Campaign to honour Banbury architect gathers momentum

Banbury Town Council could commemorate the life of award-winning architect and author Dame Sylvia Crowe by restoring some of the features she created in St Mary’s Churchyard 70 years ago.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 3:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 3:49 pm
The birthplace of Dame Sylvia Crowe stood on the Oxford Road opposite the Banbury House Hotel

Dame Sylvia was born at 30 Oxford Road, Banbury, in 1901, and went on to become one of the country’s best-known landscape designers She died in 1997 and is buried in Hardwick Hill Cemetery.

Dame Sylvia worked on St Mary’s Churchyard in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the request of the borough council at the time. Present-day town council officers are now investigating if some of the features created by Dame Sylvia can be restored or rebuilt as part of a churchyard makeover.

Other Dame Sylvia projects in Banbury in the 1940s and 50s included designs for the town’s parks, recreation areas, and housing estates. One notable estate was between Warwick Road and what has become the Bretch Hill estate.

Dame Sylvia Crowe

The commemoration project was discussed at a meeting of the town council’s General Services Committee on 28 January.

Committee chairman Cllr Colin Clarke said: “Dame Sylvia was an important figure nationally in landscape design and much of her work has stood the test of time at prominent sites around the country.

“It is important that Banbury-born people who have made their mark further afield should be remembered – and what better than to restore some of her original work in the town of her birth.”

In November last year we reported on a campaign by three Banbury residents to have the achievements of this little known Banbury pioneer recognised.

Dame Sylvia Crowe's final resting place in Hardwick Hill Cemetery

Dame Sylvia was awarded the CBE in 1967 and became a Dame in 1973. Sylvia was the daughter of Beatrice (née Stockton) and Eyre Crowe, a cabinet maker who retired early due to ill health and moved the family to Felbridge on the Surrey/Sussex border where he worked as fruit farmer.

Sylvia attended Swanley Horticultural College from 1920 to 1922 and then worked as a garden designer. She joined the Institute of Landscape Architects and was elected to its council in July 1939.

During WW2 she was a despatch rider in France and after the war went into business as an architect. She worked on the landscape design of Harlow and Basildon new towns and was

later the consultant for landscapes surrounding utilitarian buildings such as hospitals, training colleges, research stations and reservoirs.

Particularly well-known are her landscapes at Rutland Water and the Commonwealth Institute. Her book The Landscape of Power was published in 1958 – a time when the first generation of nuclear power stations were built.

She was president of the Landscape Institute from1957 to1959 and in 1963, at the age of 62, was appointed as the Forestry Commission’s first landscape consultant.

She wrote a series of books on the challenges of landscape issues, and her textbooks on garden design are considered classics.