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Work in Sussex

Work in Sussex


At East Sussex, Bil continued his pioneering work in heritage conservation.

He was aware that there were many historic parks and gardens in East Sussex under threat from developers, while others desperately needed finance to halt their decay.

In 1979, he persuaded the council to back a programme of restoration work. This was agreed on the condition that the owners of the properties involved would allow public access to their estates, and that private funding could be found.

Again, Bil's lucky knack of connecting with the right people at the crucial moment came into play when in 1980 he was by chance introduced to John McCarthy, a wealthy American living in England for part of each year. Talking over lunch, John McCarthy got interested in what Bil was doing and offered to help.

Together they founded The Historic Gardens Trust (Sussex), to work with the county council on saving some of Sussex's most important gardens. John McCarthy chaired the trust, with Bil acting as professional adviser.

John McCarthy

Bil used the experience he gained at Hestercombe to good advantage, forming a committee of influential people who could provide contacts and practical help. Countess de la Warr took care of governmental liaison, plant advice came from the director of RHS Wisley, Christopher Brickell, and author Arthur Hellyer, while Mavis Batey from the Garden History Society provided historical advice.

The first task was a survey of historic designed landscapes in East Sussex, which involved locating and assessing each garden in some detail. The completed county register revealed a hugely varied and valuable landscape heritage, from medieval sites to a whole range of 18th-century parkland.

From physic garden to follies