The New Garden 1936

While we enjoy the glories of the new Lime Kiln Garden at St Mary’s for work and relaxation, we can look back at another new garden of which the school was proud, this time in 1936.

Two years previously St Mary’s had taken ownership of the old union workhouse which stood where the sports centre is now sited. In front of the building was a field which ran down to the back of the medical centre. The workhouse was soon demolished and the site, including the field, levelled by some of the many people unemployed at that time. It was said of Miss Ferguson, who designed the extensive and “most beautiful” garden on the existing field that, “She had an artist’s eye”. She included a rose garden, broad grass walks, herbaceous borders and “most prolific” vegetable beds in her design.

A room in the workhouse lodge was converted into a tool-shed and work started in November 1935. The school had, since 1915, included gardening in the weekly timetable for the pupils and now they volunteered to give up one games time a week to dig borders and plant hedges and roses. In March the seed sowing began and by the summer term there was “an abundance of vegetables and flowers”. The garden supplied the kitchen with peas and beans, lettuces and radishes, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages and more. A committee was formed to organise a rota for the routine work of weeding, thinning, and cropping the vegetables. By 1937 a cup, given by the architect of the Matthews building, was awarded to the company whose members could identify and name the most roses and flowers, with some girls even up in the garden before breakfast working on the names. For many, the knowledge they gained was to last a lifetime.

The regular supply of vegetables to the school kitchen, thanks to the hard work of the pupils, was particularly valued during the war. In addition, the girls helped keep bees, hens and ducks in the garden, the ducks making use of the ponds in the old quarry below. Throughout the war supplies of coal, bought in the summer for the boilers, were stacked on the old workhouse site alongside the garden.

In later years, the school theatre was built on part of the garden and an area was given to parking. However, a small part remains, and the millennium sundial has its home where once the roses bloomed.

Images left to right:

Today’s school shop can be seen in this picture of the new garden in the 1940’s

Gardening was part of the curriculum for these pupils in 1915