A dedicated and much-loved employee, Henry worked at MHA Hall Grange in Croydon, from 1961. During his time there he managed and curated the gardens – five and a half acres known as The Wilderness – along with his family.
In a video recorded at his new home MHA Richmond in Bexhill on Sea, Henry talks fondly of his years tending The Wilderness, created by former Royal Horticultural Society Secretary, the Rev William Wilkes. The beautiful gardens were filled with rhododendrons, azaleas and other wild flowers, and famous film stars of the day regularly used the setting as a backdrop for movies.
Hall Grange was the former home of the Reverend Wilks, who was a horticultural pioneer and breeder of the Shirley Poppy. His original wild garden was a radical departure from the usual ornamental Victorian Gardens of the time.
In the garden were areas of natural heath, sphagnum bog, acid grass and ancient woodland, with wandering paths throughout. Some ornamental plantings were made, including a bamboo walk, azaleas and a small orchard.
Henry was so dedicated to his gardening, that he rarely took a day off as he wanted it to always look its best. He recalls coaches filled with visitors descending every Saturday for a walk in the gardens and taking tea.
The gardens also had a vegetable patch which provided nutritious, seasonal food for the home and wonderful apple trees bearing fruit.
Henry looks back fondly at his time working with MHA: “MHA is a very nice organisation to work for – I was left to my own devices and that made my life much easier!”
Henry’s time employed by MHA turned out to be a real family affair – his wife Joy also worked at MHA Hall Grange as a helper for 15 years. Henry’s son Nigel started helping in the gardens at 14 years of age and ended up working there for 25 years part-time and Ann, Henry’s daughter, worked in the gardens for 8 years.
Henry has proved to be a real hit at his new home. Dionne McEwan, Home Manager said: “We all think it’s amazing how long Henry has worked for MHA and how long his whole family have dedicated their lives to MHA. It’s inspirational!”
Henry added: “I love living at Richmond, it’s very comfortable. Everyone is pleasant here; the food is good as is the accommodation.”
Steph Clayson, Admin Manager, added: “Henry has worked so hard for the company. This is now our time to give back to him! We are all very fond of him and he enjoys his life here at Richmond, where he’s made lots of friends too.”