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Douglas Marshall, singing architect who challenged injustice and incompetence

'He was the most perfect gentleman I ever knew. Elegant and so kind.'

22 February, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

FRIENDS and relatives gathered to celebrate the life of Douglas Marshall, an architect and “family man”, at his funeral on Thursday.

After deliberating over whether to pursue journalism or architecture as a career, at 28 he decided to enrol in Hull School of Architecture.

It was there he met his wife-to-be, Denise, and they married in 1957. Denise said: “He was a very visual person and he liked to make people aware of their surround­ings. He would always look above shops, like in Oxford Street, to appreci­ate the history that surrounds them. He said you should know where you live and find out about the area you live in.”

They moved to Belsize Park, with £5 in the bank account, before heading to West Hampstead in 1964 when their daughter Philippa was born.

Their daughter Sarah, born in 1961, trained as a fine artist at the Slade.

The family did not travel abroad. Philippa, who now lives in sheltered housing in Kentish Town, was born with a bone brittle disease and could not fly. But together they enjoyed holidays in the Yorkshire Dales. Douglas had an attachment to the North, his hometown being Grimsby.

He designed nurses’ accommodation and training centres, working in Paddington and Fulham and he helped design the Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

Dr Andrew Harris, Douglas’s godson, read a tribute at the funeral.

He said: “[Douglas] showed throughout his life that the injustices and incompet­encies of bureaucracies need challenging. Architects were irksome to NHS administrators. The consultation process on a scheme was often a fight between individuals; philistinism masqueraded as pragmatism; bigotry as common sense. He was a very sensitive architect and his draughtsmanship was much admired… He was humorous and above all a family man.”

Mary Rutherford, an actress and friend of Douglas, gave a reading of his poetry. He had written poetry throughout his life for joy, not for publica­tion.

She told the New Journal: “He was the most perfect gentleman I ever knew. Elegant and so kind.” As a child, aged seven, he joined the Grimsby Parish Church choir school on a scholarship scheme. “It remained a big part of his life,” said Denise.

He continued to sing until he had problems with his hearing in his 50s.

It was the choir at St Mark’s Church, Primrose Hill, which attracted the family to their services and was where the funeral took place. Douglas had fallen ill with pneumonia.

His daughter Sarah captured the last moments of Douglas’s life with a pencil drawing and he died a few hours later, on February 2, at age 94.

“Some people said that was too private a moment to capture,” said Denise. “But I had asked Sarah to draw it. I thought it was important.”

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