Sad death of passionate historian

Long-time Arundel resident Tony Pudwell has passed away.

Wednesday, 26th April 2017, 3:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:13 pm
Tony Pudwell with his large display depicting the Civil War siege of Arundel Castle

This was not only a great loss to his family and friends but also for the town and especially Arundel museum.

Tony moved to Walberton from Kent 18 months into his training as a carpenter. He was able to finish his apprenticeship working with Sinclair’s of Arundel, then located along Fitzalan Road.

After marrying Arundel girl Betty Carver in 1951, midway through Tony’s National Service, they moved into a house in Pearson Road.

In 1958, Tony took a job as groundsman and odd job man at Tortington Park School until it closed around 1969.

From there, he went to work at Hago Wire Works, formerly known as Lockhart’s. This was in River Road until the factory closed in the late 1970s, when the lease expired. It moved to premises in Bognor, where Tony worked for six years.

There then came a brief 18-month period making high-quality wooden doors at the sawmill at Park Bottom before this business closed. Tony felt grateful that Hago’s at Bognor was willing to employ him again until his retirement, with the same wage and pension benefit he had before he left.

Tony joined the fledgling Arundel Museum Society in 1963 and over the years built many of its displays and models. His first model was a large display depicting the Civil War siege of Arundel Castle, which was displayed in the museum’s first home – the old jail under Arundel Town Hall. Tony recalled that the premises were so damp that every couple of days, volunteers had to wipe the moisture off the walls. In 1977, the museum moved to far more suitable premises in 61 High Street.

I was born and grew up just six houses down the road from Tony and his family. He came across as a shy and unassuming man who never went anywhere without his well-worn hat. As a child in the 1960s, I was friends with his son and recall us sneaking into the workshop in the back shed to see what masterpiece Tony was working on using the woodworking skills he had learned earlier in life.

The place was always full of half-finished wooden masterpieces made entirely from hand. Ships, flintlock guns, a model of the castle and on one occasion I recall, a huge model of the whole town that sat on his dining room table for what must have been more than six months while he was working on it. His wife Betty must have been very patient.

Tony was also a self-taught archaeologist and was involved in several excavations in and around the town, including the Roman site in Tarrant Street, mainly drawing, recording and photographing, the ancient town gateway at the north end of Arundel Castle Cricket Ground, the north range of the Dominican Friary in Mill Lane, with archaeologist Jane Evans, as well as the pottery kilns at nearby Binsted, with archaeologist the late Con Ainsworth, where he unearthed a second-century Roman Samian dish near Binsted Corner from 12ft underground.

Walking around Tortington in 1967/68, Tony discovered a number of clay pipes and pottery in a field that upon later inspection and excavation with Mr Ainsworth turned out to be an historically important medieval moated house, dating from the period AD 1200-1500, as well as a number of hearths that indicated a larger medieval settlement.

I have read many of his excavation reports and from my point of view as someone who studied landscape archaeology at university, Tony’s reports are of a quality and detail, including pencil drawings, that would put many professional archaeologists to shame.

He was not only generous to the museum by giving hundreds of hours of his time and skills but last year he donated the major part of his collection of artefacts, photos, drawings and research reports that he had put together since the mid-1960s.

Sadly, Tony is no longer with us, which is a great loss, but the legacy he has left to the museum must not be underestimated and will be there for future generations to enjoy.