The Early ‘Gardeners’

Meet George Mills, one of the first gardeners to help save Hill Close Gardens

Aerial view of the glasshouseHill Close Gardens

By the end of the Victorian period and into the early 1900’s, detached gardens were being sold off around the country to meet the needs for new housing for the country’s growing population. Hill Close Gardens today is the only surviving example left with public access.  

People playing croquetHill Close Gardens

The plots that remained continued to be enjoyed into the 1920s and 30s. Families such as the Savages and the Faulks enjoyed fruit from mature apple and pear trees, sheltered in Victorian summerhouses, trimmed established hedge boundaries, cultivated vegetables and flowers, and relaxed on neat lawns.  

Aerial View 1945Hill Close Gardens

After World War II, the plots became much less popular and gradually fell into disrepair. Warwick Council began buying up the Hill Close Gardens plots. By the 1990’s, the now unused plots were choked by nettles and brambles, the summerhouses had deteriorated and the detached pleasure gardens were almost lost for good.  

OnionsHill Close Gardens

George’s Story - 1925-2012

One gardener who saw this period of decline was George Mills, he spent his boyhood in Ashow, near Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, with his widowed mother and his sister. He served at sea in World War II, and later worked as an electrical engineer in Coventry.  

Plot 24Hill Close Gardens

He and his wife, June, settled in St Paul’s Terrace in Warwick, a stone’s throw from Hill Close Gardens and arranged with the Council around 1970 to take over Plot 24, gardened by three generations of Chadbands. His first task was to dig up all the rusty corrugated iron pigsties!  

Arial view of plot 24Hill Close Gardens

George continued to quietly cultivate his plot whilst the others around him became more and more derelict, until the gardens were saved by local volunteers. George was a superb vegetable grower, winning prizes at many local shows. He loved to chat with fellow gardeners, visitors or children eager to know how carrots grew underground.  

Grand openingHill Close Gardens

Grand opening with George Mills

Today's Volunteers - When ideas for building housing on the site were proposed, local volunteers protested at the potential loss of a unique piece of Warwick’s history. English Heritage agreed, and granted in 1994 Listed status to the gardens and four of the eight summerhouses. The restored gardens are now run by Hill Close Gardens Trust, with support from Warwick District Council. 

Heritage Lottery Funding enabled the restoration works you can see today, but volunteers remain as important as ever, now supported by a small team of dedicated staff. Gardeners weed, plant and propagate plants for sale.

Centre volunteers supply visitors with tea and cake, run guided tours and special events. Education volunteers show children the pleasures of gardening. And, what is more, they enjoy it!

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