We know very little about James’s early life but it is clear that he had a passion for plants and community life.

Research to date has provided us with evidence that James had been a gardener since at least 1849. The specific date he started working at Clyffe Hall is not clear but the first documented evidence is the 1861 census which lists James as a gardener at Clyffe Hall.

The 1861 census also provides us with evidence that James’s father, Richard Lye, was also a gardener at Clyffee Hall and Richards’s sister, Elizabeth Lye, also worked in the gardens. It is therefore possible that the Lye Family had a longer working connection with Clyffe Hall than we originally thought.

We have no evidence of when James retired but it may have been when his employer, Hon Mrs. Louisa Hay, died in 1898. We know from the 1901 census the occupation listed was Retired Gardener. From the information available we know that he had a career based at Clyffe Hall of over 40 years.

James was also involved in community life in Market Lavington during his time at Clyfee Hall. He was instrumental in the founding of the Horticultural Society and, along with Hon. Mrs. Lousisa Hay, the creation of the Fete which was held on the grounds at Clyffe Hall and he also took an active role in the Parish Council from the early days of its creation.

Click on the links below for more information about the different aspects of James’s life: