18 September is the 70th anniversary of the sudden death in 1945 of BBC radio celebrity Dig for Victory gardener Mr Cecil Henry Middleton.
First TV gardening programme?
Mr Middleton, 21 November 1936 – Middleton was an early pioneer of TV gardening before WW2, but sadly he died before the BBC gardening resumed on television.
Recently many of his simple and readable garden guides and radio talks have been reprinted for a whole new generation.
We have previously covered some of his garden advice – look through our blogposts earlier this year.
Life, Work and Tributes
There is a very good Wikipedia entry Mr. Middleton for him, covering his life and published works.
There is also delightful Pathe newsreel of his ‘chats over the garden fence’.
This film footage is reused in the 1945 Pathe Newsreel “Passing of an Old Friend” which ends with Mr Middleton walking away up a country lane – becoming his last farewell to his audience – then footage of the flower-bedecked funeral procession of Mr Middleton moving away from St. Mathews Church, Surbiton.
An animated cartoon Mr Middleton on Pathe Newsreel talks compost in wartime.
A comic 1938 gardening song “Mr Middleton Says it’s Right” by trio Vine, More and Nevard on Pathetone Pathe newsreel. Proof of his celebrity …
In 2012 an interesting Mr Middleton inspired modern gardening blog began with lots of links to his surviving media archive.
His memorial gates erected in 1955 at his original BBC plot at Langham Gardens are now outside the BBC written archives at Caversham.
A floral tribute (now lost?) was a dark red Hybrid Tea Rose named after him, Registration name ‘C.H. Middleton’ was bred by Benjamin R. Cant & Sons (United Kingdom, 1939). This Hybrid Tea Rose was described as “Crimson. Strong fragrance. Large, very double, high-centered bloom form. Blooms in flushes throughout the season.”
“Hasten slowly”: Mr. Middleton, fondly remembered.
He was and is the inspiration to our wartime garden:
And our own attempt at being Mr. Middleton, albeit in modern podcast form in 2010: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/from-bean-pods-to-podcasts-the-first-world-war-zoo-gardens-blog-podcast/
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Garden project, Newquay Zoo