A Man With A Story......1940 - 2017
Nigel Thorpe was a true optimist, his glass wasn't half full but positively brimming and over filling. A character that was larger than life, a booming laugh, and a man with true presence, he would fill any room with his positive energy, and stories. If you want something done ask a busy man, and Nigel would always get it done, he could create time, no matter how busy he was, he could have the weight of the world of his shoulders but he would never let you know, and somehow he would find the time, no matter how small the problem his door was always open.
Nigel graduated from Canterbury School of Architecture with a Distinction and the Students’ Bronze Medal in 1964, when Canterbury was considered to be the best school in the country. He then went on to teach at the school before forming his own practice Cheney & Thorpe, with Don Cheney on April fool’s day 1970 in Hythe, Kent, where the practice still exists today all be it under a different name. Nigel's earliest work was uncompromising and modernist, and Hawe Farm was listed in Pevsner's famous architectural guide to architecture. The office grew to become one of the most influential architectural practices in Kent, responsible for many great buildings, and enjoyed by many more, such as the Hythe Sailing Club and Folkestone Racecourse, which opened in September 1990. Nigel retired on the 31st October 2008 having handed over the reigns but remained as a consultant for a further five years offering his much needed experience and knowledge to myself and the practice. His legacy will be the practice he created, which continues to go from strength to strength and the many friends he had through his humour and commitment.
In life we all need our mentors, someone to help us on our journey, someone to whom we will always be eternally grateful. As a school boy I would play Rugby with his son, my great friend, Alex Thorpe. Nigel would come to every match, rain or shine, ever the optimist, even when we were on our last legs you could hear Nigel bellow; 'Let’s capitalise on this Bethany'. Little did I realise this was a lesson in life, when you're down, and all is seemingly lost, it’s always possible to capitalise, no matter how small the victory.
When I graduated from architecture school in the depth of a recession it was Nigel who offered me my first job, at that time he couldn't afford to pay me, but that didn't matter it was the start. Nigel and his wife Trisha welcomed me into their family home and I lodged at their house, where Nigel would entertain us night after night with his stories around their dining table. Years later I would go on to become Nigel's business partner and it is only now on reflection that I realise that I was being tutored. I will always be grateful to Nigel, he was a great man who taught me how to motivate those around me, to value loyalty and most importantly how to tell a story.
Today we have lost a great man, who can be inspirational to all of us. Our thoughts are with Nigel's family, he was a loving husband, a great father and grandfather.
Guy Hollaway 29th May 2017
Published on 30 May 2017