Quentin Hughes

Indefatigable promoter of Liverpool
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The Independent Online

Liverpool owes much to Quentin Hughes, its indefatigable promoter. Born in the city in 1920, he studied there from 1937 to 1947, taught there in many capacities at its architecture schools from 1955 and wrote widely about it in numerous books and articles. He achieved the enviable status of a kind of Liverpool "Master of Works". He helped tremendously - if not actually enabled - the city to be crowned Europe's City of Culture for 2008.

James Quentin Hughes, architect, soldier and historian: born Liverpool 28 February 1920; MC and Bar 1944; Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, in Architecture, Liverpool University 1955-70, Reader 1973-84, Honorary Research Fellow 1984-2004; Head of the School of Architecture, Royal University of Malta 1970-73; OBE 1999; married 1947 Margaret Evans (two daughters; marriage dissolved), 1983 Josephine Radcliff (one daughter); died Liverpool 8 May 2004.

Liverpool owes much to Quentin Hughes, its indefatigable promoter. Born in the city in 1920, he studied there from 1937 to 1947, taught there in many capacities at its architecture schools from 1955 and wrote widely about it in numerous books and articles. He achieved the enviable status of a kind of Liverpool "Master of Works". He helped tremendously - if not actually enabled - the city to be crowned Europe's City of Culture for 2008.

Quentin Hughes underlined the importance of Liverpool in his book Seaport: architecture and townscape in Liverpool (1964). He stressed its architectural significance and importance as the finest British Victorian and Edwardian city. This was despite decades of neglect and a genuine loss of purpose. In May 1967 he suggested in a national newspaper that Liverpool's future would lie in cultural tourism. The same year he outlined a detailed policy for the conservation of the city's architecture. It became Liverpool City Council's official policy.

What he did in establishing the modern reputation and the architectural inventory of Liverpool he repeated for his second "home", his beloved islands of Malta and Gozo. His involvement with these Maltese islands began in 1940 when he was a member of the field and anti-aircraft facility involved in the Siege of Malta, 1940-43. He was later to become Malta's architectural chronicler.

His first book, The Building of Malta 1530-1795, was published in 1956. It has not been out of print since. Other books followed, including his widely acclaimed Fortress: architecture and military history in Malta (1969); Malta: past, present and future (1969), a special edition of The Architectural Review; and a magnificent volume, Malta: the Baroque island (2003) published in conjunction with Conrad Thake and the young photographer Daniel Cilia. This year he received the island's highest civil honour, the Malta Order of Merit.

In 1967 - one of his most productive years - he submitted a report on the feasibility of a degree course in architecture at the Royal University of Malta. In 1970 he became its first Head of School, but was removed from his post somewhat peremptorily by the then Prime Minister in a reshuffle in 1973. Thus he returned to Liverpool, becoming Reader in Architecture at the university until 1984. He remained an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool for the rest of his days and in 2000 was made an Honorary Professor of Architecture by John Moores University, Liverpool.

After the time of the Siege of Malta he was attached to the Special Air Service and involved in sabotage operations in Italy and in particular in the destruction of reconnaissance planes in the German air base at San Egidio. He lost the sight of an eye and the sound in one ear. After capture by the Germans he soon escaped and served as a liaison officer with the resistance fighters the Brigado Partigiano Garibaldi. He was awarded the Military Cross and later a Bar. In 1944 and 1945 he served as squadron commander and chief instructor, 2nd SAS Regiment.

It is to Liverpool that one must turn to witness the legacy of this single-minded local (but truly European) historian, teacher and architect. Indeed, much of the centre of Liverpool remains today because of his enthusiastic and knowledgeable interest in important existing buildings. In his concern he set a very high quality standard in judging the appropriateness of development and the context of new structures. He advised on the Merseyside Structure Plan, chaired the Merseyside Civic Society, founded the Liverpool Heritage Bureau and acted as buildings consultant to Shankland Cox and Liverpool City Council. His activities helped preserve the Albert Dock Warehouses (1839-45), by Jesse Hartley, and Oriel Chambers (1880-84), by Peter Ellis.

In addition to all his other activities he also found time to practice as an architect. He designed houses in Surrey, and renovated the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight. He received a Civic Trust commendation for the work he did on Greenbank House, Liverpool, converting it into a university club in 1964. He was responsible for the Civic Trust improvement schemes for Bridge Street and Eastgate Street in Chester and the conversion of a chapel to house the Chester Repertory Theatre (1965).

For generations of students at the Liverpool School of Architecture, he was the one member of staff that always found time to listen, help and advise on design issues, historical studies and graduate supervision. The range of work he supervised was astonishing, from my own thesis on Modern Architecture and Expressionism (1961-63), a subject on which he confessed he knew hardly anything, to an MPhil thesis on Lutyens' work on Liverpool Cathedral, for which he had full reservoirs of knowledge.

Hughes was the founding member and leading light in the formation of the "Fortress Study Group" which was established in Oxford some 25 years ago. For many years he was the editor of the FSG journal Fort. He was elected a member of the International Burgen Institute, in Germany, and was held in high regard for his knowledge of military architecture.

He was fastidious in keeping records and although he was not able to complete an autobiography he did record his years as a soldier in a book characteristically called Who Cares Who Wins (1998), recalling the SAS motto "Who Dares Wins".

Dennis Sharp



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