Friends were saddened to hear of the death of Brian Smith on 2 November 2018. Brian served as Chairman of the Friends of Herefordshire Record Office from 2005 to 2010.
As a professional archivist Brian was all too well aware of the inadequacies of the building in Harold Street and he made an effective contribution in developing the case for the construction of new premises for the archives service. By the end of his tenure as chair Herefordshire Council had approved the capital spend and found the site at Rotherwas where HARC would be built. Brian took a keen interest in the development of the detailed plans, attended the official opening of the building and was impressed and proud of the facilities it provides for the service.
Brian will also be remembered for his integrity and generosity of spirit. He played an active part in the social activities of the Friends- perhaps most memorably as quiz-master at several happy evenings at Harold Street. Heather Hurley remembers his ‘helpful advice and supportive approach’ when she followed him as chair. ‘Brian was a very competent and popular chair of the Friends. We shared an interest in maps- especially that of Isaac Taylor! Three of his books are in the HARC library plus the supplement on maps.’
David Whitehead comments that ‘Herefordshire owes a great debt to Brian Smith whose chose to spend his retirement in the county and used it so productively to facilitate the professional study of its history. Brian became a member of the Woolhope Club in 1993, joined its Executive Committee in 1999 and served as President in 2002. For his presidential address he chose ‘Herefordshire Maps and Mapmakers’ – an extension of his work in Worcestershire on the Dougharty family published by the Worcestershire Historical Society (1967). Two years later he published Herefordshire Maps, 1577-1800 (Logaston Press) followed by a supplement issued by the Woolhope Club in 2012. In 2004-5 Brian collaborated with Michael Faraday to get into print his Herefordshire Taxes in the Reign of Henry VIII. This was published by the Club and remains the only volume of a putative record series although subsequently, in 2008, Brian also helped again with Faraday’s Calendar of Probate Acts, 1407-1550. By 1995 Brian was active in the relaunch of work on a Victoria County History for Herefordshire. David recalls he played a pivotal part in establishing the county’s VCH trust, serving as its first chair for over a decade from 1997 until 2008. By this time funds had been secured to start work on the history of Ledbury as part of the ‘England’s Past for Everyone Project’, which established a sound basis for the trust’s ongoing work’.
Brian’s professional achievements were recognised in an obituary published by the Society of Antiquaries. He served as Secretary of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (1982–92) and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in May 1972. Before joining the RCHM in 1980 as Assistant Secretary, he worked as an archivist in Worcestershire (1956–58), Essex (1958–60) and, finally, Gloucestershire, where he was County Archivist.
He was editor at the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (1971–79) serving as President 1986–87, and was briefly an editor of the VCH of Gloucestershire. He was Chairman of the Society of Archivists (1979–80), Vice President of the British Records Association (1993–2005), a Lay Member of the Gloucester Diocesan Synod (1972–76) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His publications include History of Malvern (1964), History of Bristol and Gloucestershire (1972), The Cotswolds (1976) and Manuscript Sources for the History of St Helena (1996).