Franklin Medhurst obituary

Other lives: Architect and town planner, author, campaigner and environmentalist

My father, Franklin Medhurst, who has died aged 98, was an architect and town planner, author, campaigner and environmentalist.

Two years ago the message in his pro-EU letter to the Guardian went viral and was retweeted by the MP Jo Cox days before she was murdered. Later, Frank, a lifelong cyclist, was asked to start the first Jo Cox Way bike ride, a 260-mile ride from Cox’s constituency in Birstall, West Yorkshire, to the House of Commons in London.

In the 1960s Frank was director of the Teesside Survey and Plan, a revolutionary 40-year urban restructuring programme. After two years, when the plan was almost complete, he was abruptly dismissed. He later claimed, in his book A Quiet Catastrophe (2013), that his firing was associated with the 70s Poulson affair.

Born to artisan glassmakers Arthur (known as Will) and Winifred (nee Maberly) in Bristol, Frank went to Askwith Memorial school in Taunton, Somerset. He was 19 when war broke out and he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Frank served as a wireless operator and an air gunner, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for sinking a U-boat, which was only located this year.

He married Betty Blackwell in 1944, and after the war received ex-serviceman grants to train as an architect at Bristol School of Architecture (1946-1951) and then at the London School of Town Planning (1951-53), where he was taught by EAA Rowse.

From 1953 Frank worked for London county council and Pembrokeshire’s national park as a planner, and County Antrim planning office as a senior architect. In 1956 he became a lecturer in town planning at Manchester University, where he stayed for nine years. He co-wrote his first book, Urban Decay (1969), with John Parry Lewis.

In 1967, Frank started a private architectural practice in Teesside and co-founded Cleveland and Teesside Housing Association, (later part of Tees Valley Housing). He also headed the school of town planning at Leeds polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), commuting from his home in Carlton, near Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.

Betty and Frank divorced in the 70s, and in 1982 he married Jenny Hydes, a Fairtrade retailer, with whom he campaigned on poverty and against the Iraq war. He gained a further degree from the Open University in global politics (1989) and retired the following year.

In his 70s he planted a 3,000-tree wood near his home, recently named Franklin’s Wood. Complications from a heart operation in his 80s resulted in an amputation below the knee, but undeterred he bought a reclining tricycle which he rode into his late 90s. His final book, War and Liberty, was published last year.

Frank is survived by Jenny, five children from his first marriage, Nick, Steve, Bruce, Amelia and me, 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

Victoria Medhurst

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Alex Schweitzer obituary
Other lives: Co-founder of a Reminiscence Centre in London

David Schweitzer

24, Oct, 2021 @10:35 AM

Article image
Joseph Compton obituary
Other lives: Environmental health officer who tackled the problems of slum housing in 1950s Manchester

Barbara Compton

01, Aug, 2021 @4:43 PM

Article image
John McCall obituary
Other lives: Architect who was committed to civic provision and helped save properties from slum clearance in Manchester

Neville Kirk

04, Nov, 2020 @4:47 PM

Article image
Derek Piggott obituary
Other lives: Pilot who was commissioned in the RAF in 1943 and was posted to India to No 668 Glider Squadron

John McCullagh

04, Feb, 2019 @5:58 PM

Article image
James Latimer obituary
Other Lives: Member of Bomber Command who flew 46 missions supporting troops in France and Germany

Colin Carr

02, Aug, 2020 @12:25 PM

Article image
Madge Gregory obituary
Other lives: Secretary who served with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the second world war and later lived on a number of RAF bases

Daniel Webb

09, Aug, 2021 @4:51 PM

Article image
Adam Ostrowski obituary
Other lives: Polish-born Spitfire pilot during the second world war

Jan Ostrowski

25, Mar, 2018 @4:26 PM

Article image
Bessie Thomas obituary
Other lives: Second world war radar operator and tireless fundraiser for the British Legion

Marilyn Cunningham

05, Aug, 2020 @5:17 PM

Article image
Ron Eatwell obituary
Other lives: Head librarian of Surrey University who was interested in new technology

Ann Eatwell

23, Aug, 2018 @4:50 PM

Article image
Sir Michael Franklin obituary
Other lives: Civil servant closely involved in the negotiations that led to the UK entry into the EEC in 1973

Robin Franklin

24, Jul, 2019 @3:55 PM