15 September 2017

Gold Medal Winning Chelsea Garden Donated to Veterans' Apartments

The Chelsea Barracks Garden, designed by Jo Thompson for the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show, was unveiled as part of the official opening of the first phase of the Royal British Legion Industries’ Centenary Village. Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, led proceedings at the new village in Aylesford, Kent, to mark the completion of the 24 apartments designed for injured veterans.

The new village will eventually include permanent homes for more than 80 residents along with a large community centre which will offer welfare, support and training. The Chelsea Barracks Garden will form the centrepiece of the RBLI’s new housing development, providing a much-needed space for relaxation, reflection and recuperation.

“We are absolutely delighted by this generous donation,” said the RBLI’s Chief Executive Steve Sherry CMG OBE, who served in the Army for 38 years. “It is wonderful to have such an impressive garden at the heart of our new housing development, where it will contribute to the rehabilitation and recovery of veterans who have sacrificed so much to serve their country. The village is be a home to many veterans, some of whom have faced great difficulties following their return to the civilian world, including life-changing disabilities. It is so important to ensure they have a comfortable and stable home where they can regain full independence and play a full role in civilian life. This garden very much supports with this.”

The Chelsea Barracks Foundation has also sponsored veteran John Ahben to undertake training and gain formal horticulture qualifications, enabling him to carry out the ongoing maintenance for the garden in its new location. Speaking about the apprenticeship, John said: “This course has given me a lifeline and an opportunity to have a second chance after my injury. Since beginning my apprenticeship, I have acquired new skills and developed a real passion for horticulture. It feels great knowing that I am working on such an important project. And on a personal level, I get to look out of my window every morning and feel a real sense of achievement.”

The garden draws on the heritage of the Chelsea Barracks site in London, the former British Army barracks, with cues taken from the architecture and landscaping of the new neighbourhood being created in SW1, which neighbours the Royal Hospital (where the Chelsea Flower Show has been held since 1913). Roses were a main feature of the garden reflecting the listed Garrison Chapel, with its historic Rose Window, which is preserved at the heart of the new development on the Chelsea Barracks site.

“I am thrilled that the garden now has such a worthwhile home,” said Jo Thompson. “It is always a joy to find a permanent home for a Chelsea Flower Show garden, particularly so when linked with an important charity. The Chelsea Barracks Garden is a traditional British rose garden, reimagined for the 21st century. I very much hope it will provide ex-service personnel with a beautiful place to enjoy, as well as offering the chance for residents to get involved with a range of activities to aid their recovery.”

Trustee of the Chelsea Barracks Foundation, Richard Oakes, speaking at the event said: “We have been very impressed by the valuable work done by the RBLI to support ex-service men and women as they transition to civilian life. Given the important military heritage of the Chelsea Barracks site, the Royal British Legion Industries’ Centenary Village in Kent seemed the perfect home for our garden. We are delighted to secure a permanent legacy for it and to know that the garden will make a positive contribution to this community of veterans for years to come.”