John Lowerson, 1941-2009

October 1, 2009

The Rev John Lowerson, a leading historian of leisure and locality, has died.

He was born in a mining village near Doncaster on 22 July 1941, and studied at Maltby Grammar School and the University of Leeds.

A first degree in history led to an MA, during which he wrote a thesis on the 19th-century newspaper proprietor and Liberal MP for Leeds, Sir Edward Baines, who adopted adult education as one of his major interests. This set a pattern for Mr Lowerson's career in two ways.

Alongside more general topics, he devoted much of his research to the history of the areas where he was based.

He also took up Sir Edward's cause, with posts at Lincoln Technical College and then the Workers' Educational Association in Northampton.

In 1970, he moved to the University of Sussex's Centre for Continuing Education. He was still emeritus reader in history there at the time of his death, almost 40 years later.

Once at Sussex, Mr Lowerson established himself as a major historian of leisure.

He started with general overviews. Time to Spare in Victorian England (with John Myerscough, 1977) was followed by Trends in Leisure 1919-1939 (with Alun Howkins, 1979).

He then narrowed his focus, devoting more detailed consideration to two specific and very different forms of "leisure".

First came Sport and the English Middle Classes (1993), next, drawing on a lifelong love of music - his mother was a piano teacher - he produced the celebrated social and cultural history Amateur Operatics (2005).

His final, uncompleted project was a biography of the communist composer Alan Bush.

At the same time, Mr Lowerson developed a deep involvement in his local community. Ordained an Anglican priest in 1988, he served as an assistant in Ringmer and Lewes, and within the university chaplaincy team.

He edited the magazine Southern History, wrote Victorian Sussex (1972) to accompany a BBC radio series, and also wrote in-depth studies of particular towns.

"John was the best of colleagues," recalled Fred Gray, professor of continuing education at Sussex.

"A strong competitive and innovative spirit - he always wanted to be the best - counterbalanced his immensely warm-hearted and generous character.

"He was also a brilliant performer, in his teaching, research seminars and lectures, notable for his witty and engaging style of writing and his outstanding dress sense."

Mr Lowerson died of coronary thrombosis on 22 June and is survived by his wife, Mary Sutton, and their four children.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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