Sarah Markham

Custodian of John Loveday's papers
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The Independent Online

Sarah Loveday, historian: born Sheffield 23 December 1909; FSA 1985; married 1934 Gervase Markham (died 1995; two sons); died Odiham, Hampshire 8 May 2003.

Sarah Markham was one of a number of women born just before the First World War who took up authorship late in life. Her first book, based on the travel notes of her 18th- century ancestor John Loveday, was not published until she was nearly 75, but to make up for this late start she continued to work on Loveday's extensive papers until a few weeks before her death, at the age of 93.

Even though she was the daughter of a distinguished academic, Thomas Loveday, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University from 1922 to 1944, the possibility that Sally, as she was generally known, should herself go to university was never raised. However, instead of taking one of the jobs thought suitable for a young lady prior to marriage, after Clifton High School she trained as a portrait photographer, and worked successfully at this until, in 1934, she married the aeronautical engineer Gervase Markham. They lived for many years in Gloucestershire, latterly in Bitton and then Wotton-under-Edge, where they both took part in many local organisations.

It was some years after becoming custodian of the papers of her ancestor John Loveday that Sally Markham realised that the valuable observations which he had made on his extensive travels should be made available to the public. Loveday, who had begun to correspond with the great Oxford antiquarian Thomas Hearne even before he went up to Magdalen in 1728, made many journeys between 1729 and 1765. These were mostly in England, but in 1732 and 1733 he went to Ireland and in 1737 to the Low Countries.

He kept a diary of his most extensive tour, a four-month excursion that took him through the south-east of Ireland and then up the west coast and round to Dundee and back south on the east. This was published in 1890 by his great-great-grandson J.E.T. Loveday, Sally's grandfather, as Diary of a Tour in 1732 through Parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland but his other travels were less formally recorded, and required a good deal of laborious reconstruction. Many notes were written on letters and other scraps of paper.

Loveday was deeply interested in the history of his country, concerned to record for his own purposes what was to be observed of it, and what other people told him about history and historians. Understandably it took Markham many years to organise and familiarise herself with the papers and to learn about Loveday's friends and acquaintances. Finally in 1984 she published, through Michael Russell, a book of over 600 pages, John Loveday of Caversham 1711-1789: the life and tours of an eighteenth-century onlooker. This handsome volume, designed by Humphrey Stone, also contains a valuable 75-page appendix, published with the aid of the British Academy, of the pictures and other works of art which Loveday noted as having seen.

The Loveday family papers also contained later material and in 1990 Markham wrote and published, again through Michael Russell, A Testimony of Her Times: based on Penelope Hind's diaries and correspondence, 1787-1838. Penelope was the eldest daughter of John Loveday, and inherited his powers of observation. This work is particularly interesting for the light it throws on the relationships between adults and children, a point underlined in the postscript contributed by Professor Antony Cox.

Sally Markham's careful researches bought her many younger friends, and the value of her work was recognised by her election in 1985 as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a body which her forebear John had never joined, despite knowing and corresponding with many members. She did not write a further book; she felt her duty was to index the papers, in order to ensure that her mastery of the material survived. She learned to use modern technology, and completed the task in the spring of this year.

Despite a stroke three years ago she remained deeply interested in a number of causes, such as the Friends of the Bodleian Library. Historian to the end, she was writing an account of her own life for her grandchildren at the time of her death.

David Alexander