On this day in history : 21st December 1936 – The world’s first television gardening programme – In Your Garden, With Mr Middleton – is broadcast by the BBC….

Cecil Henry Middleton

The programme was presented by Middleton from a purpose-built plot at Alexandra Palace in the first month of television broadcasting…. Cecil Henry Middleton was already well-known to the British public, his broadcasting career having started on the 9th of May 1931 when he gave a talk on gardening on BBC radio…. From 1934 his programme In Your Garden began regularly being aired on a Sunday afternoon at 2.15pm – and by 1940 some 3.5 million listeners were tuning in to listen to his 15 minute talks…. His style was informal and chatty and peppered with humour…. He talked to his audience as if addressing friends, whereas so many other BBC voices of the time were formal, stilted and stuffy….

In 1939 his gardening series was relaunched on the BBC World Service – in an effort to encourage people to grow their own food…. Working with the Ministry of Agriculture the BBC extended the series to give the public advice on what became known as the Dig For Victory campaign…. A 1942 survey suggested that 70% of those who owned a radio tuned in to get gardening advice….

From Middleton’s 1945 gardening guide – Image credit : NewquayZooArchive1969 – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

Middleton was the first of the celebrity gardeners; others followed, including Percy Thrower, Geoff Hamilton and Alan Titchmarsh…. He also wrote several books and regularly for the Daily Express…. After he died of a heart attack, on the 18th of September 1945, flowers and tributes poured in from all over Britain….

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