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4th July 2018

Hospital garden created in memory of Sir William Benyon

Englefield Estate gardeners have been putting the finishing touches to a courtyard garden at the Royal Berkshire Hospital which has been transformed into a colourful haven for patients, their families and staff.

The Englefield Charitable Trust funded the creation of the garden in partnership with the Royal Berks Charity in memory of philanthropist Sir William Benyon of the Englefield Estate, who founded the Trust in 1968. Named The Englefield Garden, the charitable project marks the Trust’s 50th anniversary and decades of support for a range of good causes across Berkshire.

Close family members were inspired to create the courtyard garden while visiting Sir William at the hospital before his death in May 2014.

The sanctuary has been designed by Sir William’s daughter-in-law Jennifer Benyon who thoughtfully selected its plants to include wild strawberries, aromatic evergreens and perennials, many with medicinal uses, to ensure year-round vibrancy.

Raised wooden flowerbeds and floral evergreen archways have been installed as well as a central water feature with a striking five-piece sculpture of a diving figure by sculptor Sophie Dickens – the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens.

The hope is that the 50 square metre garden will provide a therapeutic environment for patients and staff and contribute to their overall wellbeing.

Jennifer Benyon, said: “I wanted to create a space where people could get a cup of tea from the café, then sit outside unobserved, where they could have some seclusion, greenery and peacefulness; somewhere to have a quiet moment.

“Englefield Estate Head Gardener Sue Broughton and I wandered around the house garden discussing which flowers would do well at the hospital. Sue then set about digging up some of the species for the team to plant, so it’s nice to know we have been able to provide the very flowers Sir William once enjoyed, for others to enjoy.”

The idea arose in May 2014 with Jennifer Benyon producing the first of many drawings that summer. The project got underway in June this year, managed by Sir William’s daughter Mary Riall with the support of her sister Catherine Haig, chairman of the Englefield Charitable Trust.

Mary said: “We were really keen to get the garden up and ready for people to enjoy as soon as possible this summer so we chose a range of mature plants and shrubs which will help it to feel more established.  

Catherine said: “We wanted to create a peaceful space where people could step away from the hospital environment and take some time out. We were delighted that the Royal Berkshire Hospital supported this idea and hope that it will be much used and enjoyed by staff, patients and their families.”

Ian Thomson, Director of the Royal Berks Charity, said the garden’s renovation wouldn’t have been possible without the support from Englefield and has described It as a “fitting tribute” to Sir William.

“The Benyon Family has played a significant role in supporting the hospital since it opened in 1839,” he said. “When the original idea for renovating the garden was proposed by the family, the Royal Berks Charity and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust wholeheartedly agreed to support the project. The garden refurbishment would not have taken place without the amazing support given by the Benyon family, and we are extremely grateful.

“The old garden was in much need of love and attention and Jennifer and her team have made a huge difference. It will be an area of tranquillity and calm for many who are undergoing treatment in the hospital and a beautiful place for staff to relax during breaks.”