his wife Annie passed away in 1952, John decided to sell his property, advertising his house and garden block for sale in July of that year.[15] CH Fielder bought Hepton’s two acres of nursery on the corner of Fourth Street, and the house block was sold to George Woodley.[16]

John Joseph Hepton was living in Victoria Park at the time of his death in 1973.

Aerial view showing Hepton’s former home, surrounded by Fielder’s nursery blocks, at the corner of Fourth Street and Uduc Road.


Another horticulturalist in the Harvey district was an Englishman named Robert Arthur Montagu Boyce. Born in 1881, Robert was the son of engineer Charles John Boyce and his wife Emma, of Battersea St John, in England.

Robert received a good education and by the 1911 census he was listed as a single man, employed as a manufacturer’s agent in the photographic industry, and living in an 11-roomed house at 317 Richmond Road, East Twickenham with his parents and siblings. Why he decided to give up his comfortable life in England to come to WA is not known.

In 1916 Boyce applied for enlistment in the Australian Imperial Forces, describing himself as an orchardist of Maida Vale, Perth, aged 35 years. However his application failed at the first hurdle, rejected by the Army Medical Authority when he declared that because of eye problems, he needed to wear coloured glasses in order to withstand the sunlight.[17]

It appears that he then lived at Wattle Grove as an orchardist, up until at least 1925.[18] By 1933 he was living in Harvey, earning his living on a small nursery property at the corner of Fourth Street and Centennial Avenue.[19]

He specialised in cultivating flowers and succulents rather than trees. At one stage a young woman named Lena Dattilo was employed to assist in seed collection and the propagation of seedlings.

In 1933 Robert entered an arrangement of nine varieties of flowers in the Harvey Agricultural Society Show.[20] He offered a wide range of flower seeds for sale in 1935, including zinnias, sunflowers, aquilegias, portulacas, cockscomb, asters, gaillardias and many other varieties.[21]

The following year another local nurseryman JJ Hepton published a notice in the West Australian, declaring that he was not associated in any way with Boyce’s Harvey Nursery.[22]

It is said that Robert Montagu Boyce was a scholarly man with varied interests, considered by some locals to be somewhat eccentric. He lived alone, writing and publishing articles with titles as diverse as ‘Prehistoric Britain’ (1947), ‘Origin of Mediterranean Civilization’ (1949), and ‘Australia Long Ago’ (1947), which described the arrival of the first peoples and their relationship with the megafauna which roamed at that time.[23]

The publications were offered for sale to the public at cheap rates via WA newspapers:



“PREHISTORIC BRITAIN,” civilised farmers, gold decorations vide burial remains, 1/2.

“CACTI AND SUCCULENTS”, 33 fine illustrations. 1/8 posted. Send to friend as Xmas card. Trade supplied. New Publisher. Montagu Boyce. 4th-st., Harvey.[24]

Considering his literary interests, it is not known how much time Robert dedicated to the nursery in his later years, but his Harvey Nursery advertisements continued from 1933 until 1948, indicating a preference for flowering plants and seeds. The following appeared in 1937:


Harvey Nursery Specialties

In the irrigated gardens at Harvey, the Harvey Nursery has growing at present some 40 varieties of the finest early flowering (or winter) sweet peas known. In addition the nursery can supply all varieties of the beautiful iris, in the cultivation of which the nursery excels.

The modern hybrid Iris is a beautiful thing, and more and more people are finding places in their home gardens for this lovely flowering plant. The Harvey Nursery can supply any requirement, and reduced rates are announced in the advertisement on this page.[25]

In 1946 a photograph of a beautiful rose named ‘Picture’, taken by RM Boyce of Harvey, appeared in the Western Mail, thus indicating that at that stage Robert maintained his interest in plant breeding and photography.[26]

The 1968 WA Electoral Roll still listed him as Robert A. Montagu Boyce, nurseryman of Harvey. This interesting individual finally passed away in the Harvey District Hospital in 1971 at the age of 90 and was buried in the Old Harvey Cemetery.


Thomas Henry Latch was another nurseryman associated with Hawter’s Citrus Nursery in Harvey, and came to WA with skills in the nursery trade, having been employed as a foreman nursery gardener in Glamorgan, Wales.[27]

The 1891 British census shows that Thomas was the son of Charles J Hatch, accountant, and in 1901 Thomas was employed in his father’s office as an accountant’s clerk. However he must have decided that an indoor life was not for him, for the 1911 census shows him as a 26-year-old, employed as a foreman nursery gardener, living with (Harriet) Alice, his wife of three years, and their son Charles, aged 18 months, in Lower Sketty Green Lodge, at Singleton, Swansea.

Lower Sketty Green Lodge, Singleton, Swansea.[28]

Their idyllic cottage still stands near the grounds of Sketty Hall in Singleton Park, where Thomas was once employed. Sketty Hall itself is a heritage-listed grand mansion, but is now part of the Swansea University. The cottage has freehold status. The gardens, which are also listed, feature many rare and unusual trees, and are open to the public. The property is described as follows:

Singleton Park, incorporating the grounds of Sketty Hall, is an urban public park of outstanding historical interest. Its history is one of private ownership, particularly by the Vivian family, and is intimately bound up with that of the city of Swansea.[29]

Why Thomas chose to leave a secure position in Wales is not known. Perhaps it was the chance to own property of his own that enticed him to WA. By 1912 he was in Geraldton, advertising for work:

GARDENER, 28, steady, married, 12 years’ experience English nurseries, orchards, several years’ experience retail seed, bulb trade, bookkeeping. T. H. Latch, P.O., Geraldton.[30]

By 1916 he was employed by Jacob Hawter as his nurseryman, where Thomas’s book-keeping skills would have been useful in the business. That year Thomas Henry Latch of Harvey WA applied for enlistment in the armed forces. (His National Archive war records are not yet open, but it appears that his military career finished the same year – perhaps his application was rejected.)

Hawter employees at Harvey Citrus Nursery.

Back row: Tom Latch, Frank Sergeant, Harry Mason, Robert Fryer.

Front row: —-, —-, —-, Harry Atkins, Jack Hepton, Charles Horace Fielder.

Just when Thomas gave up working for Hawter is not known. He is listed as a nurseryman from 1922 until 1934/35 in the Harvey district.[31] For some years he was living in the house on the Hawter Nursery property, though by 1922 he was listed as the owner of a residence in the Pinner sub-division of Harvey.[32] In 1925 he also owned 10 acres of land at the Korijekup Estate, (Wellington, Part 50A), and was listed as a farmer.

In 1928 his plans for building another residence were accepted.[33] By 1930 he was listed as owning a residence in the Central Ward, Part 17, No. 22, on one rood of land, in Third Street. His farming property of 10 acres was then listed as being in the Central Ward, Sec. No. 98.

In 1929 a visiting newspaper reporter mistakenly described TH Latch as the owner of the 22-acre nursery in Harvey, instead of Jacob Hawter. However, the article does indicate that Thomas was still employed as manager at the Hawter nursery that year:


Claimed to be the largest fruit tree nursery in the State, the 22 acres of stock on Mr. T. H. Latch’s property in the town present a pleasing sight. The fertility of the soil and his expert treatment account for the sturdy growth of the young trees, which include plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, mulberries, guavas, figs, citrus fruits, and vines. At present he has 50,000 vines and 18,000 stocks of fruit trees, though citrus trees are a diminished quantity this season. His stock finds markets in Singapore, Java, New Zealand and the Eastern States, as well as in Western Australia.[34]

As well as their son Charles John who was born in 1909 in Swansea, they had two more sons born in Harvey, George Edward (b.1920) and Thomas Russell (b.1923), as well as a daughter, Violet Latch (b.1918).

In 1926 Thomas wrote to the West Australian, arguing with the Government Entomologist over the best treatment for an infestation of green tomato bugs.[35] In 1928 he won prizes for his pomelos and a dish of loquats in the fruit section of the Harvey Horticultural Show. (At the same time his son George was awarded prizes for his handwriting and cane-work in the Manual Training Section.) In 1939 Thomas won best oranges in the Show, and in 1940 he won a prize in the flower section for the best carnations.[36] For many years he fulfilled the role of secretary of the Harvey and District Trotting Club.

According to the 1931 Harvey rates books, Thomas owned 50 acres in the Korijekup area, listed as blocks 98, 175, 200, 202, and 203, as well as his residential block. The family ran a boarding house called ‘The Nook’, situated on the corner of Gibbs Street and Hayward Road, where Thomas took great pride in his garden, as indicated by the following article in 1942:


In his vegetable garden at Harvey, Mr. T. H. Latch does things in a big way. In fact expert market gardeners gasped when he came to the city this week with a couple of carrots of his own growing, the pair weighing a mere 7 lbs. together.

These, as Mr. Latch explained to “The Sunday Times” were not the biggest carrots he has grown. A few weeks ago he pulled at random from the earth three carrots which tipped the scales, respectively at 3 lb. 12oz., 3 lb. 11 1-8 ozs. and 3 lbs. 2½ ozs.

These were the envy of fellow growers at Harvey. The two he brought to Perth during the week each weighed over 3lbs.

Vegetables of this size certainly pay tribute to the fertility of Harvey soil but perhaps the real secret lies in the cultivation methods employed by Mr. Latch, who declares, however, that he gives his carrot bed no special treatment.

In fact, he said, he has not laid an ounce of manure on his carrot bed in years. He keeps his own carrot seed, however, and even the smallest carrot is much larger than normal ones we see in the shops of Perth. One thing is certain and that is that you wouldn’t be able to buy any Latch carrots at 3d. a bunch. Each is a bunch unto itself.[37]

Thomas and his wife had retired to Mandurah by 1949, but after a few years they were back living in Harvey, where, at the age of 65, Thomas briefly found employment again with his old friend Charles Fielder, using the nursery skills learnt many years earlier in Wales.

Thomas Henry Latch of Harvey died in Perth in 1968. His wife Harriet Alice Latch died in 1971.

[1] West Australian, 23 November 1909.

[2] Sunday Times, 19 June 1921.

[3] West Australian, 8 July 1925.

[4] Harvey Rates Book, 1922.

[5] Bunbury Herald, 31 October, 1927.

[6] Sunday Times, 24 March 1929.

[7] Western Mail, 26 March 1942.

[8] Daily News, 7 November 1911.

[9] National Archives of Australia, War Service Records,

[10] Sunday Times, 15 May 1927.

[11] Western Mail, 14 March 1929.

[12] West Australian, 13 April 1933.

[13] West Australian, 6 Aug 1938.

[14]  West Australian, 22 July 1939.

[15] West Australian, 3 April 1952.

[16] Interview with Malcolm Fielder, February 2017.

[17] National Archives of Australia, War Service Records,

[18] WA Electoral Rolls.

[19] Sunday Times, 10 November 1935.

[20] Western Mail, 16 November 1933.

[21] Sunday Times, 6 October 1935.

[22] West Australian, 22 July 1939.

[23] Copies of Boyce’s publications can be found in the WA State Library collection.

[24] Western Mail, 4 December 1947.

[25] Sunday Times, 13 June 1937.

[26] Western Mail, 27 June 1946.

[27] 1911 British census.

[28] Allsop LLP Residential,

[29] Website

[30] West Australian, 3 January 1912.

[31] WA Postal Directories.

[32] Harvey Roads Board Rates Books.

[33] Harvey Roads Board Minutes, March 1928.

[34] Western Mail, 14 March 1929.

[35] West Australian, 5 January 1926.

[36] West Australian, 9 April 1940.

[37] Sunday Times, 12 July 1942.