Closure threat hangs over Scotts Nurseries
ONE of the oldest nurseries in the country may shut for the last time on Sunday after more than 150 years.
Merriott Garden Centre Limited, trading as Scotts Nurseries in Higher Street, Merriott, was placed into voluntary liquidation last week.
A statement from Crewkerne-based law firm The Stoke Partnership, acting on behalf of the nursery, said: "On 17 September 2009 Merriott Garden Centre Limited was placed into voluntary liquidation. The decision was taken following careful consideration of all the available information.
"The liquidator appointed is Laurence Russell of Albert Goodman in Taunton, who is now running the business."
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A skeleton staff of four or five people are opening the centre on certain days to clear remaining stock.
A large clearance sale took place last weekend and another is scheduled for this weekend. If all the stock is sold, Sunday could be the last day of trading with the remaining staff being made redundant.
The development comes following the death of site manager John Scott Wallis in July. He died, aged 49, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour six weeks earlier. His father, Michael Wallis, 92, is the owner.
The company previously ceased trading in September 2007 when it entered voluntary liquidation. It reopened a month later with fewer staff.
Action is now being taken to sell the specialist rose and tree nursery.
Mr Russell said: "If a buyer comes along we can sell it to them as a business. If a buyer does not come along we will auction off what is there on the site.
"The centre is not going to reopen again in a month as happened with the previous liquidation. No-one in the family wants to take it over. It will go to an external buyer or be broken up."
He added: "The business has been making a loss for some time.
"I think it is generally down to its location – larger, big-name garden centres are on the main roads where people drive past but this one is tucked away."
Scotts' origins can be traced to before 1850 when it passed into the hands of the Wallis family. A plaque on the wall by the site entrance records that a tree nursery was in Merriott as long ago as the 14th Century.
It is thought to be the first known written use of the word "nursery" in a horticultural context.
The nursery had success at flower shows including Hampton Court and the National Amateur Gardening Show.
Merriott Parish Council chairman Ashley Wallis said: "It a sad thing to happen and it is now the second time.
"I just feel it is a great loss to the village. There is a lot of history behind it and it is a source of employment."
He added that staff numbers had dropped dramatically recently. In its heyday the centre employed nearly 100 people.