In memory of Bernard – couple donate £1,000 to greenhouse fund

The family of a former gardener who worked at an historic greenhouse in Hastings has donated £1,000 towards the campaign to put a permanent roof on the structure.

Bernard aged 14 around the time he started work in Alexandra Park.

Bernard Mallion, who died in January last year at the age of 92, joined the team growing fruit and vegetables at the greenhouse in Alexandra Park during the Second World War. He started work in the former palm house, now home to the Alexandra Park Greenhouse Group, at the age of 14 in 1942 when there was a desperate need to increase food production in the UK.

Mr Mallion, who lived in Hollington, worked there until 1943 and then served in the Royal Navy for the rest of the war. Three years ago he visited the greenhouse on one of its Heritage Open Days and stayed in touch with volunteers who are restoring the greenhouse for community use.

Now his daughter, Annette Pavitt and her husband Terry, have donated £1,000 in his memory to help the Raise the Roof crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000. The campaign has already raised £8,000 and the deadline for reaching the target is midnight on Wednesday, September 30th. Donations can be made at crowdfunder.co.uk/lets-raise-the-roof-and-grow-together 

This month’s Heritage Open Days, held on September 12th and 13th, raised £900 and a supporter has already pledged the lion’s share of the cash to renovate the teak structure and install reinforced glass.

Mrs Pavitt, who lives in Hastings and has visited the greenhouse several times, said:  “Everyone involved at the group are so welcoming and enthusiastic. We’ve seen such a difference since we’ve been visiting the greenhouse; the progress they have made has been amazing.

“By making our donation we hope that it will help the group to ‘raise the roof’ and that, in the future, others will have the chance to learn and develop skills in the greenhouse.”

Mr Mallion wrote his memoirs about working in Alexandra Park which he gave to group chairman Linda Pearson for its archives.

Annette and Terry Pavitt who made the donation in memory of Mrs Pavitts father.

Mr Pavitt said: “As it was his first job after leaving school, it was very important to him. During the first couple of weeks, he did a lot of flowerpot washing but was later involved in the Dig for Victory Campaign during the war. He felt he was making a contribution to the war effort as he was too young to join the Royal Navy.

“He learnt a lot about gardening and used this knowledge all his life. Although he didn’t pursue it as a career, he loved gardening.” 

After Mr Mallion died, the Pavitts also donated his flower pots, and a bench as well as some plants from his garden. 

Bernard Mallion in his navy days.

Three years ago, Mr Mallion recalled that the park housed at least seven greenhouses during the war, explaining at the time:  “There was an incredible amount of stuff grown here. They were desperate times; in 1942 the cold frames were being made from old bombed houses, using window frames.”

After joining the Royal Navy, Mr Mallion served as a signalman 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, he worked in the aerospace industry in London and then joined East Sussex Fire Service, eventually becoming a senior fire officer. He joined Hastings Sea Cadets in 1939 and later supported the Sea Cadets in fire safety and nautical instruction. He supported Hastings Rotary Club and belonged to the HMS Ramillies Veteran’s Association.

Greenhouse group chairman Linda Pearson said:  “It was a lovely surprise to meet Mr Mallion when he visited and told us that his first job was working in the greenhouse. To be able to document first-hand information is so valuable when piecing together the park’s horticultural history.

“The donation from Annette and Terry is very special and we shall use it to for something that will always remind us of Bernard.”

The Alexandra Park greenhouse that campaigners are raising money to restore.

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