The First TV Garden

Television's Own Backyard Garden at Alexandra Palace

Setting Up Italian Garden (1946/1959)Alexandra Palace

Of the many gardens at Ally Pally in North London, one of them holds a special place in world history.

Mr Middleton in Television Garden ©BBC (1937)Original Source: BBC Photo Library

The first TV gardening programme was broadcast by the BBC to a handful of viewers on 21st November 1936, only 2 weeks after the British public TV service began.

Television Garden in Alexandra Park (1936/1939)Alexandra Palace

The BBC garden was created on the south slope of Alexandra Park a few yards from the studios where the new media was developed.

Gardening Outside Broadcast ©BBC (1937-05-01)Original Source: BBC Photo Library

These early outside broadcasts were quite a technical feat, made possible by the innovative technology introduced by Marconi-EMI using their lightweight, mobile cameras and a lot of cable!

Alexandra Palace and Park: A New Plea For ReconstructionOriginal Source: Alexandra Park and Palace Collection at Bruce Castle Museum

"A local OB in the grounds of the Palace took all morning to rig, test and line up, using one Emitron camera on a 3 wheeled dolly. It went live on air at 3pm without rehearsal..." John Summers, BBC

Mr Middleton in Television Garden ©BBC (1937)Original Source: BBC Photo Library

C H Middleton, a well known radio personality, presented 'In Your Garden' from the purpose built plot at AP giving practical advice such as when to plant your veg.

Rotating Vegetable Planting Guide (1937) by VelosGarden Museum

Allotment advice

Mr Middleton was a natural broadcaster with a witty, chatty and empathetic tone. The BBC were happy for Cecil to "extemporize" in his gardening talks.

Dig for Victory Poster (c.1942) by UnknownGarden Museum

He was such a trusted figure, Middleton went on to become the face of The Ministry of Food's WW2 Dig for Victory campaign.

Grow More Food - Dig for Victory Leaflet, World War II (1939) by Ministry of AgricultureGarden Museum

The British public were encouraged to supplement wartime rations by growing food in their own gardens and allotments.

BBC Tower (1939/1960)Alexandra Palace

"Lo and behold!"
After the war, Fred Streeter took on the role of TV Gardener and programmes continued to be broadcast from the AP plot until 1956 when Percy Thrower became BBC's gardening presenter.

Plant a Tree in Alexandra Park, 1980/1988, From the collection of: Alexandra Palace
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The BBC garden was soon incorporated into the Palace’s 196 acre park, which continues to be enjoyed by around 3 million visitors a year.

Now, the Alexandra Palace Park & Gardens are still an inspiring green space in the heart of London

Credits: Story

The Garden Museum

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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