Former city landscape architect for Oxford is said to have planted 10,000 trees in Oxfordshire
THE ‘tree man’ of Oxford and former city landscape architect John Thompson has died, age 74. John, known as JT to his friends, discovered a love for plants and trees from a very young age, as his father owned a nursery garden.
A well-known landscape architect, he was a partner in the landscape practice Fletcher Thompson. A lover of painting, wine, cricket and nature, he was most notably said to have planted more than 10,000 trees in Oxfordshire during his lifetime.
John Thompson was born on July 23, 1941, in Edinburgh. He was brought up near Bath, where his father, Gerald, and mother, Eileen, owned a nursery garden in the area.
He had two brothers, Peter and Jim and one sister, Mary. He was educated at St Christopher’s Preparatory School in Bath, and at Lancing College in Sussex.
John studied landscape architecture at the Gloucestershire School of Art in Cheltenham and began his career with Frederick Gibberd Architects, where he helped to design Harlow new town. He went on to work for Gordon Patterson, an eminent landscape architect, and was involved in a number of high profile projects, including Didcot Power Station.
On becoming landscape architect for Oxford, he set about his favourite occupation, planting trees. He helped to start the ‘Forest of Oxford’ programme and claimed to have planted more than 10,000 trees in and around Oxford.
He played a leading role in the creation of Grandpont Nature Park in South Oxford, transforming polluted land on the site of the city’s old gasworks.
In 1984 he linked up with an old friend, Simon Fletcher, and set up Fletcher Thompson landscape gardeners.
After retiring from the city council aged 60, John was involved in many more community landscape projects, in particular with the Woodland Trust and Oxford Preservation Trust.
His avid tree planting continued most recently on Boars Hill, in Cutteslowe, and in his home village of Wolvercote. An active member of the Garden History Society and the Landscape Institute, John contributed regularly to their journals.
He travelled widely across the world visiting gardens and buildings. His main interest was in ancient and modern architecture. He collected the work of English artists, mainly from the 1950s and 1960s.
He loved to play squash in his younger days and was a keen supporter of English cricket and its pitches. John never married or had children but was said to have had many girlfriends.
He died unexpectedly late last year from a heart attack. He is survived by older brother Jim and younger sister Mary, as well as many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.