News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Author Topic: Willis Gardens, Rochester  (Read 10757 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Signals99

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 514
  • Appreciation 39
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2013, 13:25:18 »
Came across this section whilst browsing. I lived in Union Street, Rochester so the Willis Gardens (or Borstal Gardens), as we knew them, was part of my playground as I grew up. The round concrete base in the photo was a seat made of wood slats, it had a cone shaped centre and was badly vandalised just after the war ended. There was a wooden shelter as well, it ran parallel to St Margaret`s St./Borstal Road, about 1m from the curb (pavement side), that also was vandalised. A contractor named Durrant & Sons removed both some time ago, its twenty years since I was last in Rochester. I left when the yard closed to find work, spoke to one of my old mates who went back to visit and was told, don`t go back, it would break your heart to see what it's all become, so sadly the ways of my childhood will see me no more. I will live my memories through your wonderful web site. Thank you Kyn and all you others out there KEEP TRUCKINK ,!!!!!!!

Offline bromptonboy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 703
  • Appreciation 33
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2012, 12:17:26 »
A bit more info from the website of the Christ Church College Oxford:

George White Willis 2nd Lieutenant Flying Officer Royal Air Force

Date of birth April 1899
Date of death 4 January 1919

Killed on active service in an air accident aged 19. Buried Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille Grave XII E 36

George White was born in Rochester, Kent, the elder son of Charles and Edith Lucy Willis.  George had a place at Christ Church but after leaving school he joined the Royal Flying Corps as a 3rd Class Air Mechanic on 5 September 1917.

He was discharged on 1 February 1918 at the Reserve Depot at South Farnborough and granted a temporary commission with the Royal Flying Corps attached to 1st Aircraft Supply Depot, Reception Park as a probationary 2nd Lieutenant.

Personal details on the discharge papers include: Age: 18 years and 10 months. 
Height: 5 ft. 10 in. 
Trade: "Miscellaneous Aviation". 
Military character: "Good Character"
 Character: "Keen & efficient”

On 4 January 1919 he took off in Sopwith Camel D1867 for a test flight - his engine failed at 200 feet, he crashed and was killed. His distraught mother is said to have slept with the propeller of his plane in her bedroom so crushed was she by grief.

Probate was granted to his father on 16 May 1919. He left £4,986-6s-9d.

His parents donated the Willis Gardens in Rochester to the people of Rochester in memory of George. They also donated two bells to Rochester Cathedral. Cast by Gillett & Johnson in 1921, they bear the inscription,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD
 AND IN PROUD MEMORY OF OUR DEAR SON 
2ND. LT. GEORGE WHITE WILLIS RAF,
 WHO WAS KILLED IN FRANCE ON 4TH
 JANUARY, 1919.
 AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
 AS THE STARS THAT ARE STARRY IN THE TIME OF OUR DARKNESS 
TO THE END, TO THE END, THEY REMAIN.

George’s father had his own firm of solicitors with premises in Chatham, and Rochester and had an interest in the paddle steamer fleet on the river Medway. He was four times Mayor of Rochester and an Alderman for many years. A great local benefactor, he gave a sack of coal to every Rochester citizen during the Great Depression and donated shoes to schoolchildren: “Great bags of shoes arrived. One lad had never had shoes before and got this huge pair of boots. He was so proud - and polished them every day with the sleeve of his jumper”.  When Charles died in 1943, his house was bequeathed to charity.

Offline bromptonboy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 703
  • Appreciation 33
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2012, 12:09:21 »
A quick bit of searching reveals the following from Flight Magazine.
George White Willis was born in Kent, in April 1899. 
"Flight" magazine of Jan 16 1919 states the following:  "Sec. Lieut. W.G. [sic] Willis, R.A.F, killed by an accident while flying in France on January 4, aged 19, was the elder son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Willis, of The Moorings, Rochester." The BMD, CWGC, and the 1901 Census confirm his name as "George White Willis," rather than "W.G." as per "Flight," and his parents as Charles & Edith Lucy Willis.
His prior service is given by his discharge record which is on Ancestry.com.  Willis was in the R.F.C. in 1917, as a 3rd Class Air Mechanic. He was discharged 1 February 1918, at the Reserve Depot at South Farnborough, because he was granted a temporary commission with the R.F.C. as a probationary 2nd/Lt. which was his RAF rank when he was killed.

Offline bromptonboy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 703
  • Appreciation 33
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2012, 10:39:54 »
Apologies for veering slightly off topic (I seem to start a lot of posts like that) but I am puzzled as to how the son could have been killed in January 1919.  The clear implication from the plaque is that he was a victim of the War, but obviously that had been over for weeks by then.  I'd expect to see "died of wounds" if he had been hurt but lingered, and he would probably have been repatriated home from France anyway; if he'd died of the flu it'd not say he was killed.  Maybe there was some sort of accident?  Dreadfully sad, whatever happened, especially as his parents would probably expected to welcome him home safely by then.
Are we assuming here that 2nd Lt Willis was killed by enemy action? He might have been killed in an accident while on duty? The 1919 date is often used as a 'war year' as the official end of the war was in 1919. Prior to that there had been a ceasefire.

Rochester-bred

  • Guest
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2012, 09:09:05 »
Borstal gardens is what my siblings and I called them; it was a great adventure playground for us. The thought that any of my children had played there now would have given me a fit when I think how dangerous a site it was.

Offline peterchall

  • Established Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3620
  • Appreciation 166
  • 25.06.1929 - 12.03.2016
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2012, 08:46:28 »
The concrete block looks like one of those cylindrical anti-tank blocks with a hole through it, that stood on pavements ready to be put into the road, but for some reason has a 'lid' on it. The gardens were open during the war, so it's unlikely to be a military relic from then.

Like AlanH, we called them 'Borstal Gardens'.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Far away

  • Guest
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2012, 07:33:00 »
Merc, there is round concrete thing like that on The Lines and along the canal bank in Sheerness, unlike the one in your photo, the others have a screw thread on the top.

This one appears to have a concrete 'lid' on the top, which is broken. If this one has/had a screw thread on top then this lid might be concealing it. I still think that they are for one of those early types of aircraft location devices.

Offline scoop

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 211
  • Appreciation 46
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2012, 23:22:38 »
George White Willis is remembered on the Christ Church, Oxford Roll of Honour http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/memorials/WW1/George-Willis

Merry

  • Guest
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2012, 21:30:28 »
Apologies for veering slightly off topic (I seem to start a lot of posts like that) but I am puzzled as to how the son could have been killed in January 1919.  The clear implication from the plaque is that he was a victim of the War, but obviously that had been over for weeks by then.  I'd expect to see "died of wounds" if he had been hurt but lingered, and he would probably have been repatriated home from France anyway; if he'd died of the flu it'd not say he was killed.  Maybe there was some sort of accident?  Dreadfully sad, whatever happened, especially as his parents would probably expected to welcome him home safely by then.

Offline colin haggart

  • Established Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 881
  • Appreciation 21
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2012, 21:43:43 »
Merc, there is round concrete thing like that on The Lines and along the canal bank in Sheerness, unlike the one in your photo, the others have a screw thread on the top.

petermilly

  • Guest
Rochester gardens
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2012, 20:47:24 »
In the 60s there used to be a wooden bridge that crossed over the moat. As a small boy it was a little scary crossing it. It's gone now. Any one have a photo? I remember the tunnels well!!

Offline AlanH

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 364
  • Appreciation 22
Re: Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2009, 10:18:49 »
Years ago we just used to refer to them as "Borstal Gardens" and accessed the tunnels at the bottom in the last part of the forts defences I suppose it used to be.
Alan.

merc

  • Guest
Willis Gardens, Rochester
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2009, 21:38:48 »

Willis Gardens in Rochester are adjacent to Fort Clarence Tower where St Margarets Street meets Borstal Road. Before 1924 there had been a drawbridge and arch gateway over the road at this point.
The Gardens are in two parts, with a fenced off slope leadng down to part of the remaining dry ditch of Fort Clarence separating them. The Gardens were presented to the people of Rochester by former Mayor of Rochester and Alderman, Charles Willis and his wife, Mrs Willis, in memory of their son, 2nd Lieutenant  George White Willis, R.A.F., who was killed in France on the 4th January 1919.



Smaller part of the Gardens which has the Memorial Plaque and round concrete thingy.
Possibly a seat or something to do with the fort's tunnels ???


The other part of the Gardens.
I believe originally they may have been more decorative.
If some of the trees were cleared there would also be a lovely view of the river Medway from here to.


One of the Bells in Rochester Cathedral was also dedicated to George Willis by Alderman Charles Willis in 1921,with the inscription:

TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN PROUD MEMORY OF OUR DEAR SON
2ND LIEUT. GEORGE WHITE WILLIS RAF,
WHO WAS KILLED IN FRANCE
ON 4TH JANUARY, 1919.
AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
AS THE STARS THAT ARE STARRY IN THE TIME OF OUR DARKNESS
TO THE END, TO THE END THEY REMAIN.


 

BloQcs design by Bloc
SMF 2.0.11 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines