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Obituary: Bryan Russel Archer (1928-2012)

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Archer Boxer Partnership co-founder and architect Bryan Archer has died age 83 following a protracted battle with cancer, writes Andrew Archer

Archer was co-founder of Archer Boxer Partnership, a commercially-focused architectural practice based in Hatfield, from 1963-1992.

He went to Watford Grammar school in 1937 before starting an interior design course at North London Polytechnic, which he left opting for military call up in 1946.

On return from service in Palestine and between 1948 and1953, Bryan studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. The AA at the time was at the forefront of the ‘Modern Movement’, Classism being frowned on in the post war years with Le Corbusier, Gropius and Mis Van de Rowe being de-rigueur.

He began his career working for Courtaulds, a fabrics company in Coventry, followed by a spell at Glikstens, now The International Timber Cooperation.

1972 residential complex and restaurant, Cala Vinas Mallorca

1972 residential complex and restaurant, Cala Vinas Mallorca

In 1956 he became senior Architect to Fine Fare, a subsidiary of Howardsgate Holdings, the company of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the Garden City movement.

His remit was to promote and develop a chain of self-service food stores, the first supermarkets. In 1956 this was a concept unknown outside of America. In 1962 with 80 staff they opened 100 stores in one year.

Having amassed a wealth of commercial knowledge, Bryan and senior Fine Fare colleague Wally Boxer left to begin a new practise called the ‘Archer Boxer Partnership’.

The company grew during the 70s and 80s assuming corporate status in 1985. It operated from ABP House, a self-designed head office in Hatfield. Satellite offices were in London and Sutton-in-Ashfield.


Among some of his notable projects:

1.     1972 residential complex and restaurant, Cala Vinas Mallorca.

2.     1987. The Plaza Shopping Centre, Oxford St, London., and reconstruction of   Bourne Hollingsworth Dept Store.

3.     1979 District Shopping Centre and Superstore at West Swindon.

4.     1989 Shops and Offices, Watford.

5.     1987 Superstore and petrol filling station Watford, Herts.

6.     1977 Offices at Cornwall Terrace, Regent’s Park, London

7.     1976 Head Offices at Nottingham

8.     1980 New Offices, Laboratories and refurbishment of existing premises at Welwyn Herts

9.     1979 Golf House and Restaurant at Panshanger, Welwyn Garden City.

10. 1974 Hotel and Retail units, Stevenage, Herts

11. 1987 Administration Building for Hatfield Polytechnic, Hatfield


In 1975 the practice diversified and purchased a small specialist Cartographic business called Goads (founded in 1885). Over the following two decades it was expanded and digitised, to become Chase E Goads, producing OS and town centre plans throughout the UK. The Company was sold in 1996 to Experian, a subsidiary of Great Universal Stores.

Archer Boxer Partnership enjoyed its 25th anniversary on the Thames in 1988 and Bryan began the retirement process at this time. Shortly following his retirement in 1991 and due to the recessionary climate at the time, ABP went into receivership, so in the 30th year of the company’s existence the founding partners re-entered the fray, steadying the ship and re-naming the company ABP International, before retiring again a few years later.

1987 Superstore and petrol filling station Watford, Herts.

1987 Superstore and petrol filling station Watford, Herts.

During the 1970s Archer was president of the Hatfield and District Chamber of Commerce for two years and a director for two more.

In 1975 he became president of the local Rotary Club and between 1985-6 was appointed Rotary district governor to the General Council of Great Britain and Ireland.

Bryan Archer’s architectural legacy and career, spanning four decades has been at the forefront of commercial and retail design. In his modest way, he would be pleased to be remembered as having influenced and contributed to today’s society and people’s lives through the fabric of the buildings and environments he has created.

He leaves behind an extended family, wife Nancy, two sons, both chartered architects, and daughter, as well as nine grand children. He has nurtured and managed his business and family life with the same consistent and thorough care that have defined the success’ of his life.

Quote. ‘I have been lucky to have had a career in an occupation that I enjoyed and one that, in spite of the usual trauma associated with running a business, enabled me and my family, to live a comfortable life.’


  • Andrew Archer is Bryan Archer’s son
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