Roger Champion, our Master Carpenter turned volunteer post-retirement, has been awarded a Balfour of Burleigh tercentenary prize for exceptional achievement in crafts. Naturally we’re all very proud of him.
Roger (Master Carpenter at the Museum 1968-2003) famously learned about the embryonic Museum project from a publicity leaflet that caught his eye in a litter bin at Stedham, near Midhurst in summer 1968 when he was throwing away an ice-cream wrapper. “A bloody daft idea,” he thought, but nevertheless penned a letter to Roy Armstrong asking if there was anything he could do to help.
Roger was a trained instrument and tool-maker with aspirations to carpentry. But before he began making furniture for sale, he took three years out, intending to tour the world by bicycle. He abandoned the bike in Afghanistan and then hitch-hiked to India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaya, Australia and New Zealand before returning home to Easebourne.
Roy had responded to Roger’s letter by inviting him to the site of Pendean farmhouse just down the road near Midhurst, which was in the process of being dismantled.
Roger was soon smitten and would go on to be a key figure in repairing and erecting the majority of the Museum’s timber-framed buildings, including Bayleaf farmhouse, which was to become the jewel in the crown of the Museum’s exhibits.
“I had no particular difficulty doing Bayleaf, although there are some repairs I now would have done differently, or not at all. That’s one of the disadvantages with working in the same place for 30-odd years: you’re surrounded by your mistakes, or at least different ways of doing things.”
It was not just carpentry, but Roger’s great interest in joinery that was to prove especially significant for the Museum. His carefully replicated medieval and Tudor furniture enhance the interpretation of the historic buildings and draw much appreciation and social understanding from visitors.
In fact, all of the furniture that you can find in the Tindalls Cottage exhibit (opened 2013) was crafted by Roger.
His latest project, a beautifully crafted Livery cupboard for Bayleaf farmhouse is now available to see.
Roger was to become a consummate carpenter whose work has left its own distinctive mark of quality on the buildings at the museum.
He brought a dedication, an idiosyncratic sense of humour, an appreciation of economy in the use of resources and most of all, an intuitive understanding of historic buildings and their builders which reached down to him through the centuries.
Congratulations Roger. It’s thoroughly deserved!