Dr George Rice Community Garden Dedication Event

17 October 2022

Sutton College is proud to be involved with the Dr George Rice Community Garden project and on Saturday, 15th October, a formal dedication of the garden took place.

The garden, located on the land between St Nicholas Church and the Gibson Road car park was left to grow wild and free for years. Local pastor Jeff Richards, Licensed Lay Minister at St Nicholas Church, has led on the transformation of this neglected space into a wonderful community area to be used by local groups and residents going forward.

Dr George Rice was a celebrated African-American physician who worked in Sutton for over 50 years, from the mid 1880’s up until his death in 1935. Dr Rice was born in New York, USA and was the son of a steamboat steward. After graduating in America he came to Europe and studied in Edinburgh where he assisted Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic treatment. Dr Rice moved to Sutton in 1884 with his wife, Florence and daughter, Lucinda. He worked at local schools for poor and orphaned children, later becoming Belmont Workhouse where he specialised in treating patients with Epilepsy.

Dr George Rice became District Medical Officer and Chief Vaccinator for the Sutton and Cheam areas.

Local councillors, the Mayor of Sutton Councillor Trish Fivey, local MP Paul Scully and many other community groups and representatives were present to see the Right Reverend Rosemarie Mallett, Bishop of Croydon, lead the dedication.

Sutton College was extremely proud to be involved in the ceremony and a poem, written by one of our Creative Writing students read as part of the event. Caroline Johnstone, winner of our 2022 Creative Writing competition earlier in the year wrote a beautiful poem, ‘The Garden’, as below. She read the poem as part of the dedication and College staff attended as well as her Creative Writing tutor, Sara Nesbitt.

There is currently an exhibition in Sutton Central Library, set up by garden volunteers, explaining the inspiration, progress and hopes for the Dr George Rice Community Garden.

The exhibition contains photographs and artefacts the explanation the inspiration for the garden, the progress made and the hope for the future. The exhibition will run until Sunday 30th October.

The Community Garden is still being developed and transformed and there is still an opportunity to be involved in this fantastic local project. Volunteers can just turn up to the garden any Wednesday afternoon between 1.30pm and 3pm.

 

The Garden – Caroline Johnstone, Sutton College Creative Writing Student 2022

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Here is a garden to heal the heart

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Foxglove, feverfew, rue; forget-me-not.

 

So many children George Rice saved

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Healing with wisdom, care and love

Sassafras, sumac, sage; forget-me-not.

 

Hearts for the ones who suffered most

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Remembering who bore the brunt

Snake plant, soursop, aloe; forget-me-not.

 

Many worked this forgotten soil

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Vision and love have guided their toil,

Passion-flower, thyme; forget-me-not.

 

Flowers and fruit will scent the air

Dig, prune, sow and plant,

Here play, tend herbs, or rest from care

Rosemary, speedwell, mint; forget-me-not.

 

Dig, prune, sow and plant

Here is a garden to heal the heart.


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