John Ward moved to his home in Burbage Road when he was aged 1 and remained there for a further eighty nine years, most of which were spent in a labour of love in his garden. John’s enthusiasm for gardening, perhaps inherited from his parents, developed at a very early age while a pupil at Wycliffe School during WW2 when it was evacuated to Lampeter, North Wales. He was a fellow pupil to another Dulwich evacuee, Jon Silkin the poet (see Journal Winter 2017). As part of the school’s Dig for Victory campaign, the boys were encouraged to grow vegetables. One year his poor school report was redeemed by high praise from his Geography teacher who was also in charge of the school’s allotments, who gave a glowing report of John’s potatoes.
While in Dulwich on holiday from his Welsh boarding school, his house was severely damaged by a bomb which destroyed the next house and the family were obliged to hire a caravan until repairs to the roof and windows were carried out. Another wartime experience was nearly being machine-gunned in Dulwich Village by a German plane which was targeting the anti-aircraft batteries near the golf course. In 1945,after leaving school, John joined the Royal Marines on a hostilities-only contract and volunteered for the Commandoes. After rigourous training he joined 42nd Commando Division about the same time as the war ended and served in Hong Kong and Malta. After demobilisation he enrolled at the London School of Economics and on graduation worked for a number of years in book and magazine publishing. This led, twelve years later, to his joining the Royal Institute of British Architects, initially with responsibility for the RIBA Journal but later he was appointed managing director of RIBA Services where he started an employment agency for architects, ran conferences and exhibitions and helped to develop a series of information services for the construction industry, including the now widely used National Building Specification.
John was always keen on sport, he played for Wycliffe’s First XV, and developed a keenness for tennis and squash. When he retired in 1992 he took up golf at Dulwich & Sydenham and later croquet with the Old College Croquet Club. Meanwhile his gardening enthusiasm took a new turn, when, as chairman of the Gardens Group of the Dulwich Society, he extended the existing programme of members’ gardens visits by producing the first ‘Dulwich Gardens Open for Charity booklet, now an annual fixture of the Society’s year.