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Subject: A death

A death

From: Robert Smith <member>
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2006
I am sure that many of you that read this listing will be saddened
by the death of my father Ted Smith, formerly Head of Conservation
and Armourer at the Armouries, HM Tower of London, at the age of 79.
Ted (never Edward) was the last survivor of the small group of
specialists from the British Museum and the Armouries, HM Tower of
London, who were responsible for making one of the most instantly
recognisable icons of modern Britain, the replica of the Sutton Hoo
helmet. It was at the time, 1973, a groundbreaking collaboration of
curators and scientists with an armourer who fully understood the
craft. However this was just one highlight in a career which spanned
over 40 years.

After a short spell at Wilkinson Sword during the War and his
National Service he joined the Armouries in the Tower of London in
1949. Ted, with his colleagues Arthur Davies and Ted Egli
re-discovered the lost skills of the armourer. One of their first
major projects was to make the replicas of the Black Prince's
achievements, which now hang over Edward's tomb in Canterbury
Cathedral--he was particularly proud of the helmet and gauntlets.
Following Ted Egli's early death my father took over making armour
and during the 1950s and 60s he made a series of fine replicas of
helmets for churches so that the originals could be taken into safe
custody. These were so good, they fooled many a burglar and at least
one was offered to a dealer as an original. Many regarded him as the
finest armourer in the World in the second half of the twentieth

He worked in the Conservation Department of the Armouries, always
known as The Workshop, in the Tower of London for over 40 years. The
first question new staff were always asked was "can you make
tea?"--the Workshop's giant teapot was the beating heart of the
Armouries. During his long working life he trained and influenced
several generations of conservators to most of whom he was an
inspiration and none of them will forgot him nor his calmness,
patience and kindness. Among his many skills was an amazing ability
to make the smallest of molehills out of the tallest of
mountains--how rare this quality is.

During his long career in the museum he always championed
traditional conservation craft skills and was suspicious of the
newly emerging science of conservation--a position which was
eventually vindicated as conservation methods have returned to some
of the core skills lost in the 1960s and 70s.

In the 1980s he was invited to join the Company of Armourers and
Brasiers of London--the first working armourer in the Company since
the late 17th century--though he was proudest of becoming a Freeman
of the City of London. He was awarded the MBE in 1990 for his
services to Conservation and retired in 1991 when he settled down to
a life as a professional grandfather for his growing family. Though
he retired almost completely from conservation he attended the
conference on the conservation and restoration of arms and armour
held in Malta in 2003 where he enjoyed meeting a new generation of
conservators. He was genuinely amazed that he was still highly
regarded. He was one of a very small number of those quiet
unassuming people who really do deserve the epithet: an
extraordinary person who touched the lives of all he met.

Robert Smith

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:48
                  Distributed: Friday, March 31, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-48-001
Received on Thursday, 30 March, 2006

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