RELATIVES of an inspirational Southampton councillor are celebrating the first phase of a project to restore the gardens created in his memory.

They spoke out after joining the mayor, Cllr Cathie McEwing, on a visit to the new-look Vokes Memorial Gardens, which are situated between Platform Road and the docks in the city.

Alderman Frederick Vokes was chairman of the council’s public lands committee from 1923 until his death in 1927, aged 83.

He was responsible for a raft of improvements to Southampton’s parks and other open spaces, including new bowling greens and tennis courts and extra flower beds. 

Cllr McEwing said: “He was an innovative gentleman who had the foresight to believe in parks and green spaces, which is why Southampton is such a beautiful city.” 

The memorial gardens were created in the 1930s but were dug up to make way for improvements to the local road network. 

Platform Road was converted into a dual carriageway in a move that aimed to help residents and visitors to the city by cutting congestion.

The new-look gardens include terraced steps and one of the 150 fibreglass zebras that have gone on display in the city.

One of the people who accompanied the mayor on her visit to the site was Chandler’s Ford resident Michael Vokes, who is a great, great nephew of the alderman.

He said: “The original gardens set up in his memory were beautiful but were dug up when the road was realigned. Our next step is to ensure we get proper gardens in their place, with shrubs and flowers.”

Alderman Vokes’ great, great grandson, Philip Cook, from Hedge End, added: “I’m hoping they are going to plant flowers and roses. My great, great grandfather was well into that sort of thing, not just flat grass.” 

The original gardens occupied what was once the site of The Platform, an area where cannons and artillery formed part of Southampton’s defences.

Speaking at the unveiling of the gardens in 1933 Alderman Vokes’ son, the Rev E Vokes, praised his father’s outstanding contribution to the world of horticulture.