August 8, 2023
OUR NEW PRESIDENT
The Society’s Summer Garden Party is always an enjoyable occasion and this year’s event in Ballingdon hosted on 22nd July by Sandie and Andrew Tate was no exception. Indeed, the weather gods awarded a window of golden afternoon sunshine and their gorgeous garden fronting the River Stour provided the perfect backdrop to the formal confirmation of the Society’s new President, David Burnett.
Following the death of founder President Andrew Phillips in April this year, Sudbury has felt deeply the loss of his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for the town past, present and future. There was really only one candidate to succeed him as Society President, whose knowledge of Sudbury’s history and architecture is well known and highly valued. David Burnett is also a past Chairman of the Society, respected local historian and author who continues to play an active role in the town’s life.
Many local folk may recognise David as he was a history teacher, staff trainer and responsible for student discipline at the former Cornard Upper School, now Thomas Gainsborough School, from its inception in 1973 until taking early retirement in 1996. Post retirement, he had more time to further his love of history through joining the Sudbury Society and compiling the Sudbury Photo Archive, a collection of 1,400 images of the town through time. I defy anyone to visit the archive and not be fascinated by the huge variety of town scenes, people, buildings, events and vistas of Sudbury in times long past. It is a wonderful resource and insight into our shared local history – take a look at https://photoarchive.sudburyheritagecentre.co.uk/
David took over as Chairman of the Sudbury Society in 2002 and soon became interested in the plethora of unlisted but significant local buildings that added to the interest and vitality of Sudbury’s townscape. He started a comprehensive survey, researching and photographing individual buildings, and was supported by a sympathetic local planning officer with the result that Sudbury’s Local List was born in 2004 and subsequently adopted by Babergh District Council.
This list is detailed on the Society’s website – https://sudburysociety.org.uk/unlisted-buildings/ – featuring over 350 properties of local importance which do not have formal ‘planning weight’ but may be considered by the Council when taking any planning decisions. David’s book – ‘Sudbury, Suffolk: The Unlisted Heritage’ – is a beautiful publication of many of these buildings and he is also the author of a series of other historical publications - ‘Chilton. The First Three Thousand Years’, ‘Brundon. The Enigma in Sudbury’s Shadow’ and ‘Victorian Legacy’.
In more recent years as a planning committee member and Vice-President, David has taken a keen interest in local buildings that are being neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair and disuse by their owners. As a direct result of his dogged determination to pursue recalcitrant owners and enforcement action by local planning teams, the Society compiled a ‘Buildings at Risk Register’. This can be viewed on the website alongside the Local List, and details a number of properties that David and the Society have become concerned about and had no luck in making or progressing initial owner contact to offer advice and support.
It is largely to David’s credit that a number of these properties have recently started restoration work and will soon be able to be removed from the Register.
In addition to his past leadership of the Society and ongoing contribution today, David is also a trustee and secretary of the Sudbury Museum Trust which is responsible for running the Heritage Centre based at Sudbury Town Hall. He was heavily involved in establishing the centre which offers a free insight into the unique history and heritage of the town from the Iron Age to the twenty first century.
Outside of his devotion to Sudbury and the surrounding areas, David is a dedicated family man with his wife Val. He is a member of the U3A (University of the Third Age) and particularly enjoys his membership of the wine tasting and appreciation group. In spirit with that, the Sudbury Society charges you all to raise your glasses to toast our new President and committed defender of Sudbury, here’s to David Burnett.
New Society President, David Burnett with Sam Thornton, Chairman
David Burnett enjoying the Garden Party