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Obituary: Andrew Anderson

15 March 2024

Henry Long writes:

ANDREW ANDERSON, who has died, aged 86, was both a prominent architect in Norfolk, specialising in church restoration, and an accomplished linocut artist.

Anderson described his passion for country churches in an evocative manner: “You have only to step inside the door of a country church to enter an ethereal world of saints and angels, ladders and cleaners’ buckets, of bells, flags, cross-legged crusaders, and slowly ticking turret clocks. Above all, a country church is a place where there is lettering everywhere — on the walls and floors, in the windows, and in the churchyard. It was out of this arcane environment of ideas and images, sights and sounds, that the linocuts emerged.” From this summary, the connection for Anderson between churches and linocuts is apparent.

Andrew William Anderson was born in Norwich in 1937, the son of George Anderson, the manager of a fish business, and his wife, Olive (née Mason).

He entered the Architectural Association in 1955, as part of the first year-group not to have had their education disturbed by the war. There was a noticeable change at that point, as the unchallenged development of the modern movement came to an end, as the newcomers questioned the post-war orthodoxy. A prominent group among the newcomers were three students, referred to by W. G. (Bill) Howell as the Christian Weirdies. Anderson, Malcolm Higgs, and Quinlan Terry themselves preferred the name Flower Pot Group, or the Force Triangle. Anderson had won the Leverhulme Scholarship, and Higgs and Terry had won the next two scholarships. All three went on to have distinguished architecture careers.

Returning to Norwich, Anderson worked for Fielden and Mawson, before setting up on his own account. Anderson’s practice was in the Cathedral Close in Norwich. His day began with the 8 a.m. eucharist, followed by a morning spent attending to correspondence and conducting site visits. His afternoon was occupied with architectural drawing, and his evening with engravings. A review of one of his books noted the influence of the Benedictine monastic tradition on Anderson’s daily life.

The focus of his practice was on the restoration of churches, of which there are a great many in Norfolk, the county with the highest number of medieval churches. He also designed the new church of St Helen’s, New Costessey (1975), with striking stained-glass east windows and a wooden roof, sitting well on the modern building. Externally, there is a large wooden cross, with a monogram of the church’s patron, designed by Anderson, at its centre. His practice was not limited to Norfolk and Suffolk: in 1974, he was appointed architect to the fabric of St Albans Abbey, and he also undertook church work in Yorkshire.

Despite his saying “I am an architect, not an artist,” Anderson was also a highly competent designer. In the bellchamber of St Peter Mancroft, there is a stained-glass window, which he designed and which was executed by G. King & Son. The window depicts the church’s then 13 mostly 18th-century bells (one additional treble bell has since been added to the ring); clocks measuring the hours; alleluias calling sleepers awake; St Peter, the church’s patron; and St Agatha, the patron saint of bell-ringers. He also designed a small window in J. L. Pearson’s Ellerton church, in East Yorkshire, rebuilt from ruins after being made redundant in the late 1970s. Made by Barley Studios in 2007, the window is a memorial to Snowden Slights, the last wildfowler to work the river Derwent.

Anderson was perhaps best known in Norwich, and — certainly among those who are not interested in churches — for having designed the emblem for Norwich City F.C. Anderson was a regular at Carrow Road in the 1970s and ’80s, and, in 1972, the Eastern Evening News held a competition for a new crest. Anderson won the £10 prize, notwithstanding his suspicions of favouritism, given that Hamilton Wood, the paper’s art critic, who judged the competition, had been his art master at grammar school. His winning design was of a canary perched on a football, together with a castle and lion. It was to remain the club’s crest for the next 50 years, until it was slightly modernised, in part owing to the challenges of modern printing requirements, but retains all the elements of Anderson’s original design. In 1982, he also designed the crest for the Norwich Ladies F. C., the Fledgelings, which has since folded and been replaced by Norwich City Women.

Anderson loved linocuts, having first taken the activity up in 1956 at the age of 19, and returning to it later in life. His linocuts included some Norfolk churches: Rollesby, Salle, Happisburgh, West Walton, and Worstead. He was the author of three books: Enclosures: Times and places (Evergreen Press, 2009), a collection of wood engravings; A Vision of Order (Whittington Press, 2011), a collection of linocuts; and The Rock of Cashel (Evergreen Press, 2017), a linocut originally cut in 1960 about the historic site in Ireland, by tradition the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St Patrick. He also wrote two essays in the Whittington Press’s journal, Matrix, the first in 2007, and the second, about Eric Gill, in 2009.

He was an occasional correspondent to the Church Times, bemoaning that ordinands were not taught architectural appreciation (28 February 1997), and observing that, in some cities, churches were the only green spaces for miles around (4 March 1994). He was active in several county church conservation trusts. Other hobbies included sailing on the Norfolk Broads, flying gliders, and singing in pubs.

On retirement, his practice was acquired by the Whitworth Co-Partnership in 2004. His drawings and papers, including dozens of quinquennial surveys, are held in various archives and record offices. He moved to Beverley, in East Yorkshire, but his heart remained in Norfolk, and his funeral was held at Norwich Cathedral at the end of February.

Andrew William Anderson died on 5 February, aged 86.

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