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Conservation giant and publisher David Pearce dies

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David Pearce, who died suddenly last week, was one of the most influential figures of the modern conservation movement, writes Peter Murray.

In 1975, with Marcus Binney, he helped to found SAVE Britain's Heritage and was its vice chairman for five years. Most importantly, his samizdat publishing skills played a vital role in disseminating the hugely successful campaigns waged by the fledgling organisation.

Born in Harrow on 11 September 1937, he went to school at Haberdasher Aske's and then to the Architectural Association in 1956, where he found himself somewhat out of tune with the Corbusian Modernism fashionable in Bedford Square at the time. He qualified in 1963, worked for John Voelker and at the National Building Agency before joining the planning journal Built Environment as editor in 1970.

In 1978 he was appointed secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and was instrumental in modernising the world's oldest conservation group. He moved the society to its current headquarters in Spitalfields and started the SPAB News, which he edited.He launched SPAB as a campaigning organisation with his Barns Campaign, which argued that barns should not only be preserved in new uses but should be appropriately repaired. In 1982 he made legal history by taking out a successful prosecution against the owners of Denton Almshouses in Northamptonshire, which had been demolished without consent.

He resigned from SPAB in 1983, feeling that he was spending too much time managing and not enough campaigning, to concentrate on writing and spent a short time as editor of the RIBA Journal.

In 1989 he curated the Conservation Today exhibition at the Royal Academy, which subsequently toured the world under the auspices of the British Council. He illustrated and wrote the hugely successful pocket architecture guide Spot the Style, and his book The Great Houses of London has just been republished.

When I met up with him three weeks ago he was full of energy, working on a somewhat racy novel for which he was keen to find a publisher. He was limping as a result of an arthritic knee. It was following a routine operation on Wednesday that complications set in and he died two days later.

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