NEWS AND NOTICES

The Life of Mary de Saulles
(July 2020)

Very sadly Mary passed away on Wednesday 17th of June 2020 at the age of 95 and will be sorely missed and mourned by all those who knew her, especially our long standing members.

My first meeting with Mary was in 1991 having moved to Shrewsbury a few years earlier. This was around the time I was “press-ganged” into the then fledgling STCRA by Mary Richards and Joan Tate. I soon learned that Mary was a highly regarded architect, with extraordinarily strong views and a passion for the historic structure of our town.

I subsequently discovered that Mary had also moved to Shrewsbury from London, with her husband Patrick and family in the mid ‘60s’. They set up home at the bottom of St Mary’s Water Lane in a most unusual house just a few feet from the river, which subsequently survived three major floods. Significantly she was one of only a trio of STCRA members I could visit by boat!

Mary joined the architect’s profession in 1948, one of only 42 women then to do so. She went on to be an architect with London’s County Council and then an industrial designer with British Airways. It was thus not surprising that Mary set up an architectural consultancy in Shrewsbury. In 2012 Mary published a book, The Story of Shrewsbury, which is a most illuminating read.

Very soon after becoming acquainted I learnt that Mary, despite being quite diminutive in stature, shared the tenacity of a mongoose – once she had her teeth into something she simply would not let go; as many in the local authority learned to their dismay! Over decades Mary volunteered her time and expertise to both the Civic Society and the STCRA, and rarely missed a gathering of either body.

Together with a very select group of STCRA founder members it appears that Mary was of “indeterminate vintage” and it was a real shock to discover that she was only a few years away from celebrating her centenary. In fact, until the outbreak of the Coronavirus lockdown, Mary was still working tirelessly at the Civic Society striving to classify and index their very considerable archives. A final labour of love which she completed!

Mary will be sorely missed both as a frequently outspoken pillar of the STCRA and a highly respected resident of Shrewsbury Town Centre.

In March of this year Mary made a video for RIBA Architecture in which she recorded for posterity how she decided to become an architect at the age of 16, and how she achieved this goal, thus paving the way for women in a male dominated discipline. This video is posted on YouTube and may be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF9SlUIisxw

Stewart Harbord-Suffield
Chairman STCRA

Living in a ghost town
(A letter from the Chairman – July 2020)

Living inside The Loop during the Coronavirus lockdown has been both an interesting and enlightening experience. On the surface, Shrewsbury Town Centre looked to be a ghost town with the great majority of shops closed and only a handful of people venturing out.  

There appeared to be not much happening – but in reality Shrewsbury was, and still is, very much alive!

Over the past few months many local traders continued to operate and the essential stalls in The Market never closed, with many offering home deliveries. To their great credit our refuse men and postmen kept working along with the many courier and supermarket drivers keeping us fed and bringing very welcome on-line purchases. But it was the lack of traffic noise, little smell of diesel smoke, and the total lack of street litter that really showed what the town could be like in an alternative existence.

However, it was the many previously invisible local community groups that put their heads above the parapet offering community support in a multitude of ways that really surprised me. They very quickly organised the collection of shopping, checking on elderly people living alone, and manning food banks for those in need. It seems the “British Spirit” of past times is still very much alive!

Particularly conspicuous was the absence of homeless people on the streets, proving that despite the local authorities previously failing to resolve this problem it is actually possible –  when Covid 19 and the government intervene .

Inevitably, over the past couple of weeks, traffic has increased, as has the number of people in town. This must be very good news for many struggling businesses slowly re-opening their shops, cafes, and now pubs.

Welcome fine weather also induced many people to take advantage of the Quarry, much to the delight of their children and dogs, but sadly this also also heralded the return of litter strewn grass, and pathways. Why the British are the litter louts of Europe has always mystified me!

The sunshine also prompted the hordes of unthinking families and yobs who recently crowded onto our beaches and city centres, totally ignoring “social distancing” advice, which caused enormous problems for the police and local authorities alike. Their unthinking selfish behaviour could well jeopardise other people, trigger further virus outbreaks, and prompt a further far less relaxed lockdown. We can only hope that we do not see the resurgence of the virus, which has been experienced in other countries that relaxed their lockdown early, having suffered similar mob behaviour.

It will inevitably take time for all of us to get back to a “normal” pre lockdown routine and it will be interesting to discover if any of the many current changes in our home and working lives become permanent – we shall see…..

A recent change in government policy, in a bid to provide extra pedestrian space in town centres, will allow local authorities to make changes to roads and pathways with only 7 days public notice. Whether such changes become permanent is not yet clear, but you should not be surprised if works start in Shrewsbury soon with little opportunity for consultation.

I wish you all well and hope our traditional gatherings can fairly soon take place in safety.

Stewart Harbord-Suffield – Chairman