Tribute by Chris Downs delivered at the funeral service in Durham Cathedral
18.9.1930 - 8.10.2012
Born in Newcastle and resident in the Sunderland area for his entire life, Ian became a prominent regional and national figure in the field of architectural conservation, and in the care, repair, adaptation and enhancement of churches and cathedrals in particular. Educated at Durham School, he went on to study architecture at Durham University, punctuated by a period of practical experience in the form of National Service with the Royal Engineers, first at Chatham and then Gibraltar. At University Ian was an outstanding student with an independent turn of mind and a keen interest in architectural history. This led him, in the face of some opposition, to study Gothic buildings rather than the prevailing Classical tradition - and his persistence was rewarded when his measured drawings of the Divinity School in Oxford earned him an honourable mention in the RIBA silver medal awards. Somewhat ahead of his time, he also showed an interest in contextual design, the integration of new elements with existing historic buildings, rather than the usual emphasis on unfettered open sites. Although it must be admitted that, in those early days, he was still not averse to removing structures that got in the way - his final design thesis was a conference centre on the site of the listed buildings currently occupied by the Chorister School!
After University Ian was taken into the Newcastle office of the Professor of Architecture, W.B. Edwards & Partners, working on a variety of new build and historic building projects including educational buildings and a limited number of churches. During this period he developed his understanding of conservation techniques in his own time by attending courses at the York Institute, and continued these studies after moving from Edwards' office to the practice of George Charlewood. This firm offered much deeper involvement in historic buildings and churches in particular - especially the quinquennial inspection of churches under the Measure introduced in 1955. Ian became sole principal on George's death in 1962 and although he carried out several projects for Newcastle University and designed a handful of new churches and parsonages in the following years he continued to develop the practice as the foremost church conservation consultancy in the region, winning several awards for his work. He served for a number of years as consultant architect to Selby Abbey and York Minster (following terms on advisory committees at each), overseeing particularly sensitive conservation projects at both, but his crowning achievement was his twenty-one year term as consultant architect to the Dean and Chapter of Durham, in which time he saw through a wide variety of repair and enhancement projects with a rare combination of sensitivity to the history of the buildings and understanding of the practical and liturgical needs of our time. He set a standard to which many other cathedral architects aspired.
As well as leading by example with his own work, Ian gave freely of his time in serving on advisory committees and with professional associations. At the local level he was for many years a member of both the Newcastle and Durham Diocesan Advisory Committees for the Care of Churches as well as shorter spells on other diocesan committees. At the national level he served on the Cathedrals Advisory Commission and the Redundant Churches Advisory Board and also the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee. He served two terms as president of the Ecclesiastical Architects' & Surveyors' Association, separated by twenty years as its secretary, and organised two of their conferences in the north-east. He was for a time treasurer of the Cathedral Architects Association. He also served locally as president of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society and treasurer of the Northern Region of the Royal Institute of British Architects and of the Northern Architectural Association.
A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, Ian was a not inconsiderable scholar. His researches into the history of repairs to this cathedral in particular resulted in a number of publications, and he made significant contributions to books and journals on the history of the church in the north-east. He also shared his knowledge through meticulously prepared lectures and by explaining his work to groups visiting works in progress. This erudition informed all his work, and in particular his quinquennial reports would contain fascinating insights into the history and artistic qualities of the building in question, making them far more than mere lists of defects.
Surprisingly, Ian found time to enjoy leisure pursuits which included a deep appreciation of music - with frequent attendances at live performances of classical music and opera. A keen photographer, he loved to travel and on return from each tour would prepare a slide or film show from his pictures and video footage, adding his own erudite commentaries, for the entertainment of his friends and colleagues.
As you may appreciate from the amount he packed into his lifetime, Ian was a highly organised individual with an acute mind. This despite a mild dyslexia which meant that, when filing in the office, his alphabetical order did not always correspond with everyone else's. This slight disability was more of a problem when reading a tape measure, as 6'-3" could so easily become 3'-6", but his assistants became adept at assuring him that they could cope with the measurements whilst he got on with the more important task of taking the photographs!
Ian never married, and suffered from a shyness which some mistook as aloofness. Building contractors held him in awe - and occasionally fear. He could be petulant if provoked but was generally very patient in discussing technical problems and teasing out solutions on the spot, in a spirit of mutual respect.
In summary, this quiet kindly man achieved a tremendous amount and influenced at least two generations of church and cathedral architects as a pioneer of sensitive repair and conservation practice. He played a major role in ensuring that the legacy of outstanding ecclesiastical and secular buildings we have inherited from the past has been passed on to succeeding generations enhanced in their physical condition, practical usefulness and aesthetic beauty. We have every reason to thank God for Ian's life and work, as we sit in this cathedral church, which was the love of his life and benefitted most of all from his time on this earth.