Fred Vincent Gardens
The Lower Allotment site was originally the gardens of the Wesleyan Church in Stebondale Street and during the war was occupied by the army who stationed an anti aircraft gun site on the Mudchute. When the army left after the war the bank overlooking the gardens was taken over by old decaying trees, greenery, Japanese bindweed and hardcore and rubbish. All of which which was ideal for the foxes who used it as their lair. This remained so for 54 years until Fred Vincent; a popular plot holder for 22 years went on holiday with his wife Vera on April 1999 and within 48 hours tragically died of a massive heart attack. Fred was eventually cremated with the intention of his ashes being placed at Christ Church on Manchester Road but his family were advised the grounds were full.
Work started immediately to clear the bank overlooking the Lower Allotments. Apart from the brick air raid shelter that was built during the war the bank had remained virtually untouched for one hundred and twenty nine years since it was first built to make the MillwaIl Dock. Daily dog walkers and passers by would pass that one had to be mad when told what was planned for the site. Gradually, with help from the Betty May Gray Charity Trust and the Isle of Dogs Community Foundation the ground was cleared. It took 3 grabber lorries, each lorry equivalent to 3, plus two additional separate skips were used to clear the ground.
During digging the remains of Harry Frewing's raid shelter was unearthed. It had been bombed and sadly John Hills was killed in the raid and his colleague Kemp so severely injured that he died on his way to hospital. Fred Vincent had always maintained that was the spot where the shelter had stood because used to take tea there when he was a child. On a brighter note, Harry Frewing only had one leg and before the war when football was played on the Millwall Park adjacent to the site and he had to play goal because of his handicap.
It took me four and a half years to complete the project. While efforts were made to complete the project the ashes of two plot holders, Tommy Sammomns and Alfie Read, were interred along with the ashes of my eldest brother George. Trees have also been planted in remembrance of two local island war heroes James J Gordon RN, who was awarded the DSM for gallantry, and Nick Avery RAF Crew.
The Gardens were eventually completed in November 2003, one hundred and thirty three years after the bank was first built. Visitors can view the gardens from the bird sanctuary and new barn buildings on the Mudchute Farm.
Harry White, November 2003
Note: Memorials have been maintained and two areas set aside as gardens but the bank is now worked as allotments and Harry still visits his brother every Christmas and Vera still has and works a plot on the lower allotments.