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Founder of Eynsham Arts Group and focus of a planning campaign

Peggy Garland

Peggy Garland (8 Feb 1952)

Peggy Garland (1903-1998) came to live in Eynsham in 1962; she was a cosmopolitan artist who, having studied at the Slade School of Art, began her working life in South Africa in 1926. Following exhibitions of her work in Paris she was elected an associate member of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Her sculpture in South Africa included a notable portrait head of Laurens van der Post and the beautiful teak carving of an African man, head and shoulders, which gave a great deal of pleasure over the years at Peggy's home in Acre End Street. Her work is scattered about the world in private collections and in galleries and museums; she worked in New Zealand, France, China and England but unfortunately little has been recorded. While living in New Zealand she received an official invitation to spend eleven weeks touring China; her book, 'Journey to New China' was published in 1954.

In the early 1970s Peggy's sitting-room was the focus of a planning pressure group, EPIC (Eynsham Planning Improvement Campaign). Peggy, with Brian Jones, Max Wallis and others, fiercely opposed the growth of heavy traffic which, at its zenith, included one gravel lorry traversing the village centre every two minutes of the working day. One of EPIC's actions involved the stringing of sheet-sized banners across roads leading to the village centre. Reluctant residents were persuaded to lend their properties as banner supports, but unfortunately some banners in Mill Street became loose, chaos followed, and the police were called. However, the eastern bypass, following the line of the extinct Eynsham to Oxford railway, was eventually opened. Plans for 400-plus houses to be built on the meadows between Station Road and the Old Witney Road (the so-called 'western development') were also opposed, as were plans for gravel extraction close to the village. Peggy, together with her EPIC colleagues and others who founded the Eynsham Society (of which she was a keen member), had identified the problems which, to this day, are recurring planning harassments.

When, in 1974, Eynsham Library vacated the lower Bartholomew Room and its use as an arts centre was suggested, Peggy was the person who organised the formation of the Eynsham Arts Group. She was its first Chairman and its President at the time of her death.

It is of interest that the 'Listener', a magazine published in New Zealand, printed a critique by Michael King in May 1998 of a book edited by P. and D. Beatson, 'Dear Peggy: Letters to Margaret Garland from her New Zealand friends'. Mr King includes the two editors' claims that 'Garland and her largely Wellington-based friends made up a "cultural elite" and even laid "the foundations of this country's future high culture ...". Wystan Auden, no less, was among her world-wide circle of friends.

Peggy's death deprived Eynsham of a powerful and experienced voice; with her help many battles were fought for the preservation of the village streetscape and the Local Plan. We have been singularly fortunate in having this self-educated, brilliant and remarkable woman as our neighbour.

Obituary by Joan Weedon, published in the Eynsham Record 16 (1999).

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