After World War Two ended, Ralph began to work with his son Bramley as Ralph Hancock and Son Ltd.
Hancock, never to miss an opportunity, began almost immediately hostilities ceased to promote the new venture. Hancock established a new base in the north of England. He took out a series of advertisements in publications such as the Yorkshire Post promoting "Lovely Gardens" and offering an illustrated book to bona-fide enquirers.
Big Plans for the City of Lincoln
The Lincolnshire Echo published an article in their 11th August 1945 edition in which Ralph Hancock was reported to have submitted plans to conceal an eye-sore, namely the soon to be erected cooling towers at the St. Swithin’s generating station. Quoted as saying that he was confident that he holds the solution to the city’s dilemma, by making the towers look like trees by the application of “natural camouflage’. Three years after the erection of the towers, he told reporters, he could succeed in obscuring them. Unfortunately, at this stage he was unable to explain how he would achieve this!
The article went on to say that Ralph had been on a visit to the City in connection with plans and designs he had created to enhance its aesthetic appearance. In fact the chairmen of the Council’s Finance, Works, Parks and Housing Committees were so impressed with the designs they saw that it was felt that the whole of the City Council should see them.
Later that year, 4th October 1945, the same newspaper carried the report of a heated exchange that took place in Council chambers. Councillor Leamy was reported to have argued against Council plans to spend money on landscape architecture and instead said that money should spent on something for the people in Burton-road institution.
The report continued that the Council proposed that schemes be submitted to Ralph Hancock but that it also rejected his suggestion that his services should be engaged at an agreed fee per month. The Council asked Ralph to quote a fee for each scheme submitted to him. Alderman Doughty commented that if they had not sufficient staff of their own to brighten up the city without paying big prices to people outside “it was a big pity!”
Councillor Hill remarked that if there was any competition between landscape architecture and Burton-road Institution there was no doubt which would receive first consideration. But, he added, there was no reason why the Council should not look into this question of landscape architecture.
Despite extensive research, no further news reports have been found that would lead to the discovery of whether any plans by Ralph were ever taken up!
The Western Mail and South Wales News, carried a report in its 28th September 1945 edition in which it said that Mr. Ralph Hancock, an old Cardiff boy is full of ideas for making his native city the most beautiful in the country.
The Cardiff City Council recently briefed him to give his impression of what could be done for the Civic Centre by his new method of civic planting. The article added that Hancock had delivered 30 or 40 large watercolour drawings to the City engineer and those were to be exhibited.
The reporter told how he had talked over with Ralph about his ideas of revolutionising civic horticulture by introducing floral fountains and floral lamp standards to enhance the value of buildings in their vicinity and relieve the drabness of built-up areas.
Ralph is quoted as saying: "Plants displayed well above ground level greatly increase value!"
In early 1946, Hancock approached Leeds City Corporation with an ambitious plan to build Peace Gardens on land at Temple Newsam. The gardens, consisting of 30 designs from different countries and with 'appropriate' architectural settings, were drawn up at a cost of 300 Guineas. Hancock was invited to the Civic Offices on 2 January to present his ideas. As well as the gardens, Ralph's plans also included an open air theatre with dressing pavilions. A bandstand with a lawn for garden parties. A car park for 1,000 cars as well as woodland reserved for picnics. The plans also ran to a day nursery for young children. To recuperate costs, Hancock also planned to sell an illustrated guidebook. The story received detailed coverage in the Yorkshire Post on 3 January.
The initial reaction was one of total commitment from the Corporation. But, as the plans evolved over the next couple of months, doubts seem to have arisen. On June 7 1946, the plans were cancelled. Leeds Corporation said that they no longer wished to proceed with the gardens and that they had only committed to paying for Ralph's plans to be drawn up.
Harrogate Flower Show
Later, in September 1946, Hancock entered a formal garden and two floral fountains at the first post-war Harrogate Flower Show, held on 4/5 September.
The Yorkshire Evening Post, 23 August 1946, reported that Bramley Hancock and nine labourers were seen erecting two floral fountains. One 16 foot tall, the other slightly smaller at 12 feet high. The fountains were constructed of 3 and 2 tiers of bowls each weighing half ton with a vase on top which itself weighed 12cwt.
Hancock and Son went on to be awarded a trophy for the Formal Garden.
On 7 September, the same year, The Yorkshire Post reported that Hancock had been invited to design gardens at Prospect Hill in Harrogate. The same article reported that the Council had agreed to purchase one of the floral fountains previously displayed at the flower show.
In memory of Denys
Ralph also paid for Denys's name, and for those of other local servicemen killed in World War Two to be added to a war memorial located on the main Eastbourne to London road (A22) at Blindley Heath. He also designed a wrought iron surround for the memorial. For many years after the war Muriel Hancock and her daughter, Sheila placed flowers there each armistice day, November 11. In 1989, a road widening scheme necessitated that the memorial be moved to St John's Church at Blindley Heath. On 25th June that year, a re-dedication service was held. The memorial now sits in a pretty setting in front of the church away from the very busy A22.
Chelsea and beyond
Nineteen forty-seven saw the return of the Chelsea Flower Show. Hancock exhibited both a rock garden and a formal garden, he also had an exhibit in the garden designers section. In 1948 he returned with another rock garden making use of Westmorland stone which included "such charming alpines". He also won a Gold Medal for his formal garden. Ralph's 1949 informal woodland garden also won praise. The Times Newspaper of 27 May reported; "Ralph Hancock's exhibit was such a charming example of the woodland style".
It was at one of these post-war Chelsea shows (probably in 1948) that Sir David Evan Bevans (a Director of Barclays Bank) commissioned Ralph and Bramley to build the gardens at Twyn-yr-Hydd near Port Talbot, south Wales. This delightful photograph of Miss Bella Clunn, who was Sir David's housekeeper in the 1950's, shows her in the walled rose garden.
The picturesque Twyn-yr-Hydd House and the gardens in which it stands are now the home of Neath Port Talbot College. Through the work of the Horticultural Department and lecturer Bob Priddle the gardens have been restored to their former glory. The high walled garden contains many of the features for which Ralph has become known. Cotswold stone walls with wrought iron Clairvoyee and an attractive formal pond.
The planting too is typical Hancock in style. These two images show the gardens as they are now (left)) and as they were when Ralph and Bramley created them (right).
Since the original article on Twyn-yr-Hydd was written, Neath Port Talbot College are no longer based in the house. It is understood that maintenance costs and associated drainage problems to the house made staying-put impossible. Sadly, the house has been mothballed and the gardens have been allowed to become overgrown. The following images show the extent of the neglect to both the interior of the walled garden and surrounding landscaping including one of the two bridges and the rear of the walled garden. The once beautifully restored wrought iron gate, so painstakingly painted by Bob Priddle and his team no longer looks as lovely.
The gardens at Twyn-yr-Hydd are likely to have been one of the last major projects, outside London, which Ralph designed and completed. The rose temple at Knightsbridge Green having been the last commission that Ralph completed before his death. In late 1950, Bramley finished a project which he and Ralph had started for Lord Peel at his home in Hyning, Warton, near Carnforth, Lancashire. Now renamed the Hyning Monastery, the home of the Bernadine Sisters order. More about this garden can be found on the Other Gardens webpage.In 2007/8, another Hancock desgined garden was discovered in Wales and verified by Bob Priddle.
St Quentin's House, Llanblethian, near Cowbridge was described and regarded as one of the finest landscaped gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan. A 1947 sale document described the garden as thus;
The main terrace is paved, flanked by a dwarf wall, and leads to a large lawn, 72ft by 40ft, which is surrounded by herbaceous borders. Beyond the terrace is the walled and productive kitchen garden, intersected by grass walks and with an ornamental sundial in the centre. A second terrace, with a goldfish pond and a sundial, leads to a well-kept rose and flower garden, lawns and rockeries, interspersed with paved walks. The stock of fruit trees includes apples, pears, plums, gages, peaches, nectarines, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants, and there is an outdoor vine. The ornamental gardens are flanked by trim Thuya hedges with dwarf Box hedge borders. The rockeries are stocked with most known Alpine plants, and the flower beds with a good variety of roses and bulbs. - All very much in the style of Hancock and Son.
More information and pictures can be found within the Other Gardens webpage.
Ralph Hancock and Son must have been a successful enterprise. As well as living in fashionable Trevor Square, Knightsbridge, the partnership also had a showroom, a mere stones-throw away, at Park Mansion Arcade. From here they sold such garden accessories as oil jars, antique statuary, urns and balustrades. A workshop, managed by Bramnley, in Mertsham, Surrey provided their wrought iron work and other garden ornaments. And, in Baredown, Hook, Hampshire, Hancock and Son had another Exhibition Garden.
In October 1949, an interesting little story appeared in The Dover Express. The story related to an incident which found Ralph arrested and charged with illegally exporting money. The story detailed how Ralph, in a party of 5 (presumably his family?), was stopped by an HM Customs Prevention Officer en-route to Boulogne, France. When asked by Officer John Kennedy how much money did he (Hancock) have on him, Hancock responded by saying "that he had nothing and that his wife looked after the party's money". When asked to produce his wallet, £28 was discovered.
On oath, Hancock stated that he was horrified when the money was discovered as he clearly remembered taking it out the night before. In her evidence, Muriel confirmed the story and told the court that her husband was inclined to be absentminded. The Chairman of the bench dismissed the case.
It was during those early post-war years that Ralph purchased a little cottage at Chailey Green, near Lewes, Sussex. He planned to restore the cottage and had drawn-up plans to do so. Sadly, Ralph passed away before work started and it was left to Bramley to complete the restoration.
Ralph died on August 30 1950 at the National Heart Hospital, London, from heart failure. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. His ashes were later scattered into the Thames by his widow Muriel and by daughter Sheila from the Embankment near to Charing Cross.
After Ralph's premature death, Bramley continued with the landscape garden business that his father had established. As Ralph Hancock and Son, Bramley continued to exhibit at Chelsea for a number of years. A postcard from the 1957 show illustrates iron work from Hancock Industries. Bramley also diversified into aluminum glasshouses building up an incredibly successful business near Redhill (Surrey, England) that, even today, Hancock Aluminum Glasshouses are well known.
At Chelsea in 1951, Bramley exhibited a formal garden. The Times Newspaper, 22 May 1951, described the garden in some detail. A low, red brick wall, pierced by wrought iron grilles and an old brick, timbered and tiled garden house - placed beside a raised lawn with a brick retaining wall and a winding pool below. He returned the following year with both formal and informal gardens. And in 1953 Bramley won a Gold Medal for his semi-floral garden.
This delightful photograph (left) shows Bramley at one of those post-war shows with the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret (Chelsea 1953).
Bramley passed away in August 1989, 20 years after the death of his mother Muriel (Hilda) who passed away on April 26 1969. Sheila Dure-Smith (nee Hancock) now lives in the United States with husband Peter.
These two photographs of Ralph were taken sometime around around 1949. The left hand image is of him with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) at the Chelsea Flower Show. The location for the other image is unknown.