On this day in history : 4th August 1996 – The death of English gardener, author and television host Geoff Hamilton – best known as presenter of the BBC’s ‘Gardener’s World’ during the 1980s and 1990s….

Bust of Geoff Hamilton at Barnsdale Gardens – Image credit : IXIA – Public domain

Geoff was the older, by just a few minutes, of twins born in Stepney, East London, on the 15th of August 1936…. The family moved to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire’s Lea Valley, when he and his brother Tony were two years old…. Geoff began to become interested in plants and gardening whilst helping in the family garden – and during his school holidays he worked at his local nursery….

On finishing his schooling Geoff went to the Writtle Agricultural College in Chelmsford and graduated in 1959 with a distinction…. He became a nurseryman and then a self-employed landscape gardener – before opening his own garden centre near to Kettering, Northamptonshire…. He transformed what was a dilapidated nursery into a thriving garden centre….

In 1970 Geoff began writing for the ‘Garden News’ and in 1975 took over as editor of ‘Practical Gardening Magazine’…. It was his personal crusade to promote the rewarding pleasure of gardening….

His television career started in 1970 when he began to present ‘Gardening Diary’ for Anglia TV…. This was to lead to guest appearances on BBC’s ‘Gardener’s World’…. Geoff was a natural in front of the camera and in 1979 he was to become the show’s regular presenter….

However, the original site for ‘Gardener’s World’ did not provide enough challenge and inspiration for him – or give him the ability to experiment…. In 1983 he found a Victorian farmhouse nearby which had 5 acres of land – and so he bought it and made it his family home…. Within 2 years ‘Gardener’s World’ had become established in Geoff’s own garden at Barnsdale in Rutland….

Geoff also created several other gardening series: ‘The Cottage Garden’, ‘The Paradise Garden’ and ‘The Ornamental Cottage Garden’…. He also wrote books to support his TV work…. He particularly advocated peat-free and chemical-free organic gardening – and was voted Gardener of the Millennium by readers of ‘Amateur Gardening Magazine’…. Geoff earned himself the reputation of being the ‘People’s Gardener’….

In 1995 he was to suffer a heart attack – and then in August 1996, whilst on a charity bicycle ride near to Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, he suffered a further fatal heart attack…. He was buried in St. Peter of St. Paul Churchyard in Exton, Rutland….

A charity was set up in his memory, supporting students of his former college….and his garden at Barnsdale, over 8 acres of some 38 themed gardens, opened to the public…. Geoff had passed on his experience and knowledge to his three sons, Stephen, Nicolas and Christopher…. It was Nicolas who came to oversee his late father’s gardens….

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