The charity making life better by water

Albert’s Memorial Garden

Albert Rooke was Birmingham’s last Inland Harbour Master – maintaining the locks at Farmers Bridge and supervising visitor moorings in the city centre

He worked from the Toll House at the top of the locks near Cambrian House.

As a lad he used to work horses for pocket money pulling cargo boats up Farmers Locks and riding the horse back to the Aston stables.

He retired in April 2003 after 20 years of service for British Waterways (now the Canal and River Trust) but continued to work on the canals as a volunteer (including helming the litter boat) for the rest of his life. Some of Wild in Birmingham's founder members can recall having a cup of tea and a chat with Albert in Cambrian House after an enjoyable morning's gardening!

During his career, Albert witnessed the transformation of central Birmingham's canals from derelict factories to the development of vibrant new areas such as the International Convention Centre, Brindleyplace and many new canalside homes. The regeneration of canals led to them becoming an attraction for visitors and residents of the city to enjoy walking, cycling or just relaxing.

Albert's garden

Sadly, Albert passed away in 2021 and Wild in Birmingham team felt that it would be fitting to develop a new garden in his memory. The area of Albert's Garden had previously been cleared as it had been very overgrown with shrubbery and trees that had encroached across the towpath so we started with a fairly blank canvas.

Planting so far includes dogwood, salvias, roses, penstemons and lavenders. There are also dogwoods which have brightly coloured stems in winter, aronia – a plant related to roses which have berries that are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, viburnum, osteospermum, red hot pokers, and a globe artichoke which has an edible flower bud.

Last summer we planted lots of bright sunflowers and some new roses but there's still plenty more to do.

Development of the garden is continuing – we're hoping to build a bug hotel using branches, tree stumps and moss collected from the canalside to attract more insects and wildlife to the city centre. For example, stag beetles like to nest in dead and rotting wood, so we hope to encourage them to this area. We also hope to propagate plants such as roses and lavender to complete the garden in the coming years.

To read more about Albert Rooke's career please follow these links:

BBC News article April 2003

The Free Library/Birmingham Post and Mail article March 1998

Last Edited: 13 April 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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