Dunstable mourns death of well-known historian Vivienne

Vivienne Evans
Vivienne Evans

Dunstable historian Vivienne Evans, author of numerous books about the town, died in hospital on Saturday aged 85.

She had been taken ill on Thursday while attending one of the weekly series of “tea-time tales” at Priory House – a popular event which she had helped to establish.

Mrs Evans, awarded the MBE in the 2012 New Year Honours, was born in rural East Sussex and studied agriculture at Nottingham University.

She came to Dunstable to coach agricultural students from overseas and joined the Manshead Archaeological Society, where she met her husband Lewis.

Together they founded Dunstable Historic and Heritage Studies in 1979.

Previously, Vivienne had given a course of evening lectures at Barnfield College on the history of Luton and she went on to be an extra-mural lecturer for the University of Cambridge and for the Workers’ Educational Association.

She was among the archaeologists working on the site of Dunstable Friary when the famous Swan Jewel was found.

She arranged for a TV crew to feature the investigations being carried out here.

That was an example of her gift for popularising local history and working with the media.

She became a regular point of contact for journalists and broadcasters who wanted information about the town’s history.

One memorable example was a series of broadcasts she made while walking around the area with BBC Radio’s John Pilgrim.

She undertook a huge amount of research and a lot of the knowledge which townsfolk now take for granted was a result her investigations, as well as her energy and enterprise in assembling it all into published form.

She and her husband produced “The Book of Dunstable and Houghton Regis”, published by Barracuda Books in 1985.

A biography of John Bunyan followed in 1988 and then came the ambitious “Dunstable With the Priory” and “Dunstable In Transition” in 1994 and 1998, both published by Paul Bowes of Dunstable’s Bookcastle.

There was a millennium history of the town called Proud Heritage and numerous other volumes and pamphlets.

She worked tirelessly in support of Dunstable Town Council’s efforts to buy and maintain Priory House, where in recent years she had a regular corner seat in the tea rooms there, and was a founder of the Dunstable Town Guides.

She was quite reticent about her age. She once remarked: “I’ve been saying for 15 years that I’m 40, so you can say I’m 55!”

She leaves her husband and her daughter, Roz.