Obituary: Jeremy Benson

JEREMY BENSON did as much as any of his generation to preserve Britain's heritage of beautiful buildings and landscapes - as one of the finest conservation architects of the century, as a leading light of national amenity societies, and as a persuasive lobbyist of Parliament on heritage taxation.

Fulfilling the dream of his mother, Letty Manners - who had grown up amid the restoration of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire - that one of her five sons should become an architect, Jeremy Benson studied at the Architectural Association and then practised privately, founding the partnership of Benson & Benson (later Benson & Bryant) with his wife, Patricia Stewart, in 1954.

He applied his enthusiasm and sensitivity to the repair of many great buildings, including Sezincote, Stanway, Hidcote Manor Garden, Batsford, Nether Lypiatt, in Gloucestershire, Bodiam Castle in Sussex, Honington in Warwickshire and Winslow Hall in Cheshire, and to smaller jewels such as the medieval cottages at Tewkesbury, working for many years as consultant architect to the National Trust, and setting new standards in conservation.

Following the collapse of the Barber Boom in 1973, commissions were few and far between, so he turned his talents to mitigating the effects of the Labour government's proposed Annual Wealth Tax and Capital Transfer Tax, which threatened to strip the owners of thousands of Grade I historic houses of their means of maintenance within a generation.

He had already, in 1972, founded the Joint Committee of National Amenity Societies to influence the proposed redevelopment of Whitehall. He now set up the Joint Committee's Tax Group and, working with Michael Saunders Watson late into the night at Westminster month after month, he persuaded sceptical Labour MPs, long before Thatcherism, that the only practical way to preserve these historic buildings was to leave them in the private sector, and exempting them, their contents and their surrounding land from the new taxes.

This success contributed to the rapid growth of the Historic Houses Association. Benson went on to play a key parliamentary role in the birth in 1983 of English Heritage and, 10 years later, of the National Heritage Lottery Fund. He founded English Heritage's Gardens Committee, urged the creation of the Register of Parks and Gardens, and chaired the committee helping with repair of damage after the 1987 hurricane.

He served on the councils of many conservation organisations, including the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, the Georgian Group, the Westonbirt Advisory Committee, the Old Chiswick Protection Society, and the Friends of Chiswick House. From 1974 to 1984 he was a member of the Historic Buildings Council, and in 1983 was appointed a Commissioner of English Heritage.

His selfless enthusiasm and industry, and his charm and humour which encouraged colleagues to work in the common cause, were of great service to all these bodies, and many other charities, yet he still found time in private life to apply his kindness, energy and generosity to the benefit of friends and family.

Neidpath

Jeremy Benson was one of the three most effective lobbyists of Parliament I have known, writes Tam Dalyell.

In the 1970s, during the days and nights of the passage of the annual finance bill, at 4.30pm at the start of business, two men with briefcases would arrive in Committee Room 10 on the Committee corridor of the House of Commons, and would remain until the early hours of the following morning, if necessary. They were Commander Michael Saunders Watson, later (1982- 88) President of the Historic Houses Association and Chairman of the British Library Board from 1990 to 1993, and Jeremy Benson.

They would sit patiently through any business pertaining to the heritage, lending expertise to any MP on the committee, who would go to talk to them, or, if necessary, have notes passed from their perch on the visitors' chairs with a pertinent point to friendly members of the committee. Nor was it beneath the dignity of Treasury ministers to ask their officials to go and have a quiet word with Benson and Saunders-Watson, such was the respect in which they were held by ministers as well as MPs.

Of personal benefit to Benson there was no question. He was there from the heritage, for the heritage, and because he cared passionately about the heritage. The more favourable financial regime which the heritage now enjoys is one of Benson's memorials, along with the Cascade at Chiswick House.

Jeremy Henry Benson, architect and conservationist: born London 25 June 1925; Chairman, Georgian Group 1980-85, President 1985- 90; Commissioner, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (English Heritage) 1983-88, Chairman, Gardens Committee 1984-92; OBE 1984; Chairman, Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings 1989-90; Chairman, Old Chiswick Preservation Society 1993-99; married 1951 Patricia Stewart (two sons, three daughters); died London 1 December 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn