Janet’s funeral was held on Tuesday 9th June at 3:30pm. Janet’s son, Chris Locke, presented the eulogy. The Order of Service is available at this link.
My mother was born in Leicester on May 16 1928, the only child of Monty and Nellie Furney. Janet’s father was a tailor, her mother a milliner and seamstress. By 1928 Monty had become a regional inspector for menswear chain Burton’s, which meant a series of moves around the country as his postings changed. This peripatetic existence, with her father often away, I think contributed greatly to my mother’s self-reliance and independence throughout her life.
Much of her early childhood was spent in Cambridge, but by the war the family had moved to Buckhurst Hill on the Essex fringes of London. Here her interest in architecture was sparked when a local builder won the pools and bought a plot of land to develop in the fields at the end of their road.
She was fascinated by the plans and resolved to become an architect, a rare career then for a woman, but she was determined. Monty went to see the headmistress, Miss Essame, of her boarding school, Queenswood near Hatfield, and was directed for advice to the head’s brother, who worked for the Royal Institute of British Architects.
She enrolled in the Bartlett School of Architecture at the end of the war, one of only five or six women in her academic year, developing that passion for beauty and against ugliness that animates William Blake’s Jerusalem, which we will sing later. In 1950 she was chosen by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as one of four Lethaby Scholars to study conservation work. At the SPAB building in Great Ormond Street she met Peter Locke, a fellow Scholar who had studied at Brixton School of Building. They were introduced by the SPAB’s secretary, Monica Dance, who when they fell in love and got engaged had to ride a storm of protest that she had turned the Scholarship into a matrimonial agency by admitting females.
They married in 1952, despite her parents’ disapproval who refused to attend. Typically my mother stuck to her guns and her parents were later won round. It was a long and happy marriage, lasting more than 60 years before Peter’s death in 2012. Both practised as architects, but Janet halted in 1957 for my birth in that year and that of Susan in 1959 (Sue died in 1993, leaving two grandchildren, Tom – who died in 2015 – and Katie, who were a great joy to Janet and Peter).
Janet’s early married life with Peter was in a garret in St John’s Wood, in a top-floor room shared with a hamster called Humphrey who tended to live in the sofa and next to a boiler they nicknamed Krakatoa. Poor as they were, they still would manage the occasional treat of a night at the theatre, including one night when they had battled through a pea-souper to their seats in the gods to find the inside of the theatre full of fog. Luckily a distant voice summoned them down to the front stalls to join the other dozen people who had made it as that night’s audience. Revues were a particular favourite, which is why we will hear both Flanders and Swann and Joyce Grenfell later.
In the mid-Fifties they moved to Blackheath, to a rented flat where I and Sue appeared. This was the period when Peter had just begun working with Donald Insall as the two of them started their architectural practice specialising in the renovation they had first learned on the Lethaby Scholarship. For his work my father bought a succession of cheap ancient cars – I remember a Rover with a running board and a pre-war Austin Seven – underneath which he would spend most of the weekend doing repairs. No wonder Genevieve, the Fifties movie about the London to Brighton veteran car rally, was a film dear to them. We shall hear the theme from that later too.
Through all this, as we moved in 1962, buying a garden flat on the other side of Blackheath, my mother ran the household with endless cheer and resourcefulness. She was always ready, no matter how busy, to answer my childish questions. The only occasion she failed was when I held up a bottle of squash and asked whether “dilute to taste” meant delightful. Distracted by washing up she replied “Yes darling”. She was mortified when I recalled this years later.
Much more characteristic was when in 1967 I returned from primary school with the news that three of my class would be spectators as the Queen knighted Francis Chichester at the Royal Naval College. They would be chosen on a test of knowledge about his round-the-world voyage. I of course was hellbent on winning but knew nothing of Gipsy Moth IV and its solo skipper.
My mother must then have spent the whole of the next day in a public library because that night, the eve of the quiz, she coached me so thoroughly that I sailed through and was duly to be seen on TV sitting cross-legged in the front row of all the Greenwich tinies watching the investiture.
My mother returned to practice once we children were old enough, working for a local architect and then advising on planning applications for Lewisham council.
In 1978 they moved to Lewisham, buying and renovating a large mid-Victorian house there. It spoke to Peter’s regard for her as the better architect that he decided she should be in charge of the plans while he acted as general contractor.
In 1985 they moved to Richmond, first to a two-floor flat in Church Road and then in 1994 to a cottage in Albany Passage. They threw themselves into Richmond life, making many new friends and becoming stalwarts of the Richmond Society, of which my mother was vice-chair and served on the committees vetting planning applications and judging the annual building awards. They also fulfilled a lifelong love of travel as Peter eased into retirement.
After Peter’s death in 2012 Janet was determined to live an independent life, travelling solo abroad and continuing to absorb herself in matters cultural, historical and architectural. In 2017 however she decided, with typical practicality, that it was time to go into a care home, and the following year she moved into Lynde House in Twickenham, where she passed her remaining time amid great comfort and kindness.
I have received so many wonderful tributes, both from those in this room and those prevented from attending today. They recall Janet’s “architecturally perfect cakes, precise hairdos and her tinkling chandelier laugh”, “her unfailing kindness, generosity of spirit and interest in others”, her enthusiasm, hospitality and positivity and much, much more. Above all they concur, as the nurse who broke the news to me said, that she was “such a lovely woman”.
Go well, mother, and go with all our love.
A further short appreciation by Paul Velluet of Janet’s life and her work for The Richmond Society can be found here.