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Sir John Sykes pays tribute to Merchant’s House pillar of strength Jeffrey Galvin-Wright

Jeffrey Galvin-Wright at the planting of the Community Orchard on the Common last OctoberJeffrey Galvin-Wright at the planting of the Community Orchard on the Common last OctoberWarm tribute has been paid by Sir John Sykes, chairman of the trustees of Marlborough’s historic Merchant’s House, to its stalwart volunteer Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, who has died at the age of 77.

“Those of us involved in the Merchant’s House project will always remember Jeffrey’s great contribution to its success, carried out with conviction, commitment and constant good sense,” he told Marlborough News Online.

“A pillar of the Merchant’s House for upwards of 10 years he and his wife Alison made a formidable team and by their generosity, endeavour and single minded devotion to the project have done a huge amount to carry it forward.

“Jeffrey’s lasting memorial will be the creation of the 17th century garden to the rear of the House, a task for which his training as a garden designer, enhanced by his achieving a MA in Garden History from the University of Bristol, made him especially fitted.  

“As a volunteer he spent numberless hours planning the garden’s construction, its layout and its planting – his rigorous approach ensured that no plant was admitted which did not exist in this country by 1700.    

“Undeterred by the numerous obstacles to the fulfilment of his objective he kept quietly going and in 2007 the garden was formally opened by Sir Roy Strong.”  

A celebration of Jeffrey’s life is to be held at St Mary’s Church on May 9 at 11am.

Born in Surrey, Jeffrey was educated at Ashtead and Epsom College, where he was a keen cricketer and rugby player representing the College at the highest level, and later becoming a member of the MCC.

After National Service, spent in Khartoum he followed his father, head of publicity for ICI, into advertising and publishing, joining the top London advertising agency, SH Benson, which became Ogilvy and Mather, in 1955.

He joined the Reader's Digest as media director in 1962, playing a major role during its heyday of the sixties and seventies, but left in 1986 after a boardroom disagreement with its American owners.  

But after setting up his own agency he decided on a complete change of career in 1988.  He went to Merrist Wood Agricultural College and studied landscape construction and design and, having qualified, set up his own successful business in Oxshott, Surrey, before retiring to Marlborough in 2001.

He had married Susan Abell in 1965 and had two sons, Duncan and Jonathan.  Following divorce, he Alison Lovibond and acquired two stepsons, Charles and Max, and set up home in Old Lion Court, off the High Street, where their magnificent garden played a significant role in Merchant’s House Trust’s annual Open Gardens event.

He became early on with the newly formed History Association and went on to be chairman of the Marlborough History Society.

At the Merchant’s House, the 17th century home in the High Street of silk merchant Thomas Bayly, he also used his talents as its PR, producing numerous articles for the Merchant’s House Journal and other publications.

He was a leading light in Marlborough’s Apple Day initiatives and last year he designed the Diamond Jubilee Community Orchard for Marlborough.

Sir John added: “Jeffrey had a ready sense of humour and was always good company.  But, above all, we should remember him for the quiet courage with which he faced his last few months. 

“He never complained about his lot despite knowing that his life would be cut short untimely but accepted it with the stoicism which was his trade mark.”

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