Celebrating SPAB people


Gillian Darley, OBE

Writer, journalist, broadcaster, historian and architectural campaigner Gillian Darley was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list (June 2015) for services to the Built Environment and its Conservation.

Gillian has had a long, distinguished and much-valued association with the SPAB, chairing the society in the late 1990s. Her first book was Villages of Vision and since then she has written three well received biographies, of John Soane, John Evelyn and Octavia Hill. Her most recent publication Ian Nairn: Words in Place, co-authored with David McKie, is a look at the life and legacy of one of Britain’s most pugnacious architectural observers. 

As well as her television appearances, her voice will be familiar to listeners to BBC Radio 4 as a commentator and expert on a wide range of architectural topics. A seasoned architectural campaigner with a keen interest in vernacular buildings, Gillian played a key role in the SPAB’s ground-breaking Barns Campaign in the early 1980s. Along with leading the Society’s committees, she has since sat on the editorial board of the SPAB’s widely respected magazine as well as continuing to serve as a Trustee. She was recently appointed President of the Twentieth Century Society.



Jim Boutwood (1934-2015)

The Society is sad to report the death of architect and former SPAB Chairman Jim Boutwood, aged 81. Jim was Chairman of the Society from 1992-3 and Chairman of the Technical Panel from 1998-2007. He first became a committee member in 1977 and was involved with a range of other SPAB sub-committees, including the magazine editorial board. He was the SPAB nominee on the National Trust Council.

An enormously popular figure, Jim was a recipient of the Society’s Esher Award for his outstanding contribution to building conservation and to the SPAB.

As a conservation architect, he specialised in vernacular timber-framed buildings and small country houses in East Anglia, especially Essex. One of his earliest projects in the county – which led to his increasing involvement with the SPAB - was the repair of the Grade I-listed 15th-century Thaxted Guildhall in 1974-5. His bold decision to limewash, rather than re-blacken, the exposed timbers divided local opinion at the time, but is now recognised and praised as well-informed and a pioneering example of good conservation practice.

Other Grade I buildings repaired by Jim are Clarence House in Thaxted and the great medieval barns at Cressing Temple and Coggeshall. The knowledge he amassed from working on some of Essex’s best timber-framed buildings formed the basis for the pamphlet he wrote for the Society on the Repair of Timber Frames and Roofs (1990). His appreciation of timber structures also led him, while SPAB Chairman, to champion a pilot survey of church bellframes in Essex after plans for a national survey foundered.

Jim’s design for the new St Theresa of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church in Stansted Mountfitchet (2002) evoked the ancient Essex barns on which he had worked, while also taking a cue from the Chapel of Reconciliation at Walsingham, Norfolk by Michael Wingate and Henry Rolph, another modern East Anglian church influenced by the barn form.

After starting his career in London, Jim moved to the Architect’s Department at Essex County and later set up in private practice. He settled with his family in Thaxted and developed a broad range local of interests. He enjoyed receiving visits from SPAB Fellows and Scholars, as well as hosting tours of his projects for the Society’s Repair Courses and Essex Regional Group.

A celebration of his life took place at the Church of St John the Baptist in Thaxted. Our thoughts are with Jim’s wife Diana and their three sons, Tim, Ben and Dan.

R.J.V. Perrin; ARICS (1922 – 2015)

“Jim” Perrin, who was for many years a member of the SPAB’s Technical Panel, has died in Sidmouth at the age of 92. He served as a navigator in destroyers for the full duration of the Second World War.  Leaving the Royal Navy at the age of 23 Jim trained as a Quantity Surveyor and worked diligently to become the Principal of May and May, Quantity Surveyors.  He developed a particular expertise for cost control and financial management of projects involving the skilful repair of ancient buildings.

Raymond James Veness Perrin, always known as “Jim” to his family and friends, was born in Harley Street in 1922. He liked to say that he was “practically a Cockney” as his mother could hear Bow Bells from the maternity unit! Jim attended schools in Ickenham and Marylebone before, at the age of fifteen, joining the Training Ship; “HMS Worcester”, moored on the Thames at Greenhithe. In the summer of 1939 he was awarded the Worcester Silver Medal and had been accepted by P&O as a Deck Apprentice. However with the outbreak of war, as a member of the RNVR, he was sent to Devonport to join the elderly destroyer, “HMS Shikari”.

On “HMS Shikari” Jim became a highly skilled navigation officer and served on North Atlantic Convoys. In 1940 “HMS Shikari” took part in the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. She was the last ship to leave; embarking before she did so 3,349 troops. At Christmas 1941 “Shikari” was severely damaged off Iceland.

Jim’s second ship was “HMS Panther”. With Jim on board she played a significant part in the sinking of the “Tirpitz”. Eventually following a series of distinguished campaigns “Panther” was bombed by a Junkers Stuka off Sicily and sank within a minute. Jim after a long swim was taken aboard the Greek destroyer “Miaoulis” alive but exhausted; believed to be missing he was found in a deep sleep on deck.

In November 1943 Lieutenant Perrin joined the new destroyer “HMS Virago” . As Navigator, Jim sailed with “Virago” on seven Arctic Convoys and took part in the Battle of the North Cape and the sinking of the “Scharnhorst”. In 1944 “Virago” took part in the bombardment of Normandy in the D – day landings. “Virago” with her flotilla then sailed to the Pacific. Jim played his part in “Virago” as the flotilla pursued and sank the Japanese Heavy Cruiser “Haguro”; one of the last naval engagements of the War.

When Jim left “Virago” at Chatham in December 1945 as a veteran of the Naval Campaign he was only aged 23! He became a civilian but remained in the Naval Reserve. He was awarded the Reserve Decoration and in 2013 the Arctic Star. In 2014 he was awarded the Ushakov Medal from the President of the Russian Federation for his part in the Russian Convoys.

It was only in recent years that Jim had talked freely about his wartime experiences. However, as his son, Neil, so wisely stated in his eulogy at Jim’s funeral; “He would always downplay his accomplishments and say; “I was just doing my job, and anyone in my position would do the same”, but those accomplishments raised a family and helped win a war.” “I do believe the war shaped his life…”

Now living a full civilian life Jim set about his studies to become a Quantity Surveyor. He worked with Thompson and Alexander in London and then joined May and May of which he eventually became the Principal.

While working in London he met and married Jean. They set up home in Sunbury on Thames and then later in Walton on Thames where they remained until retiring to Sidmouth. It was a particularly happy marriage and Jim took immense pride in their children Shirley and Neil. Sadly Jean, a gifted wife and mother and talented artist, pre-deceased Jim and although he never complained his last years were incomplete without her.

Jim developed a considerable expertise in the cost control of repair projects to historic buildings. He was encouraged by another former “Worcester” boy the distinguished architect, the late Gilbert Williams; Chairman for many years of the SPAB’s Technical Panel. Gilbert, introduced Jim to the SPAB. In due course the Society’s Secretary; Mrs Monica Dance invited Jim to join the Technical Panel. He would advise on the cost implications of a wide variety of cases. The present Chairman Philip Hughes recalls; “He would provide advice when it was needed and made his points swiftly and professionally. He was always self-effacing, good humoured, helpful, kind (particularly when I was very green behind the ears after being appointed as Technical Secretary) and generous with his time.

The professional work that Jim undertook was wide and varied; for Neil Birdsall and Michael Swash he assisted in the repair of the Church of St. Mary of Lambeth (now the Museum of Garden History). Jim’s work with Gilbert Williams included the rescue of many of the magnificent garden buildings at Painshill Park, Cobham, Surrey. Jim also assisted Gilbert Williams on numerous projects involving churches and almshouses. Following Gilbert’s death Jim continued with work in the same vein for Roy Gosling and Nigel Hammett of Broadway and Malyon.

I had the privilege of working with Jim and Rodney Melville on the repair of the ancient home of the Dryden family; Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire. The National Trust, encouraged by the boundless enthusiasm of the late Gervase Jackson Stops wished to acquire the decaying mansion.  Jim and I had six weeks in which to assess the condition of the house and its church and outbuildings; to report on them and provide a Cost Strategy for their comprehensive repair. I recall vividly the summer of 1980 as Jim, myself and our colleagues spent day after day clambering over the haphazard possessions of lodgers in the disintegrating stately chambers and crawling through dust encrusted roof spaces in our pursuit of decay, structural failure and their causes. We shared a wry smile or two as dirty and weary we espied from the Great Stair window Gervase entertaining potential donors to delightful picnics on the thread bare lawns beneath us! Jim’s astonishing stamina for concerted and sustained hard work was remarkable. This ability was always combined with humour and a deep fascination for the ancient decayed craftsmanship around him. His cost analysis laid the rock-like foundation for the immense repair project which followed. In his financial control of the contract he was tireless and vigilant. He was scrupulously fair and gained the respect of Contractors and Employer alike for his firm professionalism. I have a “Team Photo” of those who worked for two years  at Canons Ashby; the Regional Team from the National Trust, the consultants, the conservators and the men from Linford Bridgeman; contractors. There, in the back row stands Jim, tall, with his happy open smile, surrounded by that host of craftsmen that he loved to work with; masons, bricklayers, joiners, plasterers; that myriad crew that brings to fruition a great project. However all were dependent on the quiet, self-effacing, professionalism of Jim to navigate their ship safely to harbour. Three years later  Jim undertook the Cost Analysis to accompany our Report of Condition for the National Trust prior to their acquisition of Calke Abbey, Derbyshire.

In his retirement Jim took part in many of the Devon SPAB Regional Groups visits and remained a member of the society for the rest of his life. It is to fine but often self-effacing professional men and women like Jim that the SPAB owes so much for its achievements in conservation and education; to achieve its aim of passing on to future generations, Repaired not Restored, the ancient buildings which are our inheritance.

The SPAB offers its sympathy and gratitude for Jim’s life to his children, Shirley and Neil and his five grand children.