A former senior lecturer in Landscape Architecture at what is now the University of Gloucestershire, Michael offered his students the mixture of stimulating insight and calm responsiveness so valuable in a tutor, writes Mark Cowell

We are sad to announce the death last year of Michael Ivory, former Senior Lecturer in the Landscape Architecture Courses at Cheltenham. He was appointed in 1976 to what was then the School of Landscape Architecture in the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, based at the Pittville campus in Cheltenham.

With his RTPI and LI qualifications, Mike’s contribution to the course was to be mainly in large-scale landscape planning projects, but over the years his input expanded to developing links with courses and landscapes abroad, aided by his love of languages and travel.

Indeed, his first degree was in modern languages at Lincoln College, Oxford, and his placement year was teaching in Lessing-Gymnasium, Bochum, Germany. Mike’s familiarity with many European tongues was invaluable in the organisation and running of the foreign field study tours, mostly to Germany in the early years, and subsequently to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Hungary.

Following his MA at Oxford and before taking a post-graduate diploma in landscape architecture at Newcastle University, Mike worked as planning assistant, then planning officer at Hertfordshire County Council and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He worked for a year as planning consultant in the Office Cantonale de l’Urbanisme, Lausanne, Switzerland, then for three years as landscape architect in East Sussex County Planning Department.

Moving to the Polytechnic of the South Bank in 1972 to lecture in the Department of Town Planning, Mike drew on his practical experience for that post, and it was from here that he was appointed to the Cheltenham Landscape Courses.

From his breadth of knowledge and appreciation of planning and now some teaching experience, Mike was able to develop courses at Cheltenham in landscape history and contextual studies, as well as studio instruction. As third year tutor he steered several generations of students through the often turbulent waters of the final year, usually setting up and running two of the major projects in that year and providing additional pastoral support throughout the dissertation. Students will have found in him the mixture of stimulating insight and calm responsiveness so valuable in a tutor.

Taking a one-year sabbatical in Montreal, Mike taught (in French) in the School of Landscape Architecture in the Universite de Montreal and helped further the exchange visits of their students to Britain.

Mike took early retirement from the Cheltenham courses in 1991. Though he continued with some teaching commitments at Birmingham City University, he devoted most of his time to travel guide and topographical writing. Notable among these are the National Geographic guidebooks to Canada and Germany, and the Michelin Green guide to Ireland. He researched these countries passionately, visiting often, travelling by train (another passion) and, working with Martin Randall Travel, was often employed directing cultural tours to places such as Prague and Budapest.

He died on Friday 6 July 2018.


  1. As a Cheltenham (Gloucestershire Coll of Art and Design) Dip LA student in the mid 1970’s , I was privileged to receive some tuition from Mike, –and really wished that I had had much more opportunity to get to know him. How wonderful if I had lived nearby after leaving college . I loved his dry sense of humour, and clearly, it would have been great to know this truly Renaissance man over many years. I think he must have come to GCAD just at the end of my student years, which is probably why my contact with him was less than I would have liked.

    Was he really a bus conductor at some time ? I think he told us that ! I can imagine him climbing the stairs athletically with a silver ticket machine atop a bus, with a peaked cap crowning a dense head of dark curls –and looking quizically into the eyes of a likely fare -dodging passenger with his deep, cinder-smouldering dark brown eyes as if to say “Are you really getting off at that stop ?”

    I have no clue as to what he taught my year group, but what ever it was it must have been excellent !

    Oh, I am feeling so sad ! Farewell Mike, what a legacy you have left, through your books, tuition, designs, planning, and the people you nurtured, productively criticised, and inspired.

    • I was a friend of Mike Ivory from 1951 until his death. I can confirm he was indeed a bus conductor working for The East Kent Road Car Co for at least two summer holiday seasons, and, in addition he worked at Folkestone Harbour Railway station as a general hand for a season as well. This was in the 1950’s. He loved describing himself as a docker, but I think he was of more use to the the port with his knowledge of languages.
      As a teenager he was a very fashion conscious individual, mainly Italian styles, and because of this he was always chatting up my girlfriends with more success than i had, one year when he was at Oxford uni there was a memorable occasion when he had two girls booked for the May Ball!!. I had to sort out the results!
      We did a grand tour of Europe on a Lambretta scooter in 1961 7 countries in all staying at Youth Hostels. we called at the Lessing-Gymnasium, Bochum where it was quickly established the headmaster was an unrepentant National Socialist who gave us a lecture on the Bolshevik menace. He was such a confident traveller and never got stumped anywhere.
      His mother had been a hairdresser on the transatlantic liners in the 1930,s and owned the hairdressing salon in Saltwood. She was good at languages and was a very good listener over personal problems(the sort you couldn’t talk to parents about)
      I had no mastery of languages, I tried and tried and Mike would say its all so easy and methodical and has method
      However I worked in manufacturing industry and when I took Mike around a modern high speed packaging plant he confessed he did not see how any one could manage such a beast, all I could say was its easy and methodical and has method.
      I often wondered if he had a hidden side, he told me once about being behind the Iron Curtain counting vehicles in a military convoy, I though in later years with his superb language skills it was not a coincidence he lived in Cheltenham where there is GCHQ.
      He was a great man, I feel i was privileged to have known him, he made a substantial contribution to the life of everyone he had contact with both here and abroad

      hope this helped

      Geoff Beer

  2. Also a former Cheltenham (Gloucestershire Coll of Art and Design) Dip LA student Mike taught us history of landscape and covered pre-history to modernism as well as being a studio tutor. I can remember his questioning at crits he genuinely tried to help you over the hurdles of acquiring knowledge and to think things through. He organised a trip to Barcelona where some of us were encouraged to travel independently in advance of the formal visit to broaden our horizons.
    He always had time for you and smiled that knowing smile when he got through to you on something being debated. It is sad to hear he has passed away…………

  3. I also remember Mike from GCAD days in the 1970s. Planning on what we would now call ‘landscape scale’ for future ways of living was our major 3rd year project, as well as a fieldtrip to Berlin. For the planning project, we investigated how the landscape evolved to what it is now, from the ice age, through Roman and mediaeval times, the industrial and agricultural revolutions, to the present day, so we had an informed understanding of how landscape change might be managed in future scenarios. That influenced my way of thinking about landscape throughout my career. Of course, major landscape change was going on before our eyes too, as that was the time when Elm trees, which had been dominant in the Gloucestershire landscape, died out, leaving.stark tree skeletons along the hedgerows.
    The Berlin fieldtrip was a whole cultural experience with forays into the east city, which seemed daring at the time – a piece of history now!
    Rest in peace, Mike!


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