Executive Committee Member John Templeton honours a life dedicated to Chichester
Our President and first secretary, Professor Tim Rooth, passed away on 2 January aged 77 after a long battle with a rare form of eye cancer. Throughout his last months he continued to work tirelessly for the city’s environment and for his fellow citizens. As Chairman of the Orchard Street and Old Somerstown Residents’ Association he spoke passionately at three meetings of the District Council planning committee on the risks to the city’s children from pollution if the phase 1 development at Whitehouse Farm led to all construction traffic being channelled along Orchard Street and St Paul’s Road.
A Sussex man
Tim grew up in East Sussex and after a diverse range of jobs including banking, gold mining and brewing, he studied economics and economic history at Hull University where he obtained a BSc (Econ.) and a PhD, as well as a Dip Ed from Birmingham University. He spent most of his working life at Portsmouth Polytechnic/University of Portsmouth, and was awarded Emeritus Professor of Modern Economic History. He published in a wide range of academic journals as well as two non-academic books- firstly on the life of an ancestor: A Fatal Duel: The Fugitive’s Story and Saving the City: the Chichester Society in the 1970’s.
A Chi resident since 1967
Tim and his wife Iris moved to Chichester in 1967 and settled in Orchard Street opposite a terrace of Georgian cottages which were then demolished in readiness for a dual carriageway ring road. Concerned at the increasing threat to the city from the ring road proposals and a major commercial and retail development at Chapel Street/Crane Street, he heeded a call for action from local artist David Goodman at a packed public meeting held in the Assembly Rooms on 1 October 1973. At a following meeting on 5 November the Chichester Society was born, with David as Chairman and Tim as Secretary.
Tim was at the heart of the society during its formative years. These included the Great Cathedral Meeting in June 1974 which attracted around 1,500 irate citizens and achieved national publicity; a swift and successful campaign for two pedestrian crossings on Orchard Street; and the Eastgate Sit-in where Tim and others occupied a row of terraced houses for a fortnight in an attempt to prevent the Eastgate gyratory system. Tim described those turbulent early years in his above mentioned book which was published in 2015 and is still available from the Society.
ChiSoc President 2015
Due to work commitments Tim handed over the baton as secretary to Jane Colbourne but continued to keep a watchful eye on the major changes to the city. He was elected a Vice President in 2013 and President in 2015. With his academic connections he contributed to the Chichester branch of the Historical Society; as a local resident he chaired the Orchard Street and Old Somerstown Residents’ Association and he campaigned for decades to prevent the loss of playing fields behind his house, a goal achieved in 2016 with the opening of the Brewery Field.
With strong views and convictions, Tim was always unfailingly courteous and a loyal friend and colleague. As our President he did not hold back when wishing to offer his advice to the executive committee on controversial issues. In the final chapter of his book he emphasised the importance of sharing experiences with other civic societies, working with other local bodies and fostering contacts with councillors and officers.
I first met Tim when I replied to an invitation in the Chichester Observer in November 1973 to join a new Chichester Society. Although living and working in London I immediately signed up as a life member and we remained friends and colleagues up to his untimely death, meeting for coffee every few weeks to discuss various issues. Few of Tim’s colleagues were aware of his illness so it was a real shock to hear of his passing. We offer our deepest sympathies to Iris, to his daughter Geraldine, grandson Henry and to all his family.