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Bernard Mallion Photo Colin Foy

Nostalgic visit for Bernard

A trip to a 1930’s greenhouse brought back war-time memories for former gardener Bernard Mallion, writes Lynda Foy. The 91-year-old, who lives in Hollington, St Leonards, started work at Alexandra Park in Hastings when he was 16 in February 1941, and stayed there until 1943 when he joined the Royal Navy. 

Mr Mallion, who visited the Heritage Open Day (HOD) on Sunday 10 September at the greenhouse to see progress on its restoration, recalled: “There were at least seven greenhouses on this site then. I was engaged by the park superintendant, Edwin Cherry, and the emphasis was on food production.

“There were about seven of us working here and we were each allocated a greenhouse to look after, venting and watering them. I worked in the palm house.

“There was an incredible amount of stuff grown in here. They were desperate times; in 1942 cold frames were being made from old, bombed houses, using window frames.

“From March or April onwards, wholesalers would come here two or three times to collect the produce.”

Promoting the greenhouse fund raising project

Promoting the greenhouse fund raising project

Mr Mallion, who then served as a signalman on HMS Ramillies, praised the work by the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group (APGG) to restore the remaining structure, saying: “It’s nice that the greenhouse is being restored, but it’s a pity the others aren’t here anymore.”

He writing his memoirs about working at the greenhouse and plans to give them to APGG chairman Linda Pearson for the group’s archives.

Mr Mallion was serving aboard HMS Ramillies when it supported the D Day landings in 1944 at Sword Beach in Normandy, knocking out four of the six guns at the Berneville Battery. After the war, Mr Mallion worked in the aerospace industry in London and then worked for 30 years in the fire service. He and his late wife, Joan, have two children and he is now a great grandfather.

David and his Bedford truck

David Hance and his Bedford lorry

Sunday’s Heritage Open Day also saw retired businessman David Hance arrive with his 1930’s classic Bedford lorry to promote the event. The lorry was parked outside the greenhouse entrance in St Helens Road and also toured the area, decorated with banners publicising the national event which celebrated England’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Volunteers did a brisk trade, selling plants to visitors who toured the greenhouse to see the work being done there. Brian Adams, from Ivy House Nursery in Hastings, and his assistant, Dina Tolton arrived with several trays of plants which they donated for volunteers to sell.

Happy green fingered visitors

Happy green fingered visitors

There was also a display about the restoration project, which aims to see the greenhouse used for horticultural and educational purposes with artwork and gardening equipment on sale.

Linda Pearson said: “HOD was a great success. Hastings’ community really wants to save this wonderful greenhouse so we can  grow together. We shall still be working through the winter, so please support us with plant donations. Look out for our new volunteering opportunities on the website; we need more horticultural expertise, and 100k to restore the roof… ideas appreciated!”

Sunday’s Open Day made £190 and a plants sale at the greenhouse and at a stall beside the park’s cafe on Sunday, August 27, raised more than £160 for greenhouse funds. Thank you to all who took part.

Find further details about the greenhouse project and volunteering opportunities at or email or phone 07852 487383. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Read previous HOT article on David Hance and his Bedford lorry.

More happy gardeners

More happy gardeners

Posted 18:29 Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017 In: Home Ground

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