Richard Powell obituary

Other lives: Creator of metal furniture and historic motor vehicles enthusiast

My brother-in-law, Richard Powell, who has died aged 62 of cancer, was an engineer who created and sold high-quality metal furniture. He was also a passionate restorer of historic motor vehicles, and a man full of humour and energy.

Richard was born in Farnborough, Kent. His parents, Eric Powell, a police officer, and Patricia (nee Baker), a medical secretary, encouraged Richard to look for opportunities further afield.

He attended St Gregory’s school, Tunbridge Wells. He was a keen swimmer and as a young man he twice swam the Channel.

In 1978 he went to Kesteven Agricultural College (now Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture) to study agricultural engineering, which is when he began working with metals. In the early 1980s he met my sister, Elizabeth Graham. They married in 1985. His easy manner and love of life quickly endeared him to the whole family. His ability to weave humour into everyday events led us to think that he could have made his living in comedy.

Chair designed and made by Richard Powell
Chair designed and made by Richard Powell Photograph: none

After college, he bought a 200-year-old forge in the village of Anwick outside Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and began his metalwork business, taking work from farmers, gardeners, churches and local authorities. The anvil became the mainstay of Richard’s working life, but he also turned his creative talents to designing and making metal furniture in his own minimalist designs. He began with a chair, which he took to show buyers at Habitat. They were immediately impressed. The business became successful and as Broughton Powell Furniture Ltd, he began supplying tables and dining chairs to Habitat, the Conran Shop and Heal’s.

Richard’s other metal pieces can be found in churches, gardens and on village greens. When a lorry demolished the Grade II-listed 18th century gates at Fulbeck Hall, Lincolnshire, Richard won the contract to restore them. They stand as a magnificent tribute to his skill.

His other real passion was historic motor vehicles. He was never happier than when working on a rebuild or just making a car work and look better. One of his cars was the 1935 MG Q Type formerly owned by the most renowned female racing driver of the 30s, Doreen Evans, who raced it at Brooklands, Surrey. Richard assembled a wealth of knowledge about the car’s history.

Richard was determined to recreate the great land speed trials of the 30s, and organised a vintage speed trials at Grimsthorpe Castle in 2018, which became an annual event. He insisted on complete authenticity, from the brown dust coats worn by the marshals to the sisal ropes and chalk scoreboard.

Richard is survived by Elizabeth, their children, William, Helena and Alex, his granddaughter, Harper, and brother, Mark.

Hugh Graham

The GuardianTramp

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