In April we said goodbye to another Sunbury stalwart. David Brown had been a long term Sunbury resident and was the originator of the idea of the Millenium Embroidery. St Mary’s church was packed with friends, family, neighbours and colleagues as we celebrated his life. Little granddaughter Audrey, only 4 months old, who had brought a smile to David’s face in the last few weeks of his life, was a reminder of the circle of life.
David was the 5th of 7 children. Born just before WW2 broke out he was brought up in what was clearly a challenging environment, complete with a tin bath and outside toilet. But his childhood was a warm and happy one and his mother’s love instilled in him deep family values. He developed a great interest in making things and in nature, both interests which carried on throughout his life.
We heard eulogies from many walks of David’s life. The word ‘enthusiasm’ was ever present. David was a man who believed we make our own luck. His mantra was “You can do or be whatever you set your mind to”. His path to Architecture, the career of his dreams, was not smooth. When he was told by a teacher that “boys like you don’t become architects” he set out to prove him wrong. He met wife Sally at the Oxford School of Architecture in 1962 and he ended up running his own practice with her. Some of David’s designs and public buildings will remain a legacy for generations to come.
Everyone described David as a warm, loving, cheeky, patient family man. He had time for everyone and had a great curiosity. He moved to Riverbank in Thames Street from Chiswick, with his two small children. It was a wreck but he and Sally fell in love with the magic of the place and filled it with happiness and creativity. It was always the house that David considered ‘home’.
I was filled with admiration for daughters Amy and Alice who both spoke at the service. Their memories were of a man who made them laugh, who perhaps they saw as a huge embarrassment when they were younger but who they knew as a true ‘legend’ and a wonderful dad. He instilled self belief in his children, urging them to be true to themselves and he was always there to support them through their choices.
As the millennium was approaching, David turned his thoughts to how to mark the occasion in Sunbury. He considered several, but settled on the idea of a huge embroidery depicting local life in the village. Together with John Stamp who drew up the design, David Brown has left us a lasting memory, immortalised in the Embroidery Gallery for all to enjoy. The project drew together 140 embroiderers of all ages and abilities and the huge tableau was put together, piece by piece, in Riverbank. David was so proud of it that he is said to have brought in passers by off the street to show the work off!
The crowning glory was of course the visit by the Queen to see the finished piece displayed in the Walled Garden.
David was plagued by ill health throughout much of his life but he fought it with good humour and positivity. He will be missed but what a legacy he leaves us. Think of the character behind the embroidery next time you visit the Walled Garden.