John Severn 1932 – 98

John A. Severn was well known in local history circles in Nottinghamshire. He died suddenly in June 1998. A member of the Trust for many years, John was an encyclopaedia of knowledge covering a wide and varied range of subjects, including historic buildings, dovecotes, church building and industrial archaeology.

A practising architect, John was closely involved with the Nottingham Civic Society. He was chairman of the Society for three years. Contributing extensively to the newsletter, John’s superb and very distinctive sketching ability captured the very life and soul of the traditional buildings of Nottinghamshire that few could equal.

John studied architecture at the Nottingham School of Architecture, then part of the Nottingham College of Arts and Crafts. He came as a part-time student whilst working for a Nottingham architect. Later, he worked for the City Engineers, Bartlett and Grey Architects and the Architects Design Group. Further study followed at Nottingham University, John gaining a M.A. in Local and Regional History. He subsequently taught at both Nottingham and Derby Universities.

Conservation was the passion of John Severn. His working methods were very traditional, with drawings and letters produced freehand in his own style. He gave his time freely. He was engaged by the Laxton Parish Council to advise on the several planning applications submitted to the local authority, many of which regularly threatened the very existence of the fabric of the village. John was also involved with the Council for the Preservation of Historical Churches and the Southwell Diocese Churches Project was very much his brainchild. The aim of the Churches Project is to list in a comparative manner on the internet for the benefit of everyone the churches of Nottinghamshire – which number over four hundred!

Another passion was dovecotes and John was actively involved in recording and refurbishing many of the county’s different examples of this form of traditional building. He was keen on establishing a ‘dovecote trail’, but died before its inception. John worked extensively in Wollaton Park, firstly on the boathouse then on the dovecote and ice houses. The work involved a successful collaboration with Family First, a government agency providing work for unemployed young people. Another ice house project was centred on the rebuilding of the ice house at Annesley Hall, necessary as a result of the road widening scheme which has done much to add to the blight of the Hall.

A final fitting tribute to John Severn comes from Ken Brand, editor of the Nottingham Civic Society’s newsletter, who remembers John ‘as a person who instinctively knew what was appropriate’.

See also the Nottingham Civic Society Newsletter 107. September 1998.