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Donald Purkiss


Remembered by his son Peter

The Purkiss family has a long association with Saffron Walden.  My great grandfather was a bricklayer and worked on the Baptist Church and the Friends Meeting House.  My grandfather was a builder; he built most of Springhill and Summerhill Roads in the 1930s and 40s, and my father, Donald, was a well-known local architect. I continued the family tradition, and with it, the architects’ practice. 

Dad enjoyed Bridge End Garden all his life. In latter years he would regularly go down to the gardens, even on his mobility scooter, and come back with reports of what he had seen, season by season, from the first aconites and snowdrops of spring, to the last leaves blowing off the trees as winter arrived.

My grandfather often took the family to Bridge End Garden for picnics. He was a keen photographer and when the garden’s history was being researched for the restoration Dad found an old photo taken there in 1924, when he was three and his older sister was six. The photo shows a bench and a walnut tree which nobody on the restoration team had known existed.

Donald aged three with his older sister in 1924
Donald's grandchildren aged eight and six re-creating the 1924 picture
The photo from 1924 (left) and recreated with Donald's grandchildren in 2007.

John Bosworth, who was the project manager for the restoration, suggested that Dad could plant a new walnut tree and have a new bench made. I think Dad paid for both, and Trevor Reynolds, from the Rotary Club, agreed to make the bench, making a second of the same design for free. The benches are now in the Walled Garden; the tree was planted by the Summerhouse Lawn.

The replica bench donated by Donald Purkiss.
The walnut tree, donated by Donald Purkiss and planted on the Summerhouse Lawn

There was newspaper publicity in November 2007 when the benches were completed, featuring photos with my children posing as in the original; John, Dad and Trevor also featured (below).

Donald, Trevor and John with Donald's grandkids.

Dad loved the garden and left a bequest which is being used to replant the Rose Garden. Roses were a favourite for Dad, and he would be really pleased that the Rose Garden is being renewed for others to continue to enjoy.

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