David Mawson, OBE: Award-winning Norfolk architect also started world association of friends of museums

David Mawson has received a certificate of merit from the World Federation of Friends of Museums and

David Mawson has received a certificate of merit from the World Federation of Friends of Museums and has been made an honorary president. - Credit: Archant

Award-winning Norfolk architect, David Mawson, who has died aged 89, played a vital role in the development of the University of East Anglia.

A co-founder of Feilden & Mawson, which won a series of international awards, he was sadly not able to take part in this summer's jubilee celebrations of the university.

It was fitting that in July 1995, this pillar of Norfolk life and partner in charge of the university village project was recognised by the UEA and received an honorary MA degree.

His contribution to raising the profile and standing of museums was a key interest for more than 40 years.

After becoming secretary to the Friends of Norwich Museums, he became founder and chairman of the British Association of Friends of Museums in 1973.


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Then, two years later, he became the first president of the World Federation of Friends of Museums.

Within eight years, the number affiliated to the association had grown from less than 20 to more than 150, involving 100,000 members. It took him around the world addressing conferences but he was happiest at home, fighting the corner for museums in his adopted county of Norfolk.

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Born in Northwood, London, on May 30, 1924, he was educated at Merchants Taylors School. Then when his parents moved to New Zealand at Wellington College, Auckland University, before he returned to study at the School of Art, Kingston upon Thames. Having married Margaret in 1951, he joined Bernard Feilden and the partnership was formally launched in 1957.

His work ranged from designing buildings for the embryonic UEA to saving the historic High Court of Justice in Hong Kong, and also working on buildings on London's Hyde Park estate for the Church Commissioners.

In 1977, he was appointed architect to Norwich Cathedral and also worked at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. A highlight of his 33-year career, latterly as senior partner, was being made an OBE in the 1990 new year's honours.

The investiture at Buckingham Palace by the Queen took place just a month before he formally retired although he continued as a consultant. He had also been elected president of the Norfolk Association of Architects between 1979 and 1981.

His love of the county led to his involvement with the Norfolk Society and he particularly enjoyed helping with the judging of the EDP's best-kept village competition, latterly the Pride of Norfolk, with his devoted wife, for many years. He had succeeded Lady Harrod as chairman of the then Norfolk branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England in April 1971.

The next year, a new name emerged on the conservation scene – the Norfolk Society – following merger with the Norfolk Association of Amenity Societies. In that year too, the re-elected chairman reported that the Norfolk premiere of the film, The Go-Between in the presence of the Queen Mother had raised £2,250 for the branch. He became vice-president and was president for four years until 2000.

Mr Mawson, of Gonville Hall, Wymondham, had been appointed a JP for the Norwich Bench in April 1972 and served for 22 years. In 1986, he was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk.

He was a former president of the Norfolk Club in 1986, which hosted a special luncheon to mark the 90th anniversary celebrations of the Friends of Norwich Museum in 2011. The re-opening of the Bridewell Museum was another cause close to his heart.

A trustee of the Theatre Royal throughout the 1990s, he served as trustee of Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust from 1975 until becoming director in 1990.

His love of gardening also led to another major project, the publication earlier this month of the 460-page book, Norfolk Gardens and Designed Landscapes – incidentally the first country's such history.

Sadly, he was unable to attend the official launch in Norwich but one of his last appearances was at the silver-jubilee celebrations of the Norfolk Gardens Trust at Oxnead Hall, near Buxton, in July.

He was founder chairman for three years from 1988 and then deputy president of the trust, which contributed significantly to publication and research of this important book.

As chairman of the trust's first committee, he told more than half the membership at the Oxnead party that the first formal meeting was held at the Centre for East Anglian Studies in the summer of 1987. It had included Tom Williamson, of the UEA, who was one of the book's three authors.

He was heavily involved in causes around Wymondham including trustee of the town's Bridewell Preservation Trust and a governor of Wymondham College.

He leaves a widow, Margaret, daughter Diana and son Iain, and five grandchildren. A service of thanksgiving will be held at Norwich Cathedral on Saturday, January 4 at 11am.

Michael Pollitt

ichael Pollitt

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