George Alexander, director of grounds at Tonbridge School is to retire following his 47 years in the grounds and gardens industry.
George joined Tonbridge School in August 1992, having previously worked at the Barclays Bank sports ground in Norbury, near Croydon. He has been in the industry since he was 17 years old, when he joined Croydon Council as an apprentice gardener.
In those days it was a two-year course and when George started, Bill Mason, the deputy head of the Parks Department, took him under his wing due to George’s massive interest in sport and drew-up a personal apprenticeship based on the council sports facilities.
George went on to work at the Croydon Sports Arena, a cinder track with a grass football pitch in the middle used by the Croydon Amateurs Football Club, bowling greens, and the Ashburton sports fields - as well as some nursery and planting work. Bill also advised George to get into golf, believing it to be “where the money is”. As it turns out this is probably the only piece of Bill’s advice George didn’t take!
George preferred to follow his love of cricket and says he is forever indebted to the Old Whitgiftian’s who gave him the chance of running their ground (Surrey Championship Cricket) at the tender age of 20. It was here he met a great friend in Nick Cooper, a landscape gardener. Many years later, in the early ‘90s, they established their own company, Tyson’s Wickets, specialising in rebuilding cricket squares.
George said, "I have met many great groundsmen in my time and have made many friends. Securing the job at Tonbridge was a godsend. Public schools quite simply want the best aesthetic and playable grounds, and this was right up my street."
One of the greatest honours George achieved was being made chairman of the inaugural Surrey Cricket Groundsman’s Association. "They put on some innovative and informative conferences at the Oval each year," said George.
Now he says it’s time to retire to Cornwall and be near the grandchildren and intends to enjoy every minute as he has his 47 years in the grounds and gardens industry!