Churchill Gardens
Southend-on-Sea
A few minutes’ walk from the heart of Southend is a scene typical of many found in the West Country. Churchill Gardens, the beauty spot chosen by the town to honour the great man, are situated a stones’ throw away from tower blocks, busy railway lines and the main road into Southend. Mr Frank Scheerboom, who was born in Hackney in 1891, was the owner of the Express Laundry in Southend and, together with his wife Lucy who he married in 1918, occupied a house in Tunbridge Road in the laundry grounds. He bought land, which was then a sand pit, behind his house as he was concerned it would be used as a scrap-yard. The land remained uncultivated until 1951, when Mr Scheerboom and his wife called in a landscape artist by the name of Ian Walker. Between them they designed the garden as a reminder of the Devon countryside. Approximately fifty different types of trees were planted, waterfalls were built, and a water course was made to wind its way through the garden for about 200 yards and terminate in a pool. Mr Scheerboom enjoyed the garden and spent many happy hours in its peace and tranquillity, despite it being only a few yards from the hectic bustle of everyday life. When he died, in 1959, his widow continued with both the laundry and the gardens. In 1964 she sold everything to Southend Corporation, and moved to Fairfield Road, Eastwood. Both the laundry and the house previously occupied by Mr & Mrs Scheerboom were demolished in 1967. The Corporation’s parks department began to restore the gardens back to their former glory, following a period of neglect. The lawns were cut, the undergrowth was cleared and the trees were trimmed. Rhododendrons and azaleas were added to the trees and bushes already established, bulbs were planted on the slopes, and rose bushes were placed at intervals along the gardens. Repairs were made to the concrete of the water course which,after dropping down a twenty foot waterfall, ran through the gardens to a tree lined pool which contained various coloured water lilies.

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Mrs Scheerboom was presented with a shelter for the gardens as a memorial to her late husband; several local organisations also donated seats, and an anonymous donor gave the money to provide the wrought iron gates and the wall at the main entrance which is in East Street, directly opposite the parish church of St Mary the Virgin. A path leads through the gardens to a second entrance opposite the Civic Centre car park. The gardens were officially opened on the 4th of May 1966 by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Sir John Ruggles-Brise Bt, CB, OBE, TD, JP., who unveiled a bust of Churchill situated in the centre of the gardens. The gardens became a favourite of office workers who spent their lunchtimes relaxing in this green oasis, as well as being a place of relaxation for local residents.
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