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War, gardening and saving his house


Robin Compton's Newby Hall and gardens
Image: Historic Houses Association

Robin Compton returned to his family's Georgian house, with its collection of ancient Roman sculpture, tapestries and Chippendale furniture, after serving with the Coldstream Guards from 1941 to 1946. In October 1944, near Caen, he had been wounded. Earlier, he had studied classics at Oxford, but he left the Army inspired by a passion for plants. He managed to turn his love for horticulture into a series of beautiful gardens, and annually attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Newby Hall, thereby saving the house. He was an interesting and energetic man. (He also served as Sheriff of North Yorkshire.) Mysterious, too. Did his love for plants emerge out of the war? What did the Classics mean to him? (JK Rowling was also a Classicist.) Inheriting a house can be viewed as lucky, but making three million visitors happy in your gardens takes some doing.

Robin died a month ago at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife, Jane Kenyon-Slaney, whom he married in 1951, and their two sons.

Such simple words, but revealing. He was not alone.

Ave atque Vale.

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