Garden History Society and Association of Garden Trusts merge

On July 24, at their respective AGMs in Newcastle, the Garden History Society (GHS) and the Association of Garden Trusts (AGT) voted to merge to become The Gardens Trust, a new body created to harness the strengths of the two existing organisations.

Dominic Cole
Dominic Cole

The main aims of the merger of the GHS and AGT are:

  • To speak with a more powerful voice for the protection of parks, gardens and designed landscape;
  • To play a key garden conservation role in the planning system as a statutory consultee;
  • To provide support to strengthen the local activity of the County and Country Gardens Trusts;
  • To be an internationally regarded centre of excellence in the study of garden history;
  • To live within the means of the merged organisation and be financially sustainable over the long term.

The first AGM of The Gardens Trust elected a slate of 12 members of the Board, and a new chairman, Dr. James Bartos and a new Vice Chairman, Michael Dawson, were elected by the Board.

Dominic Cole OBE, formerly chairman of the GHS, was elected President. Five sub-committees were established to reflect the areas of activity and interest of the new organisation, covering conservation, events, publications, membership and administration and finance.

The creation of The Gardens Trust is the culmination of some five years' work and discussion which also involved Parks and Gardens UK (the gardens database and website) and the Garden Museum.

The move is fully supported by Historic England. The impetus for the merger was a sense that both the GHS and the AGT would be much stronger if working together, especially in terms of conservation activity. To that end, the Historic Landscape Project was formed in 2010 by the AGT to begin the process of devolving much of the responsibility for the conservation of historic landscapes to the County Gardens Trusts (CGTs).

A small team of conservation officers travelled around Britain with the objective of establishing or consolidating conservation activity within different CGTs - an initiative that has proved extremely successful. The intention is that the CGTs will over time take on more of the conservation work within their regions, with the central Gardens Trust conservation team concentrating on larger or more complex cases or national policy.

Dr. James Bartos, the first Chairman of The Gardens Trust, was formerly a member of Council of the GHS and of its finance and general purposes committee: "I am extremely pleased that both memberships have voted in favour of the formation of The Gardens Trust. This is something we have been working on for some time, and I believe it will transform our ability to make a difference when it comes to the protection, conservation and understanding of our gardens and designed landscapes, helping to ensure their continued enjoyment into the future."

Dominic Cole OBE, first President of The Gardens Trust, became Chairman of the GHS in 2002: "I'm delighted at this outcome. I never really understood why we had two organisations doing much the same thing. Now the combined memberships of all the CGTs - all that knowledge and enthusiasm - can be merged with the specialist expertise and academic clout of the old GHS to become much more effective not just in conservation but in actively campaigning to protect our designed landscapes. I believe that this merger is a great opportunity for both organisations."

The GHS was founded in 1965 and is the statutory consultee for designed landscapes. The AGT was founded in 1993.

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