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Robert (Robin) Compton VMH Newby Hall

North Yorkshire

25 November 2009


Robert Edward John (Robin) Compton VMH, President of Plant Heritage and owner of Newby Hall, North Yorkshire, died on 14 November 2009 at the age of 87.


In 1949 Robin joined the botanical garden committee of the Northern Horticultural Society (NHS) which opened its new garden, Harlow Carr, in 1950. He later took on the Presidency of the NHS and the Harrogate Flower Show.


In 1988 he became Chairman of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants & Gardens (now known as Plant Heritage) and took on the Presidency in 1994 where he nurtured the growth of this organisation devoted to national plant collections. His leadership, energy and vision raised its profile and brought new resources to what at the time was a floundering organisation short of money. He also secured the patronage and support of the Prince of Wales.


He was also admired for all he did to make his garden at Newby Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire, which includes a National Collection of Cornus, into a northern horticultural Mecca for unusual and exciting plants, many rarely seen north of Watford, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. The Historic Houses Association and Christie’s voted it the Garden of the Year in 1986.


Robin was educated at Eton and Magdalen College Oxford, and during the war he served in the Coldstream Guards. After the war he studied fruit growing and horticulture, mainly in preparation for taking over the family estate, but decided against gardening as a career and went into advertising, eventually joining Time-Life International. He was Chairman of this American publishing conglomerate from 1979-90.  The estate was formally made over to Robin in 1969 when he and his family moved to an estate house. Robin and his wife took over Newby Hall when his father, Major Edward Compton, died in 1977, inheriting a large and magnificent garden which his father had been creating since the early 1920s. Unfortunately it was in a sad state of neglect, so Robin set about the task of renovation and further development, but working within his father’s framework.


Robin Compton became an RHS Vice-President in 1996 and he also served for a spell as President of both the Northern and the North of England Horticultural Societies, and was on the gardens panel of the National Trust.


The RHS awarded him the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1993 in recognition of his horticultural skills at Newby Hall and for his decisive leadership which he gave to the NCCPG, and the Harlow Carr medal in 1996.


A memorial service will take place 2.30pm on 3 February 2010 at Ripon Cathedral.

Robin Compton

Robin Compton, who died on November 14 aged 87, was for many years the presiding genius at Newby Hall, near Ripon in North Yorkshire, famous for its fine late 17th-century house and stunning gardens.


Published: 5:46PM GMT 08 Dec 2009


 Newby Hall was built in 1696 for Sir Edward Blackett. In 1748 William Weddell, an ancestor of the Comptons, acquired it and later added two wings designed by Robert Adam. Weddell made the Grand Tour in 1765-66, returning to England with many artistic treasures, including superb classical sculptures and tapestries, which remain in the house today along with furniture by Chippendale and fine paintings and porcelain.


Equally well known are the gardens, developed in their present form by Major Edward Compton, who inherited Newby in 1921. For Robin Compton, his son, the gardens became the great passion of his life. Even throughout a demanding business career, he devoted all his spare time to them, and Newby Hall is now famous for its shrub collections – particularly dogwoods – and its herbaceous borders.


His influence in the gardening world extended wider, however: from 1988 to 1994 he served as chairman of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (now Plant Heritage). The purpose of this body is to conserve and propagate cultivated plants, among them those that have for one reason or another gone out of cultivation. Compton had been president since 1994.


Robert Edward John Compton was born on July 11 1922 and was brought up at Newby Hall and at Torloisk on the Isle of Mull. At Eton he played the piano in Humphrey Lyttelton's jazz band and distinguished himself as a Classicist and sportsman – he captained the rugby XV and won his colours in the Field and Wall games. His studies in Classics at Magdalen College, Oxford, were interrupted by the war, and he served with the Coldstream Guards from 1941 to 1946, attaining the rank of major; in October 1944 he was wounded near Caen. At war's end he was posted to the British embassy in Vienna as military attaché.


On leaving the Army, Compton studied horticulture, then started a fruit farm before joining, in 1951, the WS Crawford advertising agency in London. In 1954 he began his long association with Time Life International, of which he served as chairman from 1979 to 1990. He was also on the board of several other companies, among them (1973–80) Extel, Chicago.


In 1960 he took over Newby Hall from his father, and his business experience was to prove useful as he sought to develop house and gardens as a tourist attraction. He was particularly alert to the importance of catering for families with children, adding a miniature railway in 1971 and an "adventure garden" in 1979, as well as a restaurant and shop. More than three million people visited Newby Hall during his time as its custodian.


In 1997 he handed over the property to his younger son, Richard. His elder son, the botanist Dr James Compton, had inherited the Invercauld Estate in Aberdeenshire from his uncle, Captain Alwyne Compton, who assumed the Farquharson name when he inherited his Scottish title in 1945.


Robin Compton moved from Newby Hall to the nearby village of Marton-le-Moor, but continued to come to the gardens daily to preside over their development. Among other roles, he served as president of the North of England Horticultural Society (now Harlow Carr) from 1984 to 1986; as vice-president of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1996; and as vice-chairman of the Yorkshire National Trust (1970-85). He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS in 1993 and the Harlow Carr Medal in 1996.


He was High Sheriff of North Yorkshire in 1978 and Deputy Lieutenant from 1981.


Robin Compton married, in 1951, Jane Kenyon-Slaney, who survives him with their two sons.

12:06pm Friday 27th November 2009


Richard Compton, owner of Newby Hall, near Ripon, has been nominated to succeed magistrate Francesca Horsfield, of Ampleforth, next Spring as High Sheriff of North Yorkshire


Richard Compton, owner of Newby Hall, near Ripon, has been nominated to succeed magistrate Francesca Horsfield, of Ampleforth, next Spring as High Sheriff of North Yorkshire.


He is descended from Sir Richard Vyner, the jeweller who replaced the crown jewels when Charles II returned from exile in 1660, and in 2002, the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Compton family put a replica of the crown jewels on display.


The replicas were made, with royal permission, in 1972. His father, Robin Compton, who died recently, also served as High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, representing the Queen in legal matters in 1978/9.


Robin was also deputy lieutenant of North Yorkshire, helping the Lord Lieutenant of North York-shire in representing the Queen in civilian matters in the county.


Mr Compton was nominated for the role in one of the most ancient official ceremonies still practised in this country, dating back more than 1,000 years.

The engagement was announced 24 Aug 1989, and the marriage later took place, between James Compton, elder son of Mr & Mrs Robin Compton, of Newby Hall, scion of the Marquesses of Northampton, and Lady Tania Meade, dau of the Earl and Countess of Clanwilliam, of Tisbury. (Daily Tel. 24 Aug 1989)


Robert Edward John (Robin) Compton, DL, sometime squire of Newby Hall, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, scion of the Marquesses of Northampton, died 14 Nov 2009, at the age of 87. He was born 11 Jul 1922, son of Edward Robert Francis Compton (1891-1977), A godson of King Edward VII, of Newby Hall, by his 1st wife the former Sylvia Farquharson (of Invercauld).

His elder brother, Alwyne (b 1 May 1919) succeeded as chief of the clan Farquharson of Invercauld and assumed that surname. Robin Compton was educ at Eton; served as Maj Coldstream Guards; was High Sheriff of North Yorks, 1978; married 5 Jul 1951, Ursula Jane Kenyon-Slaney (b 1920), scion of the Barons Kenyon, former wife of (i) Lt-Col David Lindsay, scion of the Earls of Crawford & Balcarres, and (ii) Sir John William Maxwell (Max) Aitken, 2nd Baronet (the disclaimed 2nd Baron Beaverbrook). He leaves issue, (i) James Alwyn Compton, b 11 May, 1953 (heir to the clan chieftainship of Farquharson of Invercauld), married to Lady Tania Frances Meade, a dau of the Earl of Clanwilliam, & (ii) Richard Clephane Compton, b 18 Apr 1957, who succeeded to the Newby estate, married to Ursula Hohler, of that LG family.


Times 18 Nov 2009




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