Obituary: Roy Armstrong

Jack Roy Armstrong, historian, teacher, museum curator: born Broadstairs, Kent 22 August 1902; founder of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, Sussex 1970; MBE 1974; died Storrington, West Sussex 19 October 1993.

ROY ARMSTRONG devoted his life to the study of history and the encouragement of local communities. The foundation of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum to encourage the preservation of vanishing vernacular architecture in south-eastern England was his greatest single achievement.

The museum was established in 1970 through voluntary determination and effort, inspired by Armstrong's leadership, on a site provided by the Edward James Foundation on the West Dean estate, at Singleton, in Sussex. Influenced by the Scandinavian open-air museum movement, Armstrong founded the museum to awaken public interest through its collection of historic buildings which symbolise building traditions in the region.

Educated at Dulwich College, Armstrong went up to Jesus College, Oxford, in 1921 and graduated in modern history in 1925. His long association with the Workers Educational Association was a natural development of his early interest in education and progressive schools. In 1936 he was appointed as tutor organiser for the Extra-Mural Department of Southampton University, and eventually senior lecturer.

After the war his interests developed to encompass architecture, planning and reconstruction. Weekend schools and courses of lectures led to the formation of the Wealden Buildings Study Group in the early 1960s and to other research groups in the region. From these came the stimulus for the formation of several local museums, the most notable being the Arundel Museum and Heritage Centre. From contacts made during these years the Committee for the Promotion of an Open Air Museum for the Weald was formed, eventually leading to the foundation of the museum at Singleton.

The museum developed rapidly, promoting conservation of buildings in situ, and rescuing and reerecting on its 50-acre downland site, buildings which would otherwise have been destroyed including houses, cottages, farm buildings, a village school, a watermill, a market hall and a timber-framed privy. The museum has received many accolades, including the National Heritage Museum of the Year Award in 1975 and the Gateway Interpret Britain Award for the Bayleaf Medieval Farmstead.

The museum's aim of encouraging public interest in the region's architecture has been underpinned with research into traditional building. Its educational objectives extend to assisting the active preservation of building skills, and teaching building conservation under the auspices of Bournemouth University's Joint Centre for Heritage Conservation and Management, in which the museum is a partner.

In 1974 Armstrong's involvement with conservation issues expanded further with his work for the Sandgate Conservation Society, which he established in association with others. The aim was to preserve almost 1,000 acres of mixed landscape including sandy heath, near his house in Storrington, West Sussex. To assist in the creation of this public open space he donated part of his own beautifully landscaped garden. Among his publications were A History of Sussex (1961, revised and enlarged 1974) and Traditional Buildings Accessible to the Public (1979).

Last year Armstrong received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Sussex University. At his degree ceremony he said: 'The future of any form of democratic government will largely depend on the development of such voluntary, informed organisations. The key word is informed. Difference of interest and viewpoint can only be resolved by a willingness to reach consensus through informed discussion and compromise.'

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum founded by Roy Armstrong retains this ideal as central to its aim.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform