In 1917 in the greenhouses at the back of The Bowes Museum, a group of gardeners led by Frederick Delgano – Head Gardener – worked together to grow tomatoes and other vegetables to show their gratitude to those who served our country in wartime. These tomatoes would be sent out to the hospitals in the Teesdale area and further afield to be given to injured soldiers. This was a generous act of charity, especially considering the difficult financial situation of the museum at the time. To help balance the books, the museum asked the hospitals to contribute towards the cost of transportation and also to provide the boxes for the produce to be sent in.
Owen Scott, curator at The Bowes Museum, sent a letter to all the hospitals in County Durham and Northumberland, explaining the museum’s intentions and requirements with regards to the tomatoes. It’s entirely understandable that the museum asked for remittances due to the sheer amount of responses that they received from hospitals all around the North. From the replies, it was clear to see that all the convalescent hospitals were grateful and more than willing to pay the necessary 10 shillings carriage [50p but equivalent to about £25 now].
This particular topic was an interesting angle to look at the war. War is often associated with negatives such as loss and death. However, what is often not so widely conveyed is the contribution of the community and the wish to help and protect others.
By Ceara Sutton-Jones and Alex Thompson