A farmer’s daughter who went on to design industrial buildings and a 19th century garden has died at the age of 69 following a long illness. 

Clare Agnew was raised in Lincolnshire and educated at Princess Diana’s former school Riddlesworth Hall school, between Thetford and Diss, and Queenswood school in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. 

She went on to study 3D design at Kingston Art school, London.  

Her natural talent soon came to the fore during work experience and her first professional job involved working on the redevelopment of Heathrow’s Terminal 3 in the mid 1970s. 

Norwich Evening News: Clare Agnew

Her success in the workplace was enough to attract the attention of the BBC and she joined the corporation in 1976 as a set designer. She was involved in several sitcoms at the time, including Dr Who and Top of the Pops. 

A desire to travel, saw Mrs Agnew move to Australia and take up a set design position with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  

She returned to London two years later and began interior design, successfully renovating properties for an ever-growing list of clients.  

At the same time, she also took on occasional nondomestic projects including set design for Christie’s auction house.  

In 1982, following the death of her father, she inherited some Lincolnshire farmland and enrolled on an agricultural course at Cirencester, Gloucestershire.  

Norwich Evening News: Clare Agnew

It was a great source of amusement to her and her family that she passed out top in the farm machinery exam without ever wielding a spanner. 

Deciding on a new direction, she turned to garden design and after marrying Bolton Agnew, owner of Oulton Hall near Aylsham, she was presented with the challenge of getting the gardens into shape. Mr Agnew’s family have lived there since 1870

The garden she created became an award-winning project and it was the springboard to the holy grail of gardening exposition – the Chelsea Flower Show. 

She was able to convince the Royal Horticultural Society that despite no official gardening qualifications, she was sufficiently accomplished to design and build a main garden at the Show.

Mrs Agnew was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2019. Her family said she “met the challenge with bravery, fortitude and optimism.” 

She died on December 30 and is survived by her children Rose and Will, their father Bolton and her partner Richard Phillips. 

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Norwich Evening News: Clare Agnew

Norwich Evening News: Clare Agnew