John Gardner, a leading volunteer and conservationist, who helped care for the Island’s only publicly accessed Victorian garden square, has died aged 77.

A former hard-working Liverpool theatre administrator, John and his wife Fiona moved to Dover Street in Ryde more than a decade ago.

Not long after, they started assisting with responsibility for the preservation of nearby Vernon Square. The square was once derelict and threatened with being turned into a car park.

John, who became treasurer of the Vernon Square Conservation Society, developed cancer. He died in St Mary’s hospital, Newport.

Even while ill, he carried on with fundraising and had a major role in the organisation of the twice-yearly events put on by the society.

Meanwhile, Fiona continued to organise a rota of local volunteers to open and close the square, morning and night. Vernon Square was officially opened by David Bellamy in 1989.

Before retiring to Ryde, John helped save the famous Everyman Theatre in Liverpool from closure by raising urgently needed funds.

He was friends with many rising stars from the theatre, including Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite.

Fiona said John loved living in Ryde, and Vernon Square was a particularly good place to sit and relax.

“But John was only too aware that a beautiful public garden takes a fair amount of work. We’re always grateful to volunteers who help keep the garden looking good.”

John and Fiona met while students at Trinity College, Dublin, and were married for 52 years.

He leaves his wife, children Catriona and James, and five grandchildren.