Robert Brown, co-founder of The Winchester Bookshop and former Major in the British Army, died suddenly and unexpectedly at home on Monday 4th April 2022. He was 74 years old.
Robert was a kind, gentle and occasionally stubborn man, with an eclectic array of interests including literature, family and local history, birding, industrial heritage, vintage transport, music and art, crosswords, and sudoku. He enjoyed visiting Pre-Raphaelite art exhibitions and Victorian pumping stations, listened to everything from opera to Nepalese folk music, kept the drinks cabinet well stocked with chartreuse, sherry and icewine, and loved to share a bad pun or his latest auction find. His homemade sourdough and crepes Suzette were legendary. An avid collector of books and lover of the obscure and unusual, he has left such an extensive library behind that the family aren’t quite sure what to do with it all!
The youngest of three, Robert was born in Harlington, Hayes in 1947. One of his earliest memories was running away on the day the King died, when he was only four years old, and this early escapade set the tone for a lifetime of travel. His boyhood was filled with adventures riding to the ends of the bus and train lines, and a later career in the army took him all over the world. Robert read English at the University of Kent, and it was in Canterbury he developed a love of horses and riding, and where he started his lifelong passion for collecting books. After university he briefly worked in the transport office at Nestles, a job he hated, before signing up for his Officer Training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot. Robert initially served in the 36 Heavy Air Defence Regiment, which took him to Germany, Sweden, and Northern Ireland, followed by a transfer to the Pay Corps and travel to Nepal and Hong Kong. Robert married Lynn-Amanda in 1980 and two daughters followed, Harriet and Eleanor.
In the mid 80s Robert left the army and began a new career in the NHS. He continued to pursue his interests from his university days, purchasing a horse, Charlie, and founding the Winchester Bookshop in 1991. He worked at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital for a few years, before moving across to the North & Mid Hampshire Health Authority in Basingstoke. It was there, after his divorce, that he met Becky in the late 1990s, and the new travel adventures began – this time, annual book buying adventures to America, which doubled up as holidays visiting his much loved sister Lisa in Pittsburgh. Robert retired on ill health grounds from the NHS at the beginning of this century, and it was then the books and the bookshop became the day to day focus of his life. He and Becky married in 2006, and the two of them were fortunately able to take the time to enjoy together his part time retirement (a bookseller never really retires.) The two shared a love of birds, which for the past eight years had taken them to southern Portugal every winter where they enjoyed months of birding adventures, hikes and delicious Portuguese food.
This ‘verray, parfit gentil knyght’ will be sorely missed by his wife Becky, daughters Harriet and Eleanor, brother Peter, granddaughter Tabitha and first wife Lynn-Amanda.
He will also, as you can see from his memorial, be mourned by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances throughout Winchester and beyond.