Fancy seeing the May Queen crowned and picking up some garden plants while you’re there? Then make your way to Alexandra Park on May 12th, and after the coronation visit the Alexandra Park greenhouse restoration project.

All profits from sales at their plant store will be ploughed into the refurbishment of this beautiful timber-framed structure. 

Chequered history
Built in the 1930s by Richardson of Darlington, and originally used by Hastings Council parks department to propagate plants, the greenhouse later fell derelict and for a time housed a statute of Prince Albert – removed from the town centre clock tower in 1973.

There was once also a popular petting zoo (many middle-aged people recall it as where they first saw rabbits) but when this ceased in the 1980s the site became completely overgrown. The future of this 100m teak-framed (one of the reasons it survived) greenhouse looked bleak until a group of volunteers, drawn initially from the Friends of Alexandra Park, began the slow process of rescue and restoration in 2014.

Linda Pearson

Rival and renewal
Led by Linda Pearson – and with the support of park ranger Nick Hennessey and Terry Drinkwater of Parks and Gardens – a dedicated group of amateurs and experts have since cleared the plot. Granted a 25-year lease by Hastings Council and now a registered charity with three trustees and 20 regular volunteers the group estimates essential internal and external repairs will cost at least £70,000. A new roof, including a 10m-zinc section, and toughened safety glass throughout, are two of the larger jobs. Many people have already donated skills and time to relay floors and build flowerbeds (with surplus bricks from the Bohemia walled garden). The building now has an electricity supply, but there remains the original cast iron guttering to restore, not to mention plans for solar panels… 

Helping hands
Businesses both local and national – including Tesco and Greggs – have contributed with small grants. Local firms have also helped hugely: Dynamic Scaffolding provided a temporary roof completely free of charge and Timbercraft used wood from the old pier to construct internal plant beds.

The overall idea is not just the restoration of a beautiful building but also the creation of a community space for people of all ages. In Linda’s words “I see it as a happy, lovely place the community can use, a place to look and learn.”

Already young people with learning difficulties from a local college use the greenhouse and in future it could accommodate a grannies and babies group. Arts activities, with support from local creative people are also being discussed. 

Future plans
In addition to regular local fundraising through events and plant sales the scheme hopes to get grants from education, health & well-being and heritage trusts and charities, while in the long term becoming increasingly financially self sufficient. To achieve these aims at some point a paid social coordinator may need to be appointed. Meanwhile the greenhouse restoration project needs people with ideas and the wherewithal to implement schemes, in particular a treasurer experienced in accounting/bookkeeping to replace the current trustee and initiate a crowd-funding appeal, and someone to run the group’s social media.

For visitors 
The season is in full swing with events including:

11th May Local florist [email protected] holding a workshop making garlands for those taking part in the May Queen celebrations

26th May Chelsea week plant sale

21st July Bird Song fund-raising concert by Harmony One Choir at Hastings Museum, 3pm to 5pm. Tickets £10.00 includes tea and cake

7th AugustHBC playday in the park

9th December Christmas event

• More information: on 26 bus route, parking nearby – please note the greenhouse can only be accessed from St. Helens Road.

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