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Obituary: Maurice Day (1930–2014)

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Howard Day writes about the life and career of his father, Maurice Day, who has died aged 84

Maurice R Day, who had his own practice Maurice R Day & Associates, which had offices in Henley-on-Thames and Glasgow passed away quietly in a nursing home at the beginning of August.

At one time, Maurice R Day & Associates employed around 30 people including both architects and quantity surveyors. 

Maurice was born in August 1930 in Marylebone but soon moved to Kenton, Near Harrow. His father was in the military having fought in the First World War and then assigned to the Middle East in the Second World War. 

In Kenton, Maurice went to Priestmead infants and junior school and became a sixer in the local cub pack going out in carts collecting waste paper and aluminium for the war effort.

In October 1940, a bomb hit the semi-detached home attached to the Day family home killing the family next door at 5am in the morning. Maurice was under a shelter with his parents which his father had completed at 1am.

Maurice moved to Checkendon near Henley-on-Thames where he went to the village school with other evacuees. He went on to Henley Grammar School and also became a patrol leader in the scouts and a sergeant in the army cadets. He left Henley Grammar School with a Higher School Certificate and he had been a prefect and house captain.

A memory of his was seeing a Wellington Bomber on fire hit the chimney of Henley Grammar School and crash at Friar Park, leaving a rear gunner in a tree.

His interest in sport had been developing and he played rugby and also took up athletics for the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry Army cadets. His interest in rugby was lifelong and he played for Henley in the front row and followed them after his playing days which lasted until he played in the same team as his eldest son, Julian.

At athletics, around 1950-52 he ran at a high club level for Polytechnic Harriers and Shaftesbury Harriers including Steeplechase in AAA championships, narrowly missing out on Team GB for the 1952 Olympics. In later years he continued running completing marathons and half marathons. He also enjoyed fell walking with the Lake District being a favourite.

After school, he started architectural training at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) via night-school as priority for day studies was being given to demobbed servicemen.

He passed his RIBA exams working in private practice for Gordon & Fitch and later worked for C Edmund Wilford which became Stirling & Wilford. Work included an extension for the Brazilian Embassy, the reconstruction of a war-damaged Rothschild mansion and upgrading of cinemas for Odeon and Granada.

Maurice married Margaret (nee Hobbs) in 1953 and in 1954 there was a call-up to National Service in the Royal Engineers. 

After National Service a post was taken in the Housing Division of the Greater London Council, working on housing schemes in the East End before moving to work for property companies owned by the Oppenheim family – first Industrial and Investment Services and then City Wall. At City Wall office developments were designed and Maurice headed a team of 12 architects plus assistants. Office developments were designed for City Wall and Maurice also worked on family houses for the Oppenheim family in Hampstead and one for Henry and Sally Openheim in Bishops Avenue.

With a flourishing career, Maurice R Day & Associates was formed in 1962.  The 1960s was an exciting time to be an architect and an example of a building which Maurice designed was the Charrington Bowl at Tolworth which opened in 1965. Other schemes were a community centre in Linwood, Renfrewshire and a new town hall in Oakengates.

As the practice became multi-disciplinary, Maurice obtained a diploma in Town Planning from Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes).This complimented the architectural and quantity surveying disciplines in the practice which grew to several associates.

A family home was designed and built at Birch Lawn, Henley at the corner of Gillotts Lane. This was a flint built bungalow with a flat roof – another innovative design – sadly demolished about 10 years ago to make way for a new house. Also in Henley, restoration of the Kenton Theatre was overseen on a ‘pro bono’ basis.

The practice, with offices in Henley and Thames and Glasgow, continued through to the early 1980s and a re-development in High Street, Dumfries around the Robert Burns Globe Inn pub led to a remark from an American tourist in earshot of Maurice and his son Howard – ‘hey, they don’t build them like that anymore’. The facade was in fact a new reconstruction of a Georgian building. This was quite a progression from his architecture of the 1960s.

An interest in sailing led Maurice to fulfil a lifelong ambition of sailing around the world with his new partner Jennifer. This trip lasted 4 years from 1985 to 1989 in an Oyster yacht called ‘Leisurely Leo’. This was a big adventure with highlights including Brazil, The Falkland Islands, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and appropriately Mauritius. Surviving hitting a buoy off in the Potomac River, which put a hole in the side, was one of the less entertaining experiences.

After the sailing trip Maurice returned to architecture and also attempted property development but with the onset of the recession this was not as successful as his career in architecture. He retained an interest in planning and architecture through the Henley Society and as planning representative of the Chiltern Society for whom he also acted as a judge for the annual conservation building design award.

Maurice leaves his second wife Jennifer, his three children and three grandchildren.

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