Mavis Batey: from codebreaker to campaigner for historic parks and gardens
- Written by Sarah Jackson
Conservation practice moves forward
Another event which Mavis identifies as a turning point in the conservation of designed landscapes was the Great Storm of October 1987, when she served on the English Heritage Storm Damage Committee.
For the first time, the owners of historic landscapes could apply for restoration grants, which had to be linked to plans for accurate historical restoration of the gardens. ‘They were told that if they did get the money for their parks, then they must have a historical survey, and they must restore it according to the findings, which of course they'd never done before,' explains Mavis.
There were some surprises during this time, such as at Petworth, where trees that had come down in the storm could be ring-dated. ‘What we thought were Capability Brown clumps had been planted ten years before he was born!' she laughs.
Mavis stepped down as GHS Secretary in 1985, continuing as President for the next 15 years. The autumn edition of the GHS Newsletter that year paid tribute to her, saying: ‘Under her guidance we have grown from a tiny specialist society to an organization of national standing.'
In 1986 she was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society for her contribution to the preservation of gardens which would otherwise have been lost. The following year she received an MBE for ‘services to the preservation and conservation of historic gardens'.
Mavis and Keith moved to their present home on the Sussex coast, a Regency cottage which was once the weekend bolt-hole of Duff and Diana Cooper. Retirement did not mean slowing down, however, and Mavis has written a steady stream of books and articles, celebrating her twin loves of literature and landscape.
Books on Regency gardens and the gardens of Oxford and Cambridge were followed by works on Jane Austen and Alexander Pope in relation to the English landscape. She has also collaborated on several other publications, including a book on the Privy Garden at Hampton Court and one on the Thames river landscape between Hampton and Kew. Another book, The English Garden Tour, written with GHS Conservation Officer David Lambert , is widely consulted for references.