Tributes to architect with passion for good design

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A MAN described as ‘one of the guiding spirits of The Horsham Society for over 50 years’ has died aged 84.

Oliver Evans Palmer, who passed away peacefully on December 14, lived in Horsham for more than 70 years and was known in the town as a keen letter writer to this newspaper and an active member of The Horsham Society, serving as chairman from 1971 to 1975 and vice-president in 1977.

Mr Palmer’s son, Gyles, said: “He died peacefully in Hereford County Hospital on December 14 after moving to Wales for the final year of his life.

“His wife, Sigrid, my mother, predeceased him by ten weeks. They will both be missed by their family and friends.”

He described his father as a man ‘of humour and integrity’.

A celebration of the couple’s lives will be held in Horsham in January.

Born an only child, on September 6, 1927, Mr Palmer Snr grew up in Chelsea, London, and went to the Horsham School of Art before joining the RAF in 1945 at the age of 18.

After the war, he recommenced his education at the Architectural Association to study architecture and eventually took over his father’s practice in Horsham for 19 years before joining the civil service.

As an architect he worked from his home in the Causeway and one of his commissions was St Mary’s CofE Primary School, built in 1965 in Horsham’s Normandy.

John Steele, from The Horsham Society, said: “Mr Palmer was proud of the projects that he had designed and retained a close interest in how successfully they still fitted modern needs. He was an active member of The Horsham Society for over 50 years and one of its guiding spirits.

“He was passionately interested in encouraging good design and a severe critic of what he called the banality of much modern housing.

“He was a prolific letter writer, appearing frequently in the columns of professional journals, The Times and the West Sussex County Times.

“For many years he represented the society in planning matters, latterly as chairman of the planning committee, and was much respected by those with whom he dealt in the council and elsewhere.

“Oliver believed the society could maximise its influence by engaging with developers at the earliest possible stage and was generous in his help and advice.

“Latterly he contributed his expertise to the production of Horsham Town Design Statement, thus ensuring a lasting influence on the town he loved.”

Mr Palmer retired from architecture at the age of 65 after visiting 18 European countries in the course of his work and following his retirement he was appointed as an adviser to the European Community in Brussels and as a consultant with English Heritage.

He was also a lecturer in building legislation from 1992 to 2004 at several institutions including the Royal College of Art and the Architectural Association.

A funeral service was held in Hereford on December 22. Anyone who knew Oliver or Sigrid and would like to attend the celebration in Horsham of their lives can contact their son, Gyles, on 01591 610849 or gyles@cwmirfon.co.uk.