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Council Gardener Hangs up his Spade after Half a Century at Clitheroe Castle

John Latter - Gardener
COMING UP ROSES – Ribble Valley Borough Council gardener John Latter retires after 50 years at Clitheroe Castle.
Published Monday, 13 April 2015

One of the longest-serving council workers in the country will mow his last lawn next month after 50 years as gardener at Clitheroe Castle.

John Latter, 65, will hang up his spade after half a century tending the castle’s popular park and gardens.

John joined the then Clitheroe Borough Council – which became Ribble Valley Borough Council in 1974 – straight from school aged 15 in July 1965.

He grew bedding plants at the Clitheroe Castle greenhouse for council gardens throughout Clitheroe, including at Brungerley, Edisford and Henthorn.

“In those days you did not dare talk directly to a boss and received your daily instructions via a foreman!” he said.

After a couple of years, John was based permanently as a gardener at Clitheroe Castle and in the subsequent decades has got to know the castle grounds well.

One of his favourite spots is the panoramic view from the castle’s 12th Century Norman keep.

“I have quite a few favourite spots in the castle grounds. As well as the view from the keep, the park is spectacular in spring when the cherry trees flower, while in late afternoon in autumn, when the sun is low and shadows start to fall across the park, the view is breathtaking.”

John said working in the fresh air at one with nature had left him in good health and helped him live successfully with epilepsy.

“My options were limited when I left school, as I was not considered suitable to work with machinery, so gardening was the best option.

“Working in the fresh air at one with nature has helped me a lot and I haven’t suffered any symptoms for over 20 years.

“The council took me on, when others might not have, and has been a good organisation to work for, but gardening all year round is physically hard, so it is time to call it a day.

“I’ve had some fantastic colleagues and supervisors over the years, who have helped to make my job enjoyable and rewarding.”

Ribble Valley Borough Council chief executive Marshal Scott said: “John has been a reliable and consistent member of our grounds maintenance team and has looked after the castle grounds, as if they were his pride and joy.

“His 50 years’ service is a tremendous achievement and he will be missed by colleagues and the castle’s many regular visitors.”

Sarah Messenger, head of workforce at the Local Government Association, added: “We are delighted to wish Mr Latter a long and happy retirement after his 50 years’ service to the people of Ribble Valley. 

“He is a fantastic example of the dedication, care and effort that council employees put into making their local villages, towns and cities great places to live.”

John, who lives in Clitheroe with mum Estelle and sister Jacqueline, will prune his last rose on May 11, before putting up his feet to read a few history books and catch up on some DIY.

He added: “Clitheroe Castle has been a fantastic place to work and I consider myself lucky. There’s nothing better than when members of the public come up to you and say how nice the castle grounds are looking. I will miss that.”

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