Tribute To Sir Jocelyn Stevens
Chairman of English Heritage 1992-2000
Sir Jocelyn may have been an unlikely choice of Chairman for English Heritage, but no-one could have turned out to be a greater heritage champion.
He was a famously hands on, eight-day week chairman, generating ideas and making things happen from dawn till dusk…. and later still. He was truly the best kind of establishment 'irritant', never taking 'no' for an answer if he felt the cause was right. He turned the organisation upside down during his eight-year term of office but when asked about his legacy, he said he felt he had merely made a footprint in the sand as far as reforming the organisation was concerned. He hoped he would be more enduringly remembered for the marks he had left on the brick and stone of England.
Some of those marks can be seen in the restoration of The Albert Memorial, the rescue of Down House where Charles Darwin lived and worked, the refurbishment of Eltham Palace, the restoration of Wellington Arch and the innovative conservation of Wigmore Castle which stabilised the building but left it an ivy-clad romantic ruin with brambles rather than railings to keep visitors away from the dangerous parts. He also created the nation's first-ever register of Buildings at Risk on which the BBC TV Restoration series was based.
He was one of the first to see that the historic environment adds to the quality of everyone's life and was as likely to be found talking to residents in historic Brixton as the owners of our grand stately homes. He saw heritage in our High Streets as well as our Highgroves and his enthusiasm was completely contagious for those who encountered him.
Of course, his great passion was always Stonehenge. He firmly believed that both visitors and the Stones themselves deserved better than the 20th century clutter that surrounded them. His tireless campaign kept Stonehenge on the conscience of the nation, convincing the Government that something must be done and thus laying the foundations for the transformation finally achieved last year.
He was truly a fearless, heritage hero.