OBITUARY: Brian Morgan, polymath scientist who championed Norfolk’s weaving heritage

It took an Essex man, Brian Morgan, to open 21st-century Norfolk's eyes to the importance of its weaving heritage.

Mr Morgan, from North Walsham, died unexpectedly earlier this month, aged 74, but he leaves behind a strong and flourishing tradition with young followers and ambitious future plans.

When the retired academic and his wife Pat moved to the county 12 years ago, he had never used a loom.

Mrs Morgan's decision to learn to spin triggered her husband's own interest in the tradition and he became volunteer curator of the Golden Fleece museum, based at the then home of the Worstead Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in the historic Baptist Church at Meeting Hill, near North Walsham.

Mr Morgan carried out extensive research into the history of the wool trade and the textile industry in Norfolk, adding to the museum's displays and re-awakening a sense of Norfolk pride in the prominence Norwich and the county's weaving towns - including Worstead - had held nationally in medieval times.


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He learned to weave, and became chairman of the severely-weakened guild which lost members when a break-away organisation was formed in the early years of the 21st century.

During Mr Morgan's chairmanship membership grew from eight to its present 30-40, drawn from across north Norfolk, Norwich and south Norfolk.

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When the guild had to leave Meeting Hill, Mr Morgan's determination kept its membership and programme together during several nomadic years which saw short stays in a number of venues before the group settled in its current Dilham home.

Priding themselves on being the only teaching guild in the country with a permanent base, members take their craft into schools, passing on skills to future generations, and they are also seen demonstrating at events across the county, including the annual Worstead Festival which first led to the guild's formation in 1972.

At last summer's festival, Mr Morgan presided at the launch of the Spinning a Yarn in Worstead project, backed by a �44,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, which is being used to promote the guild and its traditions in its 40th anniversary year.

Mr Morgan continued to hope that, eventually, the guild would return to its roots with a home in Worstead, incorporating a museum, education centre, shop and caf�, bringing visitors, prosperity and recognition once again to the village which gave its name to world-famous worsted cloth.

Born in Southend, Mr Morgan grew up in south London and gained a first degree in physiology and zoology at Queen Elizabeth College, part of the University of London. He later qualified with an MSc in radiation biology at the capital's St Bartholomew's Hospital.

A polymath, the bulk of Mr Morgan's professional life was spent as a lecturer and deputy head of department at the University of East London but he left in 1988 to start his own antique restoration business.

A further career change saw him working in health promotion with the NHS in Essex; a role he continued when he first moved to Norfolk where he ran 'quit smoking' campaigns for the Norfolk Health Authority.

Among many leisure interests, Mr Morgan, who had played chess for his county as a schoolboy, founded a chess club in North Walsham which is still flourishing.

He was also a keen photographer, loved boats, wrote short stories and produced newsletters for several organisations over the years.

Mr Morgan is survived by his wife and two sons.

A funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on February 2 at 11am followed by a buffet and celebration of his life at North Walsham Methodist Church.

Alex Hurrell

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