Bryan Francis Waites was always proud of being a Yorkshireman. He was born on 17 September 1931, in Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, and it was this strongly based patriotic feeling which formed his love of landscape and region. He had a powerful affinity to his homeland and was deeply interested in the different regional characteristics displayed throughout Britain and in other parts of the world.
He was educated at St. George’s County Secondary School, Bridlington and in 1946 won a late scholarship to the local grammar school, Bridlington School, which he attended until 1950. In that year, he went to the University College of North Staffordshire, later Keele University, as one of the first students to attend this new, pioneering institution. In 1954 he graduated with double first-class honours in History and Geography also with a Diploma in Education.
He was awarded the first Research Studentship of the University which he took up at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, under the supervision of Professors J. Goronwy Edwards and H.C. Darby. Here he began his study of the impact of monasteries on the landscape which he was to follow for the rest of his life. In 1957 he was awarded an M.A. from the University of London.
From 1957 (when for a short period he taught at his old school) to 1961, he was an Instructor Lieutenant in The Royal Navy, based mainly on the aircraft HMS Ocean, then HMS Vernon and HMS St. Vincent. In 1959 he married Miss Beryl Allen of Tottenham at All Hallows Church, Bruce Grove, Tottenham.
In 1961, he was appointed lecturer in Geography at the City of Leicester Teachers’ Training College, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 1963. In the same year he went to Uganda for the British Council as a Tutor on African Teachers’ Vacation Courses and also to Kenya the following year. Between 1965 and 1966 he and his family went to Sydney, Australia where he was Visiting Lecturer in Geography at Sydney Teachers’ College. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) from 1955 and an Emeritus Fellow of the Royal Historical Society from 1973.
On his return from Australia, he began a serious collaboration with his colleague, Keith Wheeler, which led, in the space of only six years, to the production of Leicestershire Landscapes (1970), Patterns and Problems in World Agriculture (1971), Britain’s first environmental town trail The Leicester Town Trail (1972), and Environmental Geography: a handbook for teachers (1976) in addition to other articles and contributions done together.
In 1973, he became Principal Lecturer and Head of Geography at Leicester College of Education and when, in 1976, the College merged with Leicester Polytechnic he was Principal Lecturer in Humanities and Subject Co-ordinator until 1979 when, due to the impending closure of teacher training and the demise of geography at the Polytechnic, he resigned.
From 1980 until 1989 he was Lecturer in Geography and Teaching Practice Tutor in the Department of Education, University of Technology, Loughborough. From 1987 to 1989 he was also Administrator, Management of F.E. Colleges Course at the University. Between 1986 and 1996 he was also a part-time teacher of Geography at Oakham School. During this time, from 1980 to 1989 inclusive, he was Examiner in A Level Geography for the AEB.
It was in the 1980’s that his publications reached their peak with an increasing emphasis on local history since his acceptance in 1979 of the post of Honorary Editor and one of the founders of the Rutland Record Society. His primary schools’ series in association with L.A. Bowler, Exploring Geography (5 books), published between 1979 and 1983, was still popular over ten years later and contained many pioneering topics subsequently embodied in the National Curriculum. Earlier, he edited a secondary school series entitled Future Environments (five books) in which he wrote the Future Water volume. There followed Children’s York (1981), Exploring Rutland (1982), Exploring the Yorkshire Wolds (1984) and Children’s Leicestershire (1984). His trilogy on his adopted county followed in quick succession, Remember Rutland (1984), Rutland Alphabet (1985) and Rutland Heritage (1986).
As Editor of Rutland Record Society, he was responsible for twelve issues of Rutland Record, the annual journal, as well as being general editor of several other major publications of the Society. He had a strong belief in what he called History in Action and strove for the highest standards in the publications for which he was responsible. In 1991 the Society awarded him Honorary Life Membership in recognition of his services both to the Society and to the history of Rutland.
The wide-ranging character of his many publications followed the Keele tradition of integrated studies, which he had come to appreciate on the Foundation Year of 1950-51. His interests embraced education, history, geography, environmental studies, conservation and planning. His innovative contributions to the Times Educational Supplement between 1968 and 1994 were considerable and his pioneering work in environmental education through town trails, streetwork, conservation of townscape and landscape was noteworthy.
His contribution to the creation of a new record society and to its firm establishment led to the opening up of the study of local history in Rutland. Meanwhile, he never forgot his Yorkshire homeland and publications continued to relate to that area, such as The Bridlington Book (1988). His publications on the monastic history of north east Yorkshire remain an essential source for the study of its medieval history. After forty years study he finally published his classic Monasteries and Landscape in North East England (1997) but he remained most proud of Celebration of Rutland (1994) in which he assembled and edited more than eighty contributors in this tribute to his adopted county.
He would also wish to be remembered for his efforts to popularise and increase awareness in the public of landscape and environment. To this end he wrote many guidebooks and did a great deal to publicise Rutland and Rutland Water in the last fifty years. His Leicestershire and Rutland Rambles (1992), Oakham Heritage Trail (1993), Pub Walks in Leicestershire and Rutland (1993), Village Walks in Leicestershire and Rutland (1998), Waterside Walks in Leicestershire and Rutland (2000), Walks in Historic Leicestershire and Rutland (2001) and Pub Strolls in Leicestershire and Rutland (2002) are testimony to this. Additionally, he collaborated with the eminent photographer, Bill Meadows, to produce a coffee table book Leicestershire and Rutland: a portrait in colour (1997).
Despite persistent ill health, he continued to contribute articles to Leicestershire and Rutland Life, This England, Evergreen and other periodicals. He produced Oakham Photographic Memories (2003), Uppingham Photographic Memories (2004) and Discovering Rutland Epitaphs (2006). In 2006 he was honoured with a Personal Achievement Award for services to local history by the British Association for Local History at a ceremony in London.
A new edition of his Monasteries and Landscape of the North York Moors and Wolds was brought out by Tempus in 2007 and his guide Normanton Church Rutland Water (2009) was fully revised and lavishly illustrated by Discover Rutland Tourism. One of the most satisfying developments was when his Oakham Heritage Trail was way-marked with plaques along the route for visitors to follow.
He was very concerned with encouraging children to know and love their region and much of his writing and activities helped to promote this. He is survived by his wife, Beryl, three daughters, a son and eight grandchildren.
Written by Gillian Dawson, Bryan's daughter.
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