Obituary: Major Tony Hibbert MBE MC

Tony Hibbert died at home with his family 12th October 2014 aged 96. Others have written about his extraordinary military career and war time honours, as well as his success in business.Here we celebrate his key role in the Cornwall Gardens Trust.

Tony Hibbert was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of the Cornwall Gardens Trust: he was a founding member of the CGT and its first secretary (1988-90), and Vice President until 1999. He believed in the key importance of setting up a trust to preserve the rich history of Cornish gardens, many of which were disappearing, through lack of funds and knowledge. He often referred to Thurston’s Trees and Shrubs of Cornwall, published in 1930, which listed 83 great Cornish gardens, but, by 1981, over a quarter of these had been lost. Furthermore, in 1985, English Heritage only listed 18 gardens in Cornwall. On a more personal note, when embarking on the restoration of his own garden he felt the complete lack of practical help. This was why he felt the trust must aim to list, record, and survey all the other important historical gardens in the county and provide support to the owners and to the education of future horticulturalists.

With his experience of the initial stages of setting up the Trebah charitable trust, and his inexhaustible energy, Tony Hibbert was a key figure in the Cornwall Garden Trust’s formation. His passion for gardens grew out of his extraordinary drive to rescue Trebah from decades of neglect and restore a historically important garden with great botanical treasures: these treasures were first introduced by illustrious earlier owners Charles Fox, Sir Edmund Backhouse and Charles and Alice Hext. Such was his love of Trebah, after the first five years of hard graft, Tony Hibbert realised he needed to guarantee that there would be security of tenure so that the newly planted trees and shrubs would reach their full maturity. The following year, in 1987, he opened Trebah to the public to pay for the cost of upkeep, and aimed to set up an independent charitable trust once visitor numbers were large enough.This was achieved in 1990. By 2000 he had secured its financial security. Only then did he retire once again, a full 19 years after he had first arrived to retire at Trebah with a vision of peacefully sipping gin on the verandah.