Heritage Champion for Bristol
Maggie Shapland was, to use that well used phrase, a ‘force of nature’, who even in the last few days of her life and despite being very ill, was able to express trenchant views on the future development of the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society’s website of which she was the author and developer. She was among other things, a campaigner, conservationist, author, editor, industrial archaeologist, restorer of vintage cars, database expert and webmaster. Her death this month was a great loss to the cause of conservation in Bristol and its heritage and history.
Her award of the British Empire Medal in 2013 recognised Maggie’s tireless work over many years to preserve the history and heritage of Clifton with the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society and her key role in the conservation and refurbishment of the site of the Clifton Rocks Railway that began in 2005. She subsequently went on to write and publish in 2017, the seminal history of the railway and the associated Spa and the site’s later use as a BBC wartime transmitting station and air raid shelter. Her work was further recognised in that year when she was awarded the Bristol Lord Mayor’s Medal.
Born in Derby, Maggie’s secondary education was at Queen Anne Grammar School, York and she later studied Maths & Computing at the University of Bath. In 1972, she joined the University of Bristol, retiring in 2013 after a 40-year career as a database consultant and developer at the Bristol Computer Centre.
Maggie had boundless energy and enthusiasm for ensuring the best features of Clifton and the wider area were conserved and restored and for local amenities to be improved. Even her home at The Rocks Garage in Princess Victoria Street, a perfectly restored 1920s style mews garage not only looked the part but also contained within it, a collection of (mostly) operational vintage cars. These included her beloved 1924 Lanchester 20 hp limousine and a 1925 Talbot 10/23. Remarkably Maggie also restored a 1929 Peugeot 5CV which involved making a new ash frame and fabric body. Another focus of her great enthusiasms and campaigns was the conservation of Bristol’s collection of cast iron Victorian and Edwardian lamp posts, one of which was outside her own front door.
She was a long time active member of the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society and the editor of its Bulletin, as well as participating in the Brunel Swivel Bridge Group and the Cumberland Basin Stakeholder Group. In 2012, ‘Bristol’s Forgotten Coalfield Bedminster’ was published written by Maggie and her partner and later husband, Mike Taylor. They had met in 2000, at a Lifelong Learning Industrial Archaeological course run by one of the doyens of industrial archaeology, the late Joan Day and in Mike’s words “never looked back” BIAS and the Clifton Rocks Railway were shared passions.
Ostensibly fit and healthy, in 2016 Maggie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and shortly after she and her partner of 14 years, Mike Taylor married in “a joyous, if unconventional event.”
Despite her illness Maggie continued to organise successful open days for the Clifton Rocks Railway, worked on the Brunel swivel bridge and was researching and writing a new book on the Nailsea coalfields. She maintained her passion for vintage cars and continued to give talks on her projects until very recently.
Maggie is survived by her husband, Mike Taylor, her two sons, Andrew and Michael, from an earlier marriage, and her two grandchildren.