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The Guardian: Death of British Preservationist, Gavin Stamp
Ian Jack | January 10, 2018

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Gavin Stamp obituary

From Issue No. 265 | January 11, 2018

For nearly 40 years, Gavin Stamp’s pseudonymous column in Private Eye waged war on the property developers and planning authorities who disfigured British towns with their greed and ineptitude

His ancestry was distinguished but nonconformist by tradition and neither lavish nor rich. One great-uncle, Josiah Stamp (later Lord Stamp), was an economist and public servant who rose to become chairman of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway; another great-uncle, Sir Dudley Stamp, was an eminent geographer. Their father had been manager of WH Smith’s railway bookstall in Wigan before coming south to establish a small London grocery chain, Cave Austin, which his grandson, Gavin’s father, Barry, inherited and – in the face of competition from the new supermarkets – failed to sustain; Gavin’s mother, Norah (nee Rich), had also been involved in the business, travelling around in her mini to inspect the stores. Later Barry became a driving instructor, which some people think explained Gavin’s life-long hatred of cars. He never learned to drive one.

At Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he took a history degree that included architectural history, and back again in south London, this time in a bedsit, began to piece together a freelance life that revolved around the Architectural Press, publisher of the Architectural Review. He was a fine and largely self-taught draughtsman and drew sketches and plans for the anti-modernist architect Roderick Gradidge, and helped the curator John Harris catalogue the Royal Institute of British Architects’ drawings collection; some years later, in 1977, he organised and designed the catalogue for the RIBA’s Silent Cities exhibition on the war memorials of the first world war, which was the start of a lasting absorption with that war’s physical remembrance. 

 Stamp’s scholarship deepened our understanding of architects such as George Gilbert Scott, Alexander Thomson and Edwin Lutyens.

His visits to the offices of the Architectural Press – and, just as important, to the pub beneath it in Queen Anne’s Gate – introduced him to celebrated contributors such as Osbert Lancaster, Betjeman and Nikolaus Pevsner. He became particularly close to Betjeman and it was at Betjeman’s suggestion that Stamp took over the Private Eye column, Nooks and Corners of the New Barbarism, that the poet had founded in 1971 and that his daughter Candida had continued.

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