Bill Liddell obituary

Other lives: Expert on the history of Essex

My husband, Bill Liddell, who has died aged 82, came from a mining area in Tyne and Wear, but became an expert on the history of somewhere much further south – Essex.

Having moved to the county in the early 1960s, he played an active part in the Essex Society for Archaeology and History and provided material for some of the many volumes of the encyclopedic Victoria County History of Essex book series. He also edited Essex and the Great Revolt of 1381, published in 1982 and, with me, wrote Imagined Land: Essex in Prose and Poetry (1996).

Born in Castletown, near Sunderland, to Emma (nee Hetherington), a wages clerk, and her husband, William Liddell, a miner, Bill went to Washington grammar school before taking a degree in history at the University of Nottingham and then a master’s at London University.

In the 50s he became a Workers’ Educational Association tutor organiser in Cumbria, but by the early 60s had moved to the University of London’s department of extramural studies as a staff tutor specialising in the history of Essex. I also worked there, and Bill and I were married in 1972.

Later he took over as senior lecturer in charge of the department’s entire history programme, and in that role was involved in negotiations that led to the department joining up with Birkbeck College in 1988 as the centre for extramural studies and then the faculty of continuing education.

Among his other works was a book entitled The Previous History of the Papers of Sir Richard Fanshawe, Bart (1999), an examination of the papers of the 17th-century poet and diplomat, which he produced with Roger Walker. Bill was also instrumental in setting up and running, from 1986 to 2006, the annual Essex history fairs.

He was a man of spontaneous generosity, steadfastness and loyalty who offered warmth and support in conjunction with a wicked sense of humour. His storytelling, especially anecdotes about the north-east of England, was well worth listening to.

He is survived by me, our two daughters, Emily and Katharine, and five grandchildren.

Sue Liddell

The GuardianTramp

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