AN OXFORD gardener who once turned down a job to work for the late Queen Mother has died aged 84.

Anthony Young, known as Tony, rose from humble beginnings in Sussex to become head gardener at St Catherine's College in Oxford.

After starting his career as a farmhand, he worked as a gardener for Royal Holloway University College in Egham, Surrey, helped landscape the new town of Milton Keynes and was even invited to become head gardener for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

He ended up turning down the opportunity over security restrictions that would have come with the job.

In the early 1980s he took the post of head gardener at St Catherine’s College, where the gardens are considered an integral part of architect Arne Jacobsen's Grade I-listed designs.

While there, he established a great reputation and received warm letters of appreciation for his work from people including Lord and Lady Bullock and Sir Patrick Nairne.

Lord Bullock founded St Catherine’s in 1962 and Sir Patrick Nairne was master of the college from 1981 to 1988.

Mr Young was born on March 27, 1931, to parents Frank, a farm labourer, and Doris.

He had an older brother, Lionel, who predeceased him, and the pair grew up in rural surroundings, drawing water from a nearby well.

In later years Mrs Young acquired a television, but even that had to run off a car battery that needed recharging at the local garage on a weekly basis.

After leaving school Tony Young found employment as a farmhand and then as a herdsman.

He met his future wife, Nahyda, when she was working as a land girl. They married in 1952 and their son Roderick was born in June 1953.

Soon afterwards Mr Young went to work at Royal Holloway University College and studied for his City and Guilds qualifications at Merrist Wood College, near Guildford.

He excelled and was offered a job as a lecturer and demonstrator after qualifying, but declined the role and instead became a propagator at the Royal Holloway, working with a wide range of exotic plants including cycads, which are ancient and difficult to propagate.

After moving to Oxford for his job at St Catherine's, Mr Young and his wife settled in Ferry Road, Marston. The couple were struck by tragedy in 1984 when their son Rod died due to heart problems.

In 2009 Mr Young's wife passed away and he began to suffer from knee and hip problems. He often spoke of his appreciation for his neighbours in Ferry Road and for a short period he attended St Nicholas’ Church in Old Marston.

Mr Young was part of the League of Friends at the John Radcliffe Hospital and was a friend of the Playhouse Theatre in Oxford.

He also enjoyed movies at a cinema club at Odeon and met friends at the Wesleyan Methodist Church coffee mornings and lunch meals at the White Horse, in Headington.

He remained close to his son's best friend, Michael Stephens, from Gloucestershire and regarded his daughters Alexa and Roberta as the "granddaughters which he never had".

Mr Stephens told the Oxford Mail: "Apart from his excellent achievements as a gardener, Tony will always be will be remembered as a humble, unassuming, good honest man of whom everyone who knew him speaks so highly."