January 13 1989

The man who kept Hampton Court Palace’s gardens looking fit for royalty was honoured in the New Year’s Honours list in 1989.

George Cooke, then 58, the gardens and estates manager, was awarded the Royal Victoria Medal for his hard work.

He was described as modest about his honour saying: “It was quite nice” and that he and his wife had “a bit of a drink” to celebrate.

Mr Cooke had been working at the palace since 1974, originally from Wales where he played rugby for Wales schoolboys and at senior level for Bridgend and Northampton.

He started his career as a gardener with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester at Barnwell Manor, Northamptonshire before moving to Windsor Castle.

He also studied horticulture and parks administration at Wisley Royal Horticultural College before going on to train as a teacher of agricultural science for two years.

He also worked as deputy superintendent of Central Royal Parks.

Asked why he had stayed so long he said: “Probably because it is the nicest place to manage”.

His most impressive task was described by the Comet as replacing all of the trees on the Lime Avenue at the east front of the park. All 201 limes planted in 1662 had to be replaced with trees from the same parent to they would grow at the same rate.

The new trees found from Italy and cost £50,000 to transport by lorry back to England. They were 23 foot tall and weighed half a ton each. Once planted they had to be held in place by three anchor cables.

Not one of the originals had been knocked down in the storm of 1987.

Jan 9 2004

If your New Year’s resolution was to be more punctual in 2004 your hopes were dashed within a week.

January began with ‘the worst traffic jams in recent history’ according to some as four days experienced jams, despair and train delays.

Jan 8 1964

The designer and builder of the Surbiton lagoon died in this week of 1964 of ill health. Raymond Thirlway, 64, of Greenwood Road, Thames Ditton, died in Surbiton Hospital on January 5. The Ripon native had seen the population of Surbiton rise from 29,000 to 63,000 and dealt with repairs to World War Two bomb damaged property during his time as borough engineer.

Jan 13 1989

The search for a man who murdered 22-year-old Lorraine Benson near Raynes Park station on December 20 was on the front page of the Comet. Police said there was no link between the murder and rapes or attempted rapes in Malden Manor and Worcester Park.