Archive for the ‘garden history’ Category

Ministry of Food Formed

December 22, 2016

The Ministry of Food was formed on December 22 1916. It was formed to deal with the increasing supply problems of bad harvests, an ongoing war requiring food for civilians, war workers and troops, call up of agricultural workers and horses affecting farming and merchant shipping threatened by German U-boats.

ww1 ration book

WW1 child and adult ration books from the Ministry of Food (October 1918)

The Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Pensions were formed on the same day, the same time that a new War cabinet wad formed under the new Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

National Archives file summary:

The first Ministry of Food was established on 22 December 1916 under a Food Controller who, under the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916, was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and take steps for encouraging food production.

The Ministry was dissolved on 31 March 1921.

“Never Mind the Food Controller, We’ll Live on Love …” was a popular gramophone and music hall song by Florrie Forde at this time.

 The Ministry of Food survived until 1921, was reformed in 1939 for WW2 and later in the 1955 became MAFF and since 2002 DEFRA.

Inside a ww1 ration book

Inside a WW1  ration book

The national food situation would become a growing concern for gardeners and garden editors like Herbert Cowley:

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

The Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens

December 20, 2016

19th December 2016 saw the unveiling ceremony of a commemorative bench  commissioned by Kew Gardens to mark the centenary of the end of the “Battle of Verdun”.

The bench has been crafted by Gaze Burvill with timber from a specimen of Quercus petraea which was struck and felled during “St Jude’s storm” in 2013.


The new Kew Gardens Verdun Oak bench, 19 December 2016 (Image: RBG Kew) 


This tree was planted at Kew in 1919, from an acorn picked up after the Battle of Verdun,  in remembrance of Kew staff who died during the Great War,  and all soldiers from the different nationalities who fought in this dreadful battle and “the Great War”.

The Ceremony took  place on the 19th December 2016  by the Palm House pond near the Cumberland Mound.


Where the Kew Verdun Oak stood for almost a century … RIP 2013 (photo; Mark Norris)

Just before I saw the absence of the Verdun Oak at Kew Gardens I had read this article by blogger Lucy at


Verdun Oak 2013 photo from Lucy’s Blog at http://www.familyaffairs and

Sadly, although invited, I could not attend the Ceremony but I will look out for this bench on my next visit to Kew Gardens.


Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo / World War Zoo Gardens Project, December 2016.



Doctor Carrot and WW2 secrets

October 18, 2016


Secret carrots – part of our wartime zoo schools workshop trail.


Read more about the exciting wartime history of carrots on the Carrot Museum website (I don’t get to type that sentence very often!)

Another of our blogposts on the interesting story about how diets and rationing were linked to WW2 through the pioneering work of nutritionist Elsie Widdowson:

Sadly I believe that the Tomato Museum on Guernsey (mentioned in the BBC TV 1990s The Wartime Kitchen Garden series)  is no more.

It’s amazing what  you find when you’re researching animal nutrition …

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 18 October 2016

Remembering Kew’s Sydney Cobbold died Somme 3rd October 1916

October 3, 2016

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Remembering along with  Kew Gardens staff, the Cobbold family and The Rifle Brigade  /  Rifles, the 100th anniversary of the death on 3rd October 2016 on the Somme of  Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was a  Kewite on the Gardens staff of Kew Gardens from 1906 to 1908.

His CWGC  entry lists his headstone inscription from his father Maurice as “His Country Called / He Answered” and a TWGPP photo exists of his headstone. Sidney / Sydney was the son of Maurice and Anna Cobbold, of Woolpit, Suffolk where he was born.

He is buried at Grave Reference II. B. 7, Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Rivière, a front line cemetery of 80 burials begun by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in March 1916 and closed in March 1917.

Looking at the Graves Registration GRU documents, it appears that on the same day that Sgt Cobbold was killed, 4 other 8th Rifle Brigade were killed and buried in the same plot 2 Row B of this front line cemetery alongside him – Rifleman L.J. Farr, W.G. Kittle, Benjamin Gordon (Jewish star in place of a cross) and fellow sergeant J.R. Aspden, Military Medal. Cobbold lies among his comrades and his men.

Read more about him and the other Kew WW1 casualties on their staff war memorial:

It was partly  thanks to Sarah, one of his Cobbold relatives, that I first became aware of the Kew Gardens staff war memorial.

James Wearn at Kew has written an article on Sydney Cobbold with help form Sarah and myself for the Rifle Brigade regimental magazine.

So he is not forgotten by his regiment, his family or his workplace.


Sergeant Cobbold and Rifles comrades lie buried in the small Le Fermont Cemetery, Somme. (Image: CWGC)

Country Life 1986 article on WW1 Wartime Gardening

August 10, 2016

country life 1

Not my usual read but these two pages are  an interesting article from a thirty year old copy of Country Life  (Jan 23, 1986) that was passed to me because of my interest in WW1 and wartime gardening.

country life 2

This is an interesting article by Audrey Le Lievre , especially for me having been involved with Kew Gardens wartime stories and also researched their staff war memorial stories. Audrey Le Lievre as a garden writer is a new name to me but wrote Miss Willmott of Warley Place: Her Life and Her Gardens (Faber, 1980).

Lots of interesting links and names for garden historians to follow up here (the Worcester Fruit and Vegetable Society?) through the online scans of garden journals. The photographs have come from the Lindley Library.

I came across  information about WW1 food shortages, rationing and dig for victory style campaigns of WW1, focussed around researching former Kewite and  garden writer Herbert Cowley. Invalided soldier gardener Cowley worked as an editor and garden writer, as garden photographer and friend of Gertrude Jekyll and at one point for Country Life.

Full circle back to Country Life there…


More on WW1 Gardening here:

and also an article I wrote for a local village in Cornwall about WW1 life and food:

ww1 ration book

WW1 Ration books (Author’s collection)


Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.






Remembering Allan Beard of Kew WW2 died 1946

August 6, 2016

Kew Gardens lost 14 staff on active service in WW2 including a postwar casualty Allan Beard who died around 6 August 1946, 70 years ago today.


Kew Gardens WW2 staff War memorial part 3  (photo:  Mark Norris)  

The 14th and last name on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial is Allan Beard, who served as a despatch rider with the Middlesex Regiment and died aged 31 a “tragic death” just after the war, possibly from injury related to war service.

His obituary appeared in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal.

Beard had been a gardener on the Parks Staff at Stamford Park, Ashton Under Lyne until he joined up in 1939.

Along with several garden colleagues, he had joined Hyde Company, Territorial Army section of the 6th Cheshire Regiment in early 1939; this would see him very quickly called into service three days before war broke out. By October 1939, he was serving with the Middlesex Regiment and fought through the campaigns of 1940 in Northern France and Belgium, eventually being evacuated from Dunkirk.

Back in Britain, instead of promotion Allan Beard chose to train as a despatch rider partly from a love of motorbikes.

Sadly he was the victim of a wartime traffic accident (not surprising with blackout etc), being struck by an army lorry in Canterbury in 1943.

By June 1944 he had been discharged from the army on medical grounds and returned to his previous garden job. Stamford Park by then had lost its railings in wartime, collected as salvage metal for the war effort, but had been maintained as a public park, popular like Kew Gardens with people encouraged in wartime to “holiday at home”.

Allan Beard entered Kew in August 1946 under a Government assisted training scheme. His obituary is reported in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal but not listed on the CWGC website as his death occurred as a civilian after military service. It may have been linked to his earlier accident.

To read more about Kew Gardens in WW2:

Allan Beard of Kew Gardens, remembered 70 years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

Digging For Victory

August 2, 2016

dfv postcard

Fairly random WW2 photographic postcard from our World War Zoo Gardens collection entitled “Digging For Victory”, the name of the Government backed drive to encourage all from schools, scouts, workplaces, families and even zoos to grow their own food.

The back gives really not much more for information, other than the jokey family tone and the cub scout hat.  It reads “Your daft-in-law, doing his turn. Good Scout”.

dfv postcard 2

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project. Newquay Zoo


Download my IZEA Journal article on World War Zoo Gardens Project (2014) as a pdf.

June 28, 2016

Check out my recent article on our  World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay the International Zoo Educators Association  IZEA  journal, this past copy is now available in pdf download form:

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

Bugg’s Life, Death and Family Tree reunited

May 27, 2016

Mal Padgett, part of the Arthur Bugg family tree,  passed me some photographs of their family reunion of 26 descendants around the staff memorial tree at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne on 19 November 2015.

It is 70 years this year  since the Brush Box tree was planted in Bugg’s memory.

bugg memorail tree plaque.jpg

Courtesy of Mal Padgett.


Their relative Arthur William Bugg of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne staff died on 2 November 1915  in Egypt during the Gallipoli campaign.

Bugg and staff member Flight Sergeant E W Hiskins of the RAAF (died 1944) are remembered  by a Brush Box tree planted by Ernest Henry Bugg, Arthur’s brother on 10 September 1946.

bugg family reunion

The Bugg Family reunion at the staff memorial tree, Melbourne Botanic Gardens  19 November 2015 (photo courtesy of Mal Padgett)


Press cuttings from previous reunions and the 1946 planting:


bugg reunion cutting 1996

1996 reunion press cutting (courtesy of Mal Padgett)



bugg tree reunion 2

Assembling for the reunion around the Memorial Tree (courtesy of Mal Padgett)


bugg certificate

Arthur Bugg’s entry in the family bible (courtesy of Mal Padgett)


Arthur William Bugg’s entry in the Bugg family bible.  According to Elaine Upton, granddaughter of Ernest, both Arthur and his brother Ernest worked at their Gardens with their father Isaac.

Bugg_Hiskins 001 (2)

From the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne / State archives



If you want to find the Tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne:

melbourne map

Brave men remembered by their families many years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo.



Commemorating The Great War in Ireland’s Zoos and Gardens

May 22, 2016

Remembering Major Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton, killed in action in Ypres on May 22 1916.


Charles Annesley Ball-Acton (from Kilmacurragh website)

With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Charles Annesley Ball-Acton, heir to the Kilmacurragh estate in Ireland and many of his gardens staff  headed for the battlefields of France and Flanders.

On September 25th 1915, Charles Acton, while trying to assist a fellow soldier, was mortally wounded by an explosion at Loos. He was only 39.


Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton (from the Kilmacurragh website)

Kilmacurragh estate house and gardens in Ireland then passed to Charles’ only surviving brother, Major Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton, who was father of the late Charles Acton (a well known music critic for the Irish Times).

On May 22nd 1916, just eight months after his brother’s death at Loos, Reginald Ball Acton was killed in action in Ypres.

Few others of the Kilmacurragh gardeners came home from the war.

In eight years from 1908 to 1916,  Kilmacurragh had three consecutive owners inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the estate. This placed enormous financial pressures on the family and, after two centuries, the Actons left Kilmacurragh House.

Kilmacurragh can be described as the Irish ‘Heligan’ gardens.

Before the war eleven men and two boys maintained the grounds.  Following the deaths of Charles and Reginald, the gardens were maintained single-handedly by the old Head Gardener. Kilmacurragh for me neatly symbolises the steady decline of the old Irish estates from death duties and also from the unrest of the Irish Civil War.

Last month we posted a blogpost about horticulturalist Allan Livingstone Ramsay, one of the first British officers to due during the Easter Rising in April 1916.

“Problematic”, that’s what I’d been told, “not something that could be so easily done in Ireland.” I’d been talking about commemorating The First World War and our World War Zoo Gardens project that  uses history to engage visitors  with plants at the Botanic Gardens Education Conference at Paignton Zoo in November 2014.

So what else happened in Ireland to zoo and botanic gardens staff during the First World War?

RZSI Dublin Zoo and the Great War

Seven L. Doyles are listed amongst the Commonwealth dead of the First World War.

Thankfully the Dublin Zoo staff member L. Doyle who joined up in 1914 is not (as far as records show) amongst these Canadians and Dublin Fusiliers of the same name. His employers, The Council of The Royal Zoological Society of Ireland RZSI / Dublin Zoo, generously kept his job open and paid his wife his wages in his absence. A patriotic gesture, and after all, it was popularly believed and expected that it would be a short war, all over by Christmas.

By Christmas 1914 with its famous football matches and spontaneous truce between the trenches, the RZSI Council which ran Dublin Zoo already had sorry cause to write with condolences and note in October 1914 the death in action of Lieutenant Victor Lentaigne, the 21 year old nephew of a long standing member of the Dublin Zoo Council, Joseph Nugent Lentaigne.

Victor Lentaigne

Lieutenant Victor Aloysius Lentaigne, 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers died on 14 September 1914 and has no known grave. From this early death date, he was probably involved in the Battle of the Aisne, as the fast flowing war of movement of the early months of the war rapidly stagnated and became entrenched. Lentaigne is commemorated amongst the 3739 names on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre memorial to the missing British Expeditionary Force soldiers of the first three months of the war.

Reading through the rich detail in Catherine de Courcy’s excellent and well-illustrated history of Dublin Zoo, it is possible to see the deflected effect of war on Dublin Zoo.

Whilst they would have no staff war memorial like London Zoo or Belle Vue Zoo Manchester, there would be losses amongst the professional families, the wealthy patrons, the great and the good of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy who established and supported Dublin Zoo from its early  19th Century beginnings.

The great changes of the war years and immediate aftermath would see Dublin Zoo and its Council survive civil war, a war of independence and the establishment of an Irish Republic.

cwgc helles

Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey. (Image: CWGC website)

Frank Brendan  O’ Carroll, Gallipoli 1915 

The wealthy citizens and Dublin Zoo council members living in Merrion Square in Dublin had their own family losses, many of them amongst the young officer class.

One such was the son of Joseph O’Carroll MD FRCPI of 43 Merrion Square, Dublin. Second Lieutenant Frank Brendan O’Carroll, 6th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers died on 10 August 1915, aged 20 as part of the Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign. He is remembered on panel 190-196 of the Helles memorial to the missing, Turkey.
The circumstances of O’Carroll’s death are recorded in the 6th Battalion war diary:

7 August 1915  Suvla Bay. Made landing at C Beach on Anafarta Bay at 18.00. Battalion in reserve under Brig General Hill. Took up position at Entrance to Salt Lake. 6th and 7th Dublins attached to 31st Brigade.
8 August Suvla Bay. Battalion on water and ammunition fatigue for the Brigade

9 August 1915  Suvla Bay. Battalion attached to 33 Brigade (General Maxwell), Moved from beach about 02.30 to Hill 50. A Coy detached to support the right flank of the Brigade. Battalion ordered to support firing line near Ali Bay Chesme point 105-H-8.

Officers killed Lt Doyle, wounded believed killed 2nd Lt Stanton, 2nd Lt Mc Garry. Wounded and missing Major Jennings. Wounded Capt Luke, Capt Carrol, Lt Martin, 2nd Lt Carter, 2nd Lt Mortimer, 2nd Lt O’Carroll. Missing Lt Clery. Killed wounded and missing Other Ranks 259

The Europeana website has a poignant letter from father Joseph as he worries over four sons including another fighting in Gallipolli.

O’Carroll is pictured on

Mrs Barrington the manager of Dublin Zoo’s Houston House lost her husband in 19151916. There are several Barringtons listed as casualties in this period.

William Thornley Stoker Woods

In November 1916, the RZSI Council sent condolences to its Vice-President, later President, Robert H Woods,  a neighbour of O’ Carroll,  of 39 Merrion Square, Dublin whose son had died in action in France. Second Lieutenant William Thornley Stoker Woods, 62nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, died aged 20 on 27 October 1916. He is buried in grave IIE8 in the Guards Cemetery, Lesbouefs, Somme, France.


Arras Flying Services Memorial (Source: CWGC)

Thomas Pim

RZSI Council member Cecil Pim’s son Thomas died on 28 August 1918, serving as a Lieutenant in 13th Squadron, Royal Air Force (and previously the Royal Field Artillery). He is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial to 1000 missing aircrew with no known grave on the Western Front.

Kilmacurragh Gardens the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland


These Ginkgo trees at Kilmacurragh are a strange war memorial (Kilmacurragh website) 

The Acton family, their Gardeners and estate  have a strange war memorial – a bed of interwoven Ginkgo trees and a spread of red rhododendron petals each year, like blood red poppies. Their story is well told on the Kilmacurragh website.

There are other reminders of this wartime period at Kilmacurragh.

In the walled garden grow a line of mature maidenhair trees, Ginkgo biloba, planted just over a metre apart. Tradition has it that this was a nursery bed and since the garden staff believed that the war would last only a few weeks, the young trees were left in-situ with the belief that they would be placed in their permanent positions when staff returned that autumn. No one came home from those bloody battlefields and the maidenhair trees still grow in their nursery positions.

Glasnevin, Gallipoli  and Charles Ball

C.F.Ball the assistant editor of Irish Gardening and senior staff at Glasnevin has an unusual memorial – an Escallonia C.F.Ball widely used in hedging. His story is told in the Kew WW1 section. He was killed at Gallipoli.

Fota and Charlie Beswick

The story of Kew trained Irish son of the Head Gardener of Fota is also told in the Kew WW1 section, where he is remembered on the Kew staff war memorial. He was killed in 1917.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.

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