Harry Dodson, presenter of BBC series The Victorian Kitchen Garden and other series was laid to rest today at St. Matthews Church in the village of Blackmoor, Hampshire – 12 years after his death.
Born on September 11, 1919, Harry James Dodson was raised in Byfleet. When he left school age 14 he started work at a garden boy but within 6 years he made his way through the ranks to become a journeyman.
During 1937 he took a job as Improver Journeyman in the kitchen garden at Stansted Park in the parish of Stoughton, West Sussex.
During World War II Harry served in France but was discharged on medical grounds and shortly started work at Leigh Park in Hampshire as General Garden Foreman.
When the war ended Harry moved near Oxford to Nuneham Park. It was during his time here that he met his future wife Kathleen (born 1924; died 2016) whom he called Jane because she reminded him of the 1940’s comic strip of the same name.
It was during 1947 that Harry found himself as Head Gardener of Chilton Lodge Gardens near Chilton Foliat just outside Hungerford having been appointed to the role by the Honourable Lady Ward. Alongside a team of 12 staff Harry restored the walled kitchen garden and exhibited his results at RHS shows held in London. During his showing career he won a total of 10 gold medals for vegetables.
By the time Harry retired in 1981 the walled garden was being run as a commercial nursery with his wife. They had been granted a life tenancy of their cottage, potting shed and the walled gardens themselves by Colonel E.J.S. Ward.
The BBC came calling in 1984 in their search for a walled kitchen garden to feature in a new documentary series, The Victorian Kitchen Garden which was broadcast in 1987. The series was a huge success and several more series were commissioned: The Victorian Flower Garden, The Victorian Kitchen, The Wartime Kitchen and Garden and a little known one-off special where Harry took his first flight to open a flower show in Canada called Harry’s Big Adventure.
At the turn of the 21st century Harry’s health started to deteriorate with the onset of dementia. Harry Dodson died on July 25, 2005, age 85.
By the time Harry had died and was cremated his wife was being taken care of in a nursery home and was also suffering from dementia. Not knowing what to do with his ashes the undertaker kept them in his office.
Last year the television series creator Jennifer Davies enquired with the undertaker about the final resting place of Harry and was shocked to discover they were still at the undertakers. Over the future months Jennifer traces family members of Harry and it was decided that he should return to Blackmoor where he had lived as a child.
And that brings us up to the present day. In attendance at the service were cast and crew of The Victorian Kitchen Garden, series creator Jennifer Davies, series producer Keith Sheather and Harry’s assistant Alison MacKenzie.