A note from Marcus Taylor, former Honorary Secretary of The Friends of Lewes
It is a sad duty to let you know that Jim Franks and his wife Maureen have died recently, within a few days of each other: two people who made a considerable contribution to the civic life and heritage of Lewes over several decades. Perhaps best remembered for the family’s remarkable restoration of the derelict Fitzroy House at the foot of School Hill, there is so much more than that.
Jim was born in 1927 and was brought up in Brighton. He completed military service with the Royal Engineers in the Middle East and Kenya. Returning to Brighton after the war he was preparing to qualify as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor when he met Maureen. After marrying they were looking for somewhere to live. He found a plot of land for sale high up on Cuilfail where, with the help of some friends, he built a bungalow. He and Maureen had two children there.
Jim became a Principal Lecturer in ‘Building Trades Management’ with the then ‘Brixton School of Building’, which became part of ‘London South Bank University’. He wrote regular articles for trade journals, many of which became books, alongside some of his other published writing, including ‘Scram from Kenya’ and ‘Making Lewes’ History Model’. An incorrigible archivist, Jim kept journals since the late 1950s and made many records, written and photographic, of things that have interested him.
One of Jim’s passions was the conversion and restoration of old buildings, including Nan Kemp’s Corner on Kingston Ridge, the Almshouses in Keere Street and the Fitzroy Memorial Library, where the Franks lived for over 40 years. Jim served as a Lewes Town Councillor, as Deputy Mayor, President of the Institute of Quantity Surveyors and President of the Lewes branch of the British Legion. He was Vice President of the Friends of Lewes, of which he was an active committee member for over 30 years and amongst those instrumental in seeing off the Inner Relief Road plan in the 1970s in favour of a by-pass. He was also a qualified mediator, being entitled to follow his name with five different sets of letters, indicating professional or academic achievement. Remarkably, being a man of prodigious energy, he did many of these things at the same time!
Maureen was born in Southampton and moved around the South Coast in her early years before her mother settled the family in Brighton. Working as a secretary for a construction company she didn’t initially think much of the ‘slightly bumptious and full of himself’ trainee Quantity Surveyor who joined them for some work experience. However, views do change, and they were to be married for almost 70 years. Once the children became old enough to need her less, Maureen spent much of her time and energy in voluntary roles, ultimately becoming chairman of Age Concern, East Sussex having also been instrumental in setting up the ‘House of Friendship’ and also Clevedown.
A qualified Marriage Counsellor and very involved in St Pancras Church, Maureen provided quiet support for many people, being a very good listener and adept at asking pertinent questions which provoked reflection.
Alongside these roles she also supported Jim in his many projects, as his personal secretary and project manager. They travelled much of the world together, often combining book research with holidays, and considered themselves always to have been very fortunate to be able to make the most of the new opportunities that arose in their lives.
They will both be sorely missed.