Simes, the seed merchants, was originally started as a miller’s shop in the nineteenth century. Nettlinghams was the main business located in West Street with a branch in New Road on the junction with Garrick Street that was taken over by the manager, a Mr Simes in 1840 and it remained in his family for a hundred years. The premises is recorded as a stabling post and coach house for the London to coastal traffic from the early nineteenth century. Frederick W Simes is recorded as owning the business in 1878. He is noted locally as the founder of Gravesend Rowing Club. After his death in 1920 his two sons Frederick Charles and Arthur continued the business. Frederick died in 1940 and Arthur died in 1955.
The seed side of the business grew as market gardening increased with the establishment of the petrol engine. After WW2, it came into its own as a shop for the private gardener offering advice and expertise alongside merchandise. Percy Thrower of BBC’s ‘Gardening Club’ spent an afternoon there in 1970 answering customers’ queries. In 1960 a branch was opened in Rochester and another in Rainham in 1964. The firm issued its own bulb catalogue and provided a mail order serviced. They branched out into angling equipment and pet foods – unusually selling fresh horsemeat as a change from tinned food and biscuits. The garden shop closed in the early 1980s as the whole area was due to be part of a Kent County highways plan to provide a roundabout and transport interchange.