Today (December 30) in London History – he was buried wearing a ‘Bugger Brexit’ badge

This is the December 30th podcast for the On this Day in London History series. It remembers the flamboyant architectural historian Gavin Stamp, who died on December 30, 2017.


London calling. David here. 

Let me start this by saying what I’m trying to do with this series – and god knows how long I’ll be able to keep it up – is feature bits of London history that would never make it into one of those On This Day in History books or websites. Sometimes of course that’s not possible. The entry for December 28th has to be the dedication of Westminster Abbey.  The dedication of Westminster Abbey owns that date. Which is why it’s in every single “this day in history” corral. Similarly, September 2 – that almost has to be the start of the Great Fire of London. Though we’ll see when we get there. If we get there. But otherwise, yes, I’m trying to push the envelope. It’s very London Walks that. We don’t take you to a blue plaque and read the plaque to you. I stop you in front of Burne-Jones’ house I’m not going to do what you’re already doing, which is reading the plaque for yourself – I’m going to tell you that Burne-Jones’ wife said “Edward has two great weaknesses – misery and beauty.” And that those two came together in the shape of an exotically beautiful Greek sculptress with whom he had a torrid affair. And she got it into her head that it would be a good idea if the two of them jointly committed suicide in Regent’s Canal. Burne-Jones demurred. Thought it probably wasn’t a good idea. Well, you get the idea. You’re guiding me – out on the streets – or on a page – show me something interesting that I didn’t know. And show it in an interesting way. And that’s all by way of saying that the fare here, in this series – well, I’m trying to London Walks it. Make it fresh. Make it new. Make it unusual. Make it off the beaten path. When possible. 

Anyway, let’s get on to today’s This Day in London History entry.

And I want to put a marker down right out front here. This one’s sort of personal.

Gavin Stamp died four years ago today (December 30, 2017).

Gavin Stamp was one of my heroes – yes, this 70+ year-old-man has heroes. In this case – Gavin Stamp – a hero who was younger than this decrepit old hero-worshipper.

And look, it wasn’t just Gavin Stamp’s books – all of which I’ve devoured – truth be told, it was mainly Gavin Stamp’s style, his eccentricity. His way of looking at the world.

So who was Gavin Stamp? He was an architectural historian and conservationist. He was born in Bromley, in Kent. Bromley’s the big borough down south, the southern-most splodge of London. For the record, Mary was born in Bromley – Bromley-born but bred and grew up in Keston*, a little village in the Kentish countryside.

Gavin Stamp wryly described his childhood home as a Tudor bungalow on the Orpington bypass. His family gave every appearance of being downwardly mobile. His father oversaw the extinction of the family grocery business and became a driving instructor. Gavin made a point of refusing to learn to drive. Many years later he contributed a Not Motoring column to the Spectator. All his life he explored London by bus. He had film-star good looks. He adopted a provocatively old-fashioned style of dressing. His architectural writing, his books, his columns – he championed the obscure and the neglected. Described himself as ‘an odd-job man in the vicious cut-throat world of architectural history.’ He played a prominent role in the Thirties Society’s campaign to save red telephone boxes. Didn’t have much time for modernism unless it flavoured a building with dramatic or eccentric character.

It’s good isn’t it, what’s not to like about this guy.

Yes, Gavin Stamp died four years ago today, December 30, 2017.

Died at home in Camberwell Grove, Camberwell – that’s south London for the uninitiated.

Gavin Stamp’s buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery. 

I keep thinking about some 43rd-century archaeologist doing a dig there and finding Gavin Stamp’s dust. Gavin Stamp’s dust providing a bed for a badge saying “Bugger Brexit.” Yes, Gavin Stamp was buried wearing a Bugger Brexit badge. Bless him. 

Good night. From London.

*Mary’s village

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