John Emms features in Chapter V of A H Savory’s Grain and Chaff from an English Manor:
My first gardener had been employed at the Manor, when I came, for very many years, and at the end of ten more he was obliged to resign through old age. He had planted the poplars round the mill-pond in his earliest days, and, among other trees, the beautiful weeping wych-elm on the lawn behind the house. The weeping effect he produced by beheading the tree when quite small and grafting it with a slip of the weeping variety, and the junction was still plainly visible. It was asymmetrical and, especially when in bloom, a lovely tree, but as the blossoms died and scattered themselves all over the grass, they worried the methodical old man, and every spring he wished it had never been planted. It had flourished amazingly, and we could comfortably find sitting room at tea for sixty or seventy people at a garden-party in its shade.
He was an excellent gardener, but did not care about novelties in flowers, though at one time he made a hobby of raising new kinds of potatoes. His greatest success was the original Ashleaf variety, the stock of which he sold to Mr Myatt for a guinea, and which was afterwards introduced to the public as “Myatt’s Early Ashleaf”. It was one of the best potatoes ever grown, very early, and splendid in quality, and it was unfortunate that he parted with it so cheaply, though, of course, the purchaser of the first tubers had no idea of its immense potential value, and possibly, like so many novelties, it might have proved a failure. It is still in cultivation, though its constitution is impaired, like that of all potatoes of long standing.
John Emms was born at Bretforton in 1807, the third of five children of Thomas and Elizabeth Emms. He married Susanna Hunting at Bricklehampton in 1834 and had six children: Mary (1835-1906), Charles (1838-1884), Ann (1843-1936), Thomas (1845-?), Susannah (1848-1936) and Wilson (1852-1899). Mary was born at Bretforton, but the rest of the children were born at Aldington.
Initially, John worked for Thomas Byrd at Ivy House, first as a servant and then as groom, but by 1861, he was a gardener at the Manor. Having swapped employers, he had moved from Ivy Cottage to a thatched cottage on Main Street [demolished in the 20th century]. In 1861, John and Susannah had just their youngest daughter, Susannah, or Susan as she was often known, living with them. John was still working as gardener at the Manor in 1881, and Susanna was an agricultural labourer.
John Emms retired in 1883 and left the village. John and Susannah moved to Aston to live with their eldest daughter, Mary Lockett. John Emms died at Aston in 1887 and Susannah in 1889.