Following in grandad’s gardening footsteps…

For Michael Lee – known to his friends at Ricky – last week’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations could hardly have felt more poignant.

Now 63, he has spent the best part of his life lovingly tendering the garden designed by his much-adored grandfather, Henry Timmermans, who put out the bunting for the Queen’s coronation 70 years ago.

Michael remembers first helping Henry when he was just a boy of eight or nine tending 59-61 Knatchbull Road, Camberwell, and kept doing his bit even after his grandfather passed away in the 1990s.

Henry top, and Ricky below tend to the garden

His continued to preserve its distinctive look, and as a carpenter was able to replace an increasingly dilapidated windmill and bridge with a new one.

The crazy paving and diamond-shaped flower beds have been lovingly looked after in what has remained the family home all this time. Even when his parents split up and his dad moved away in the 1990s, Michael maintained his grandad’s legacy. So when the jubilee came around, he knew what he had to do.

The flags simply had to come out to mark an occasion Henry would have loved. “I hope he was up there looking down and feeling proud,” he told South London Press, emotion clear in his voice. “For sure he would have had the flags out for this as he did when it was the Coronation back in the 1950s.”

Pictures from decades ago show how remarkably unchanged the property looks. Chef Henry Timmermans, whose original name was Adrianus, came to the UK from Holland after the First World War and bought the property – along with two others in the street – in the 1920s.

It has remained the property of the same family for 98 years. He took great pride in what is now a garden for two houses (it used to be one). He designed all the features which so beguiled a young Ricky and it won plenty of best-garden prizes down the years.

He said: “It hasn’t changed since my grandfather’s day. I’ve wanted to keep it that way. It’s his legacy. And I want to look after it for as long as I can because it means so much to me and meant so much to him. It’s amazing. It’s got a lot of history.”

The poignancy of last week’s bunting display was possibly even greater because the future of the family home was uncertain until very recently.

It seemed likely that it may be time to sell as Michael’s mother Rona passed away a year and a half ago and six siblings have an interest in the property, while death duties needed paying.

But everyone has come together to agree to retain the property and the residents of Knatchbull Road will continue to see that famously distinctive corner garden. Some of the images seen in the photographs are direct echoes of the past, where Michael adopts the very same pose, in the very same spot as his grandfather. In an ever-changing world, there is nothing like a bit of continuity.

Top picture The children opposite Henry feature Ricky (centre) flanked by siblings Julian, Mario and Michelle Pictures: Michael Lee




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