Fighting to have street’s wartime sacrifice repaid

How the renovated garden at Gardner's Crescent will look
How the renovated garden at Gardner's Crescent will look
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IT was a wartime sacrifice that saw swathes of ornate railings stripped from parks, public buildings and schools for munitions in defence of the realm.

Few were ever replaced but those lost from one Edinburgh street are to make a comeback thanks to the efforts of a 92-year-old resident.

The renovated garden has been named after campaigner Derek Ainsley

The renovated garden has been named after campaigner Derek Ainsley

Derek Ainsley has spearheaded a campaign to secure the £180,000 needed to reinstate railings removed from Gardner’s Crescent during the Second World War and restore its grassy strip to its former Georgian splendour.

A small length of railing that survived the wartime cull provided the mould to reproduce whole sections that will now be fixed along the low boundary wall.

Meanwhile, architects have pored over 170-year-old plans and Ordinance Survey maps to glimpse how the D-shaped garden might have looked in its heyday.

Mr Ainsley, chairman of the action group Friends of Gardner’s Crescent, said: “When the railings went in 1940 I think everyone lost interest in the gardens and the thing deteriorated.

A view along Gardner's Crescent in Edinburgh in May 1971

A view along Gardner's Crescent in Edinburgh in May 1971

“The railings were just the start and when Edinburgh World Heritage became involved [with funding] the project widened to the gardens.”

The renovated boundary wall at Gardner’s Crescent now bears the name “Ainsley Gate” in tribute to Mr Ainsley’s five-year campaign to restore the plot.

He said: “I was surprised and flattered, but really this has only happened because of all the great help I have had from the Friends group.”

Group treasurer Eric McAuslan said that, when completed, he hoped the revamped gardens would draw attention and encourage more people to make use of it as a public space.

He said: “The work will remove the dirty look that it has now. Hopefully it will start to bring people out at lunchtime and encourage people to use the area in spring and summer for picnics.

“The problem was that it was a thoroughfare for people travelling from Morrison Street to the Cargo area in Fountainbridge and so in the morning you would often see cans of beer littered about the benches.

“The railings will have a big impact but we intend to landscape the garden, bringing it back to how it looked in 1822. Trees are to be brought back but we will use lime trees rather than cherry trees, which was what was there originally, and shrubs will line one section.”

Finance for the project has been received from Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh World Heritage and ScottishPower, which donated cash and carried out work on the site.

POTS AND PANS APPEAL WAS JUST A MORALE-BOOSTER

UNDER the leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, railings across the country were removed during World War Two to be melted down for munitions.

Gardner’s Crescent resident Derek Ainsley has long been sceptical of the British scrap metal appeal. “The removal of railings and donation of aluminium pots and pans to be melted down to make tanks was a lot of nonsense, but it boosted morale,” he said.

Jeremy Crang, a senior history lecturer at Edinburgh University, agreed, adding: “The pots and pans appeal was a stunt to dramatise the need to accelerate aircraft production in 1940. The amount of high-grade aluminium that could be extracted from pots and pans was negligible.”