Towards the end of the century before last, an ambitious young man came to an expanding industrial town. Born in Wem, close to the North Wales Border, Robert James Stokes had begun his working life in 1887 when his father persuaded him to abandon a profitable newspaper delivery round to become apprenticed to J. F. Smith, a paint and varnish merchant in Yorke Street in Wrexham.

Incidently in the same year, 1887, Henry Eckford of Wem first cross-bred the first modern sweet pea. Thus Wem became the sweet pea capital of the world.