JUST a few days after Haslemere residents voted in the referendum to adopt the Neighbourhood Plan, came the sad news of the death of the man who had chaired the group and worked tirelessly to complete the mammoth task which will remain his legacy to the town.
In September 2012, Stewart Brown was invited to become chairman of a new local group - Haslemere Vision - to draw up the plan for the local area.
Although he expected the whole process would not last more than three years, in the event the plan took seven years to formulate. This involved dozens of meetings, workshops, and research involving more than 100 volunteers.
It could only have been achieved through Stewart’s leadership, determination and commitment which led to literally thousands of hours of work from him and his exemplary relationships with everyone concerned.
His remarkable service to the town gained him a valued Volunteer Award in November 2019.
These medals, kindly donated by Sir Ray Tindle of Herald Newspapers, are offered to those who have given exceptional service to Haslemere which, it is felt, deserves recognition within the community.
Stewart Martin Brown was born in London on March 23, 1944, of a family of engineers.
His father, Stephen Brown, became a notable industrialist andÂ an early president of the Confederation of British Industry; he was knighted in 1967.
His mother, Alix McArthur, was in the first intake of female undergraduates at St Andrews University, reading politics and later meeting Stewart’s father when she was political secretary to a Conservative MP.
Stewart, who grew up at Bolney in Sussex, went to Rugby School where he excelled at sport and became captain of Tudor House, early evidence of his ability to lead.
He later qualified as a mechanical engineer and became a Sloane Fellow of the London Business School.
On moving to Cheshire he became chief executive of BWI, a British engineering group with American connections, which he successfully launched on the Stock Exchange in 1987.
In 1965 he had met his first wife, Christine Pritchard, marrying in 1968 and having two daughters, Victoria and Claire. While still young, Christine developed breast cancer and died in 1997.
Stewart decided to take early retirement and, while he was prepared to continue in the business world as a non-executive director of various companies, he turned his energies towards the voluntary sector, answering his deep commitment to do what he could for the benefit of others. This opened him to a new world of activities and people which he relished and valued.
A few years later he met Susanna Johnstone, who interviewed him in London as a prospective trustee for a charity and they then married in 2001.
In 2006 the couple moved to Haslemere, where they have found friendship and camaraderie largely through music and walking.
For Stewart, this meant fulfilling a long-deferred dream of tramping the 500 miles of the Camino to Santiago de Compostella. He achieved this ten years ago in the good company of Haslemere stalwarts Peter Hampson and Christopher Scholfield. The ’camineros’ have since trekked many miles together in the fields of Cumbria that he loved, also to Cornwall, to Canterbury and along Offa’s Dyke.
While enjoying all Haslemere had to offer, Stewart was willing to do more.
He became a founder trustee of the online Poetry Archive founded by the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion (and poetry became an increasingly meaningful part of his life, after a bottle of the Poet Laureate’s Sherry spontaneously initiated an informal poetry reading group).
He was for nine years a trustee of Leonard Cheshire Disability, a role he took very seriously.
Musically inclined, he became a trustee of HHH Concerts which presents every winter a series of superb chamber music concerts at St Christopher’s Church, and, after years of urging, he joined Susanna in the Haslemere Musical Society, singing bass. Latterly he became involved with the Community Foundation for Surrey, and his legacy there is founding the Funder Plus programme which provides volunteer professional expertise to promising charities in Surrey.
But perhaps his most laudable contribution was to Haslemere itself, with the Neighbourhood Plan which, in his last few days of life, he finally saw adopted.
Stewart died peacefully at home in Haslemere on October 17, 2021, with his wife Susanna and daughters Victoria and Claire by his side.
Death from cancer came sooner and faster than expected, despite the expert treatment of the specialists in the St Luke’s department at the RSCH, and latterly the care of Macmillan nurses.
As well as the family’s loss of a devoted husband, father and grandfather to five grandchildren, many people in Haslemere will also mourn the passing of a man who, in the relatively short time he had lived in the town, had given selfless service in so many ways.