OBITUARY:Malcolm Norris

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The Independent Online
Malcolm Norris was one of the foremost scholars in the study of commemorative memorial brasses. He wrote several books on the subject, including the definitive Monumental Brasses (1977-78), and from 1992 was President of the Monumental Brass Society.

Norris's interest in church monuments and particularly monumental brasses was fostered from his schoolboy days. He was born in Harrow in 1931, the son of an Education Officer in the London County Council, and educated at Merchant Taylors' School and St John's College, Oxford. Following National Service in the Royal Air Force he joined the Monumental Brass Society and became a regular contributor to its Transactions. In 1956 he was awarded the Reginald Taylor Medal by the British Archaeological Association for his article "The Schools of Monumental Brasses in Germany".

Norris joined the Colonial Administrative Service in 1959 and worked in Tanzania as a district officer and, after Independence, in the Ministry of Local Government. In 1965 he joined the newly formed Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham University, and in the same year published Brass Rubbing, which gives an early indication of his fascination with the stylistic analysis of brasses which was to develop into pioneering work over the next 15 years.

Norris was captivated also by the discovery of palimpsest brasses (brasses re-used, i.e. engraved on the reverse side) on which his contemporary and predecessor as President, the late John Page-Phillips, was the leading authority. His discoveries at Middle Claydon, Buckinghamshire (1956), Crowan, Cornwall (1959), Lambourne, Essex (1962), Pettaugh, Suffolk (1962), Wendron, Cornwall (1962), and Wyddial, Hertfordshire (1966), are notable.

While he was seconded successively to universities in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Malaysia to help establish public administration programmes, Norris's study of monumental brasses continued unabated. In 1974 appeared his Your Book of Brasses, a short introductory book to the subject co-written with Michael Kellett. Here again is evident Norris's interest in stylistic analysis, as it is in The Brasses of Norfolk Churches (1976), written with J. Roger Greenwood.

Returning home to Worcestershire in 1977, Norris continued to teach international courses for public servants in Birmingham and worked tirelessly on his magnum opus which ensured that his name would endure with such notable antiquaries as Herbert Haines, Herbert Macklin and Mill Stephen- son. Monumental Brasses, his greatest achievement and contribution to the subject he loved, appeared in the form of the two-volume Memorials, published in 1977, and a companion volume, The Craft, which appeared a year later. The arrival of these superbly illustrated volumes heralded the first published attempt to provoke a wider stylistic analysis of this form of memorial and was acknowledged with a Doctorate in Fine Arts at Birmingham University.

In Norris's professional life he ably directed the Department of Development Administration at Birmingham University for a decade, sustaining its growth as a centre of international study and repute. The work required frequent advisory visits to countries as diverse as Sudan, Uganda, Indonesia and Romania.

Malcolm Norris was a brilliant cartoonist and played chess for university and county. For 34 years he was happily married to Laurie, who shared his values and added an enthusiasm for music which she imparted to each of their six children.

In each aspect of his life Norris was above all the paterfamilias. He generated a great sense of corporate belonging by his personal commitment, his conciliatory skills and his unsparing regard for each member of his circle. These qualities were underpinned by a strong, tolerant yet undemonstrative Christian faith.

K. J. Davey

and H. Martin Stuchfield

Malcolm Watson Norris, historian of monumental brasses and academic administrator: born Harrow 25 May 1931; FSA 1970; Vice-President, Monumental Brass Society 1982-92, President 1992-95; married 1961 Lauriston Newman (three sons, three daughters); died Edgbaston 28 May 1995.