VALENTINE FLETCHER was the author of the standard work on the British domestic chimney pot. Chimney Pots and Stacks, published in 1969, and shortly to be reprinted, is by no means the product of eccentricity but the result of serious scholarly research. Fletcher's collection of chimney pots from many parts of the world are now part of Park Farm Museum, Milton Abbas, Dorset, which has about 25,000 visitors annually.
Fletcher bought his first chimney pot in France in 1978, for which he paid five pounds. His collection, which he initially kept on the lawn in his front garden in the village of Tollard Royal, on the Wiltshire-Dorset Border, at its peak topped 200. The pots in his collection are all shapes and sizes, glazed and unglazed, with or without cowls and strange protuberances, home-grown or European, decorated or plain, short and tall. They come from a variety of sources: some from friends and builders' yards, some found when he was on holiday, some discovered when he was on preaching engagements.
Having read Classics at Oriel College, Oxford, Val Fletcher prepared for the ministry at Cuddesdon. Ordained in 1939, he served wartime curacies at Sedbergh and Elland. Three appointments in the Scottish Episcopal Church followed, as chaplain and precentor of Dundee Cathedral, as Rector of Goven and as Incumbent of Montrose and Inverbervie. In 1956 he came back to Yorkshire as Vicar of Lidget Green, soon to move again to Duxford, Cambridgeshire, then to Littlemore, Oxford, with its associations with John Henry Newman, and lastly to Stratton Wardley, before retiring in 1974.
First and foremost Fletcher epitomised Bishop Ken's 'good priest'. He was a faithful and devoted pastor, a sensitive counsellor and firm friend wherever he exercised his ministry. No less than 16 men (17 if he counted his own son David, who is also ordained) owed their call as a result of Val Fletcher's fostering such a vocation.
Two other aspects of Fletcher's ministry played an important part in his life. His deep involvement in the ecumenical movement, with his particular interest in both Catholic and Protestant religious communities on the Continent. Then his prophetic role as 'Mr Valiant for Truth'. He would be outspoken in his condemnation of injustice and red tape. In the 1970s he campaigned against indiscipline in schools and later was involved with the Association for Clergy, an organisation with particular concern for poverty among young married clergy and their families.
Val Fletcher inherited a gift for writing from his literary parents. Evidence of this was not only the case with his voluminous correspondence but in his own literary output. As well as Chimney Pots and Stacks, he was the author of children's books, among them The Icon and the Spindle Tree and Fun and More Fun at Fulderton, mirroring the jollier side of country life. A keen gardener, he was particularly fond of his Alpine plants.
His many friends will remember the kindness and generous hospitality that he and his devoted wife, Mary, extended and their sense of humour and delight in the ridiculous which pervaded their happy home.