The French gardens were about 2 acres of market garden down by the viaduct opposite Leonard Stanley House. The gardens may have been both sides of the River Frome.
Beard’s mill was demolished in 1908 but the clothier’s house (Leonard Stanley House) remained there. It is likely that Arthur Bonsey (born 1876) moved in once the mill was demolished and set up the French Gardens in around 1910. It was called the French Gardens because he followed a French system of market gardening, growing a variety of crops and flowers close together. It also involved using frames and cloches to protect the vegetables and salad plants grown.
According to the Gloucester Chronicle of September 17th 1910, the water from the nearby river was unusable for watering plants as it was polluted with chemicals. Mr Bonsey had water piped from the main water supply and set up a tram line system, with a trolley, in his gardens, to transport water and manure through his gardens. He spent a lot of money setting it up – hoping to make a commercial market garden. However by 1913 he decided to sell it to Mary Helen Heald.
Miss Heald received some money from the government to run a training school for young ladies whose fathers were killed in WW1. It was felt that this might be a suitable way of gardening for ladies. From the photograph it seems that she sold her produce around the district via horse and cart driven by 16 year old Lionel Mayo whose father was a butcher and horse dealer.
Miss Heald was living in Leonard Stanley House until she went bankrupt in 1922. We are not sure who actually owned the house at the time. We don’t know what happened to her or the French Gardens. She may have died in 1938 at Weston Super Mare.
The area continues to be called the French Gardens until today, despite there not having been any market gardening there for some time.