Death of Andy King 2021 July

BIAS members will be saddened to learn of the death of Andy King who had recently retired from his post as curator at Bristol’s M Shed Museum, having fought an uphill battle against cancer. Bristol Museums staff played an important role in the formation of BIAS with their then employee Neil Cossons as its first secretary and Andy, though never a member of our society, continued the relationship as a co-opted member of our committee.

Andy’s legacy in the museum world will be best dealt with by his colleagues in that profession but it would be remiss of BIAS not to mention his important contribution to the society and its work. This included hosting our committee and winter lecture programmes on museum premises when this was permitted by the city council, providing BIAS members with the opportunity to work as volunteers on items in the industrial and maritime collection that he curated and supporting a training programme that we organised in partnership with the Workers’ Educational Association some years ago that attracted new members such as Gill & Geoff Sheppard and William Pummell who went on to make significant contributions to BIAS and other local societies. He also consulted us on important conservation issues on his patch, including the development of M Shed on Princes Wharf and, later, the Underfall Yard. Andy also made a significant contribution to our understanding and enjoyment of the Floating Harbour in his books The Port of Bristol (2003) and, with Peter Malpass, Bristol’s Floating Harbour: The First 200 Years (2009) and his contribution to the interpretation boards around the old docks. He was also available to cheerfully offer answers to our queries and advice on Bristol’s industries and infrastructure whenever asked. He was a frequent contributor to our lecture programmes, hosted visits to his collections and contributed to BIAS Journal – his last article appearing in Journal 51. He was due to talk to us on the rise and fall of Bristol’s tobacco industry until Covid-19 intervened.

My last contact with Andy was by email late year when he was back in full-time work, albeit 70% at home. I was gathering material for BIAS Journal 53 and Andy, as usual, promised to do his best in encouraging his contacts to assist. Sadly, his time was almost up and his subsequent retirement a very brief one. He will be missed and we can but hope that BIAS will continue its fruitful relationships with Bristol Museums that has been an important feature of the history of the society.

Mike Bone July 2021.

Andy King and Local Museums of Industry

During the early 1980s the plethora of independent industrial museums in Britain were struggling towards a more professional basis, having in the main been created by enthusiastic amateurs more intent on preserving a collection of material than running a sustainable attraction. The lopsided appearance of many of these organisations could only be rectified with advice and support from the more established local authority museums or organisations such as the Association for Industrial Archaeology.

In the former county of Avon this generally meant approaching the staff at what was then Bristol Industrial Museum – which had not only experience in conservation, preservation and appropriate disposal (more of this later!) as well as good counsel on collections management. The technology collection at Bristol had been enthusiastically added to during the tenure of Neil Cossons so long before some the smaller industrial museums had come into existence items from Bath, North Somerset and Wiltshire had been added to Bristol’s collections.

From the late early 1990s when I began working at the Museum of Bath at Work Andy was not only a font of knowledge regarding the ‘nuts and bolts’ (literally) of the technological heritage we hold here but helped the transition of the museum into a professional (!) and sustainable attraction. In addition to facilitating the loan of a stationary gas engine (made by the Bath engineer Samuel Griffin), a three wheeled velocipede made for the Bowler family of Bath (restored in the 1970s to look like a fairground attraction!) and a large collection of documents and photos from Bath firm Stothert & Pitt, deposited at Bristol by Professor Hugh Torrens. Unfortunately – from Andy’s point of view given his desire to ‘downsize’ Bristol’s reserve collection we were unable to help with the steam driven exhauster installation from Bath Gas works and the Old Mills steam winding engine from Paulton – despite much deliberation!

Along with many pearls of wisdom, perhaps the one I have always kept close, is to only keep in your museum collection those things you can reasonably look after and use. In fact Andy delivered a day school on this very subject which was called something like ‘Any Old Iron…’ A lesson with domestic resonance! Above all I recall Andy as accessible, knowledgeable and a consummate professional.

Stuart Burroughs July 2021.