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Dr Brenda Buchanan died 14 April 2020

Brenda Buchanan
Angus and Brenda with Julia Elton at a BIAS trip to Clevedon Court
Angus on the left, and Brenda next to him. Julia on the right

Angus and Brenda were founder members of BIAS. Brenda’s obituary will also be published in the bulletin.

This is an update giving Brenda’s (online!!) funeral service onto you.
Please forward it to anyone else who might want to “attend.”
Mary-Nell and I had fun recording a short video clip for the (online!!) funeral service for the service recalling Brenda’s irrepressible laughter and her constant desire to add one more place to visit to any day trip!
Strange times we live in.
Cheers, Andy (Buchanan)

Brenda Buchanan: a note by her friends April 2020 by Keith Falconer with Mike Bone and Neil Cossons.

Brenda passed suddenly away on Tuesday 14th April in her 90th year and some of her friends have put together this short note for the Bias website and forthcoming BIAS Bulletin. It is not intended to be a full Obituary but rather a personal celebration of the quiet impact and unobtrusive inspiration on our lives that the Angus and Brenda team -and it was always an equal team – made on lives. In March 2020 when the Covid-19 Shut Down was imposed Keith had a long telephone chat with Brenda and some of the early details in this note have been gleaned from that.

Brenda first met Angus on a High Storrs Grammar School Inter-Sixth Form hike to the moors above Sheffield. Brenda had only recently attended High Storrs as she lived the other side of Sheffield and her wartime memories of being separated for months from her parents, when the family home was blitzed, were still raw.

That immediate post-war period, with a social conscience that it generated, was witnessed locally by the creation in 1944 of the Sheffield Industrial Mission and the work of the Mission was to have a profound influence on the decisions made by both Brenda and Angus. It was to encourage their involvement with the Iona Community and in 1952 they visited the Youth Camp together. This joint interest in bridging the gap between the church and working people crucially influenced Angus to take up the post of Adult Education Officer with the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in Stepney in 1956.

By that time Brenda had gained a teaching qualification from Homerton and she had married Angus on the 10th August 1955. When they moved to London, Angus had completed his BA and PhD in trade union history at Cambridge (having first done 18 months National Service in the Far East). It was then that Angus first became involved in the Workers Educational Association (WEA) which was to be a significant feature of their next decade.

In 1960 Angus and Brenda left Stepney for Angus to take up the post of Assistant Lecturer in Social & Economic History at the Bristol College of Science & Technology which was being recognised as a CAT – a College of Advanced Technology. At the Bristol Folk House Angus resumed his WEA work and it was at that group that their association with Neil Cossons, the new Curator of Technology at Bristol Museum began and together, with like minded members of the group, they formed the Bristol Industrial Archaeology Society. Angus and Brenda also pursued their social work interests through The New Bristol Group set up by Tony Benn.

As Neil recalls ” Within weeks of our coming to Bristol in 1964 Angus and I met and this quickly led to the launch of a series of industrial archaeology evening classes at the Folk House on Park Street. These ran for a number of years. Visiting Angus and Brenda in their Bristol home meant tripping over innumerable plastic aeroplane kits, but also the most hospitable of welcomes. It was Brenda and Angus that gave us some of their old furniture when we set up house in Portishead and we became close friends – and met Brenda on numerous BIAS visits.”

As Mike notes, “Brenda has provided an informative and evocative account of the early days of BIAS in her contribution to the 50th anniversary issue of BIAS Journal that was published in 2017. These were heady days when there was much to be discovered and enjoyed on site visits by our founding members -or ‘Founding Families’ – as Brenda reminded us in her article as many children were also present. Brenda always found time to support Angus during his years as the first BIAS President and to encourage and support members in their research. It is fitting that two of her earlier articles were published as

The Avon Navigation in 2011, the first in an attractive series of BIAS Histories. Brenda’s contribution to our society will always be remembered by current members and she will be sadly missed.

In 1966 the Bristol CAT became the University of Bath and the history of engineering element moved to temporary premises in Bath and eventually up to Claverton Down where Angus with his ‘research assistant’ George Watkins (of steam engine fame) had a room in the Library. Angus then ran a series of Bath Conferences on Industrial Archaeology which soon had an international following and he and Brenda were to forge friendships around the world. He also created a Centre for the Study of the History of Technology to attract post-graduate work on the subject and Brenda became a visiting Research fellow in 1987. This was the pre-cursor of the History of Technology Research Unit (HOTRU) which continues to this day.

It was in 1971 that Angus and Brenda were to greatly influence my own family life. In May that year I was offered the post of CBA Survey Officer for Industrial Monuments having been interviewed by the CBA Research Committee on which Angus served. The post was originally to be based in London but Angus offered to host it at the University of Bath and my wife and I travelled down from Hull to view the site and discuss facilities with Angus. We had a meal with Brenda that evening and immediately formed a friendship that was to last nearly 50 years and was responsible for my families sojourn in Frome for all that time.

It was also in that year that Angus and Brenda were involved in the first British Industrial Archaeology Conference which was held in Bradford and with a second such conference held in Strathclyde led to the formation of the Association for Industrial Archaeology at a third conference held on the Isle of Man. Brenda and Angus, with Neil and myself, were founder members of the AIA and Angus was to succeed Tom Rolt as President of the AIA the following year.

Angus and Brenda, with Neil as the main player, were involved in the early years of the formation of the international organisation that is now TICCIH (The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage). In 1973 we all attended the First International Congress of the Conservation of Industrial Monuments – the pre-cursor of TICCIH. Three year later I remember with some nostalgia travelling with them by rail (the long journey fortified by Brenda’s fruit cake) to Bochum as part of a ‘klein gruppe’ to SICCIM the second of such congresses – my fare was half price!

It was at this time that Brenda began her research into Turnpike trusts and their capital formation which led to her PhD from the LSE in 1992. Having become a leading authority on the Bath Turnpike Trusts followed by a detailed study on the shareholders behind the construction of the Avon Navigation she then turned her attention to the manufacture of gunpowder and its ramifications. This work, originally locally focussed, with articles such as those on the Wooley Powder Works in IA Review 1981 and on the Bristol region in the Transactions of the Newcomen Society in 1985/6 was to become, via the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC), the subject for which she became internationally known. It was Brenda’s interest in gunpowder that led Neil – as the then Director of the Science Museum in London – to propose her as a trustee of the Waltham Abbey gunpowder mills project in which she became very active, especially in ensuring that proper conservation standards were maintained. Brenda edited and contributed to several of the seminal volumes on gunpowder which were to show that this source of energy was to change the world. Having provided a note on the lack of appreciation of the international significance of gunpowder in BIAS Vol 19 1986 she returned to a local gunpowder works in Bath History X 2005.

Brenda was a great support to Angus in the later years of HOTRU, she contributed a chapter on Warfare and Society to the book The Engineering Revolution: How the Modern World was Changed by Technology which was edited by Angus and produced to mark the 50th anniversary of the Unit. She continued to be a HOTRU Visiting Research Fellow to the end.

Angus and Brenda On the occasion of their Diamond Wedding 10th August 2015

Neil: “Veronica and I are deeply saddened to hear of Brenda’s death and our heart goes out to Angus and to the family at their loss.” Mike: “Our thoughts are with Angus and his family at this difficult time.” Keith: “Eileen and I would very much wish to echo these sentiments.”