Brian Burton: 1926 - 2013


  By John Webb

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Brian Burton was born in North Woolwich on the 9th October 1926 and died on the 27th December 2013. He was evacuated during World War 2 and after he left school he was living near Chester and amongst other jobs he worked in an aircraft factory building Wellington bombers. He was called up after the war in Europe was over and he joined the Navy and served in Sri Lanka. After demobilisation he followed a varied career in electronics and communications at Imperial College, London, the B.B.C.'s Transmission Development Department and Thurrock Technical College where he became Head of Electrical Engineering.

He married his wife, Margaret, in 1950 and shortly after moved to South Ockendon where, as his children grew up, he became involved in local life, the church of St. Nicholas, the Community Forum and especially local history.

His very considerable collection of books on history and his membership of many organisations did not imply an armchair historian, his involvement with all his interests was very much "hands on". He attended various extra-mural courses in archaeology, history and even Latin. At Coalhouse Fort he had been a guide since soon after the Project's inception in 1983 and the amount of information he imparted on his tours was legendary. He was similarly involved with the Royal Opera House High House Project at Purfleet.


Brian would be the first to dress in period costume.


Brian's garden seat at Coalhouse Fort


Beyond Thurrock he joined the Essex branch of the Historical Association, he was a member of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, a committee member of the Friends of Historic Essex and between 2001 and 2010 he was Vice-Chairman, Chairman and President of the Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress. But it was for his very active work with our Society that we will most remember him, as a member of the committee, contributing to Panorama, giving talks, and staffing the stands at the Orsett Show, the Horndon Feast and Fayre and other local events. Whenever our stand or the event encouraged it, he would be the first to dress in period costume. At one of our Christmas meetings, those who were there will never forget him reciting - or I should say performing - with assistance, "There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu" (or was it to the south?).

Brian always seemed to be dashing from one meeting or event to another and when he could no longer drive he became skilled at knowing the best route by public transport to the remotest parts of the county. He was great company, always good humoured, full of energy with a great love of life. It was a privilege and pleasure to have known him.

The Society has provided a garden seat in his memory at Coalhouse Fort. This was dedicated on 31st August 2014 by our Chairman at a simple ceremony attended by members of the Society and all his family including four great-grand-children.


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