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Sir Oliver Leese - a Memory of Worfield.

When I was a student I worked at the Cactus Gardens in the summer of 1957 and 1958. The gardens were owned by Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese and his wife, Margaret. They lived in the wonderful Lower Hall, behind the high wall on Worfield’s main street.

The sixteenth century, Lower Hall was given to Margaret by her mother, Hilda Leicester-Warren, who was a Davenport before her marriage and also owned Davenport Hall, though she and her husband lived in Cheshire.

Oliver was educated at Eton and afterwards joined the Coldstream Guards and after basic training thrown into the first World War; winning the DSO in the battle of the Somme. In the second World War, he commanded various divisions and succeeded Mongomery as commander of the Eighth Army. In 1944 he commanded the army in South East Asia.

After the war he started a mushroom farm, among his employees: Ernie Bishop who had been with him at Alamein and Bill Buck who had served as his driver in the Far East. Alfred Randall joined as foreman in 1950.

Gradually the emphasis switched to Cactus production and when I worked at the nursery I used to make deliveries to London and the south coast and also help out at the Shrewsbury and Southport flower shows.

The General was a kindly man who ran the operation in military style but with a thoughtful, fatherly air that engendered loyalty. Many happy memories.

A memory shared by Sarah Witcombe on Sep 7th, 2010. Send Sarah Witcombe a message

 Comments & Feedback

Mon Apr 18th 2016, at 4:58 pm
Sarah Witcombe commented:
Good memories Stephen, congratulations on your cactus successes!
Mon Apr 18th 2016, at 2:42 pm
stephen.crick commented:
I remember Sir Oliver Leese putting on large displays at Southport Show in the late 1950's . I talked to him for some time and could identify all the plants he asked me to name . He was impressed , and asked my father if I could go and work for him at Worfield . My father said I was only 12 years of age . No problem said Sir Oliver ,he can go to school in Worfield , and play cactus at week-ends . My father declined the offer , but I wonder what would have happened to the nursery had I joined him . I still grow cactus in Formby , and still also have plants from his collection . I went on to gain firsts at Southport and Liverpool Shows at about 15 years of age . Now that I am getting older the collecttion will have to be passed on . Sir oliver was an incredible gentleman !

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