Catherine in the garden she designed for the Quaker Meeting House
Catherine Thomas – Garden Designer

Catherine was born into a military family, her Father in the Royal Navy; consequently she was soon packed off to boarding school. Education, it seemed, was all about preparing her to become ‘good marriage material’!

Marriage came soon after falling in love with the art technician at teacher training college in The Close in Salisbury. They both ‘dropped out’. In time two children came along but the marriage failed and Catherine found herself a single mum and needing to bring up her children on her own. What could she do with few qualifications to bring the money in? She enrolled in a Garden Design Course at Sparsholt College (this in 1995); other women on the course seemed to be there to beautify their own gardens rather than earning a living from it…

The business became successful first working for friends and family then word spread and Catherine was able to take on an office in Fisherton Mill in Salisbury giving the business yet another lease of life.

Hand in hand with the business went Catherine’s faith as a Quaker. She was instrumental in not only fundraising to acquire the new Quaker Meeting Hall on the Wilton Road, Salisbury but also designing the grounds working alongside the architect. The Quaker Garden is a year round space for everyone to enjoy and take solace from.  Being a Quaker has taken Catherine to some parts of the world not ordinarily visited by the majority, in particular to Palestine to visit refugee camps supported by the movement. A challenging place to visit but somewhere Catherine would like to return to.

Garden at Salisbury Quaker Meeting House in late summer
Garden at Salisbury Quaker Meeting House
Catherine at the front of the Salisbury Quaker Meeting House
Catherine at the front of the Salisbury Quaker Meeting House

It is Catherine’s vision for a greener Salisbury which will delight any listener today. In fact she drew up plans for every roundabout in the City to be an oasis for bio-diversity and to require little maintenance but a change in political leadership meant the plans never saw light. But listen to Catherine explain what she could do for the New Canal, Fisherton Street, Water Lane and Malthouse Lane to bring the City to life and benefit us all.  She could single-handedly slow the traffic down and make the streets truly people friendly. Think about what it would take and maybe a team of budding horticultural students and various community groups with backing could make it all a wonderful reality. 

Interview & article Kathryn Furnell
Catherine Thomas

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