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White City gets royal seal of approval from Duke of Gloucester

By The Citizen  |  Posted: October 06, 2012

  • The Duke of Gloucester in White City

  • The Duke of Gloucester meets Finlay pupils

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THEY say history has a habit of repeating itself.

And that was certainly the case in White City yesterday as the Duke of Gloucester followed in the footsteps of his father, 84 years after he unofficially named the area.

Prince Richard was in the ward to plant an English oak tree on the green at the junction of Sapperton and Avening roads, in front of more than 100 onlookers, that included pensioners and Finlay Road school children.

Almost a century ago his father visited the ward to plant an oak tree and commented on how clean and white an area it was, and the name stuck.

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Since then, councillors and residents, led by Jerry Jenkinson, have campaigned to get the name officially recognised, and they won their battle with Gloucester City Council in July.

Yesterday's event was the culmination of all their hard work, as White City finally got the royal seal of approval.

Prince Richard, a cousin of the Queen, said: "It is a great pleasure for me to follow in my father's footsteps.

"An off-hand remark he made was of huge significance.

"I don't think there's anything I have said which has stuck in the way that this has.

"No doubt the local dogs will appreciate it [the tree] as they are walked by!"

Prince Richard is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. He has been Duke of Gloucester since his father's death in 1974 and he is currently 21st in the line of succession.

After giving a short speech to those who gathered, he picked up the tree and put it into a ready-made hole before grabbing a spade and shovelling earth around the young oak tree, to much applause.

Before the tree-planting ceremony, His Royal Highness visited Mr Jenkinson, of Sapperton Road, who had written to him asking him to officially name the area.

Mr Jenkinson said: "I was a bit tense beforehand to be honest.

"But he was really nice and I talked him through all the history of the area and showed him photos. He seemed really interested.

"It was a fantastic day though and it was great to see so many people out too."

One person who was watching the ceremony was Janet Beard, 69, who was born in one of the homes overlooking the green and has lived within a stone's throw of it her entire life.

She recalled the former oak tree, which had been in the same spot, and said: "I remember the old tree, we used to play around it as kids but we weren't allowed to touch it.

"It was a lovely tree though and then one day kids started to vandalise it by breaking the branches off and stripping the bark. And then one day they set fire to it.

"I told the Duke I will be keeping an eye on it in future as I have moved over the road now, but I can still see the green."

Dame Janet Trotter, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, welcomed the Duke on his arrival.

She said: "I think it was a fantastic day for all in the community.

"It shows how a few people can make a huge difference. It is history repeating itself."

Meanwhile councillor Mary Smith (L, Matson and Robinswood) said: "I would like to say how well Jerry did, he did a superb job."

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