Shropshire History

Percy Thrower


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Percy Thrower


Percy Thrower was born at Little Horwood in Buckinghamshire in 1913. His father worked as a gardener and Percy was determined from an early age to be a head gardener like his father, working under him at Horwood House for four years after leaving school. In 1931, he started working at the Royal Gardens at Windsor Castle on £1 a week. He lived in a bothy at Windsor, along with 20 other gardeners and disabled ex-servicemen employees. This bothy housed only single men and if anyone got married they lost their job. He spent 5 years there under the head gardener, Charles Cook, then left in 1935 for the City of Leeds Parks Department. While there, he passed the Royal Horticultural Society’s General Exam. In 1937, he moved to Derby Parks Department and was soon promoted to be a Foreman, General Foreman and finally the Assistant Parks Superintendent. Percy passed the National Diploma in Horticulture and became a lecturer at Derby Technical College.

The Dingle in The Quarry, Shrewsbury


He married Connie Cook in 1939 and became a leading light in the "Dig for Victory" campaign during the Second World War, carrying out educational visits to many of the local parks. Percy became a Special Constable on fire-watching duties, after twice being turned down for active service. Whilst at Derby, Percy had a football pools win of £52 which enabled him to buy his first motor car, a Morris Eight for which he paid £45. In 1946, he became Parks Superintendent in Shrewsbury with a staff of 35. He had reached the top of his profession at just 32 years of age and it was his sole ambition in life. He expected to stay only four or five years, but in fact remained in post until 1974. Godfrey Baseley, presenter the BBC radio programme, “Beyond the Back Door” offered him a regular slot on the programme. This was followed by appearances on “Country Calendar” and “Out and About”. When colour television came along, this programme was renamed “Gardeners' World” and Percy regularly presented it until 1976. He was also the gardener on the children's programme “Blue Peter” from 1974-1987, appearing in over 100 broadcasts. One of his best remembered achievements was establishing the Blue Peter garden at BBC TV Centre, persuading numerous celebrities to give up a few hours every week to work in it.


In 1963, he built his own house called "The Magnolias" in the small village of Merrington. This gave him a garden of 1½ acres, something he’d never had before. The garden subsequently became the location for some of the episodes of “Gardeners' World”. He opened the garden to the public in 1966 and this became an annual event to raise money for charity. In 1967, he helped to develop one of the first garden centres near Brentford. Then in 1970, in partnership with Duncan Murphy, he bought the firm of Murrell's of Shrewsbury and turned it into the Percy Thrower Garden Centre. He retired in 1974 from the post of Superintendent of Parks at Shrewsbury and started a weekly column for the Daily Mail. He eventually developed Hodgkin’s disease and he died in 1988, aged 75. His ashes were buried in the churchyard at Leaton, where he had lived.