David Dymond obituary

Other lives: Historian of East Anglia and author of a highly regarded guide on researching and writing local history

My father-in-law, David Dymond, who has died aged 88, was a widely respected historian of East Anglia. He spent more than five decades researching, writing and teaching in the region, and inspired countless others with his passion for local history.

David’s book Researching and Writing History: A Guide for Local Historians, first published in 1981 and in print continuously since, is regarded as the essential text on the subject. Other innovations include his Historical Atlas of Suffolk (1988, with Edward Martin) and his work advocating a multidisciplinary approach to history and archaeology. Ecclesiastical history was a core interest, with a decade of research resulting in the two-volume The Register of Thetford Priory (1995 and 1996, covering the years 1482 to 1540) for the British Academy.

Born in Northampton to Winnie (nee Gloyn) and Percy, a journalist, latterly the London editor and parliamentary correspondent of the Belfast Telegraph, David spent much of his childhood in Exeter, where he went to Hele’s school; after the family moved to Croydon in 1949, David finished his schooling at Selhurst grammar. He took a degree in history at the University College of the South West (now the University of Exeter). Inspired by his father, a talented writer with an interest in Devon’s past, David began his career as an investigator with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in York in 1957. Here he met Mary Sands, also a historian, and the couple married in 1963 and moved to Suffolk, closer to Mary’s family.

From 1965 to 1994 David lectured for the Cambridge University department of extramural studies, where he was resident tutor in Suffolk and then director of studies in local and regional history, teaching evening classes and residential courses to adults in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Many of his students went on to do their own research, to publish or take doctorates.

He was editor of The Local Historian from 1976 to 1983. In 2000 David was awarded a PhD from Cambridge University as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.

In July last year he was presented with a Festschrift, a collection of writings by 17 colleagues in honour of his work. In his acceptance speech he articulated his lifelong aim to improve standards in local history, ensuring it is “written clearly and economically, yet with plenty of sparkle and plenty of bounce”.

David was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society, but dedicated much of his time closer to home. He was well known in Bury St Edmunds, conveniently living next door to the local record office. As first chairman of the Bury Society, he was closely involved in campaigns to “Save St Johns Street” in the early 70s, and more recently to preserve Bradfield Woods. In 2017 the High Sheriff of Suffolk presented him with a “certificate of recognition” for service to the county.

David is survived by Mary, who supported him throughout his career, three children, Catherine, Eleanor and Charles, my husband, and four grandchildren, Emma, Matthew, Ella and Toby.

Susan Dymond

The GuardianTramp

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