57: Janet Fulford (1934-2020) – In Memorandum

October 2022

All that counts is lifetimes is a maxim I appreciate ever more deeply as I travel through life.

Janet Irene Fulford (10 September 1934 to 21 October 2020) conducted one of the most admirable lives I’ve personally borne witness to during my time on Earth. A dear friend of my family, particularly my Mum and Dad, she was a mentor and exemplar to me and my sister, Ruth.

An architect by profession, Janet was an active participant in local government and politics in her home town, Colchester. She served as the town’s mayor, and made numerous contributions to its civic and public life.

Janet possessed conspicuously high fluid intelligence. She was well-read and well-travelled, and assembled a substantial library and art collection during her life. She had uncommon communication skills – particularly the ability to connect and deal with people from myriad backgrounds.

I recall her – well into her 70s – enthusiastically engaging friends I’d brought back from London who were 40 years her junior: brows furrowed, leaning into the discussion, determined to engage seriously on subjects of consequence.

And she was a party animal. She drank. She smoked. She went for it during social engagements. She loved to laugh, joke, and join in. She drove a white sports car. She taught by example.


This page is intended, in a some small way, to act as a public and easily accessible written record of Janet Fulford’s life. The text below is taken – with gratitude – from her funeral service, as conducted by the celebrant Billa Eastoe. It has been edited for suitability as a permanent web page.


1)      Abridged life story
2)      Personal tributes from friends and family
3)      Final reflections from her burial on 21 October 2020
4)      Some links

Readers can comment at the bottom of this page.


[From original draft by Billa Eastoe]

Early Life

Janet Irene Fulford was born in Chingford, to Arthur and Marjorie, on 10 September 1934. She was followed two years later by her brother, Bruce. Following his arrival the family moved to the village of Much Hadham, in Hertfordshire, where her second brother, Rodney, was born in 1939, just before the Second World War.

During Janet and her brother’s minority, their father, Arthur, started a business felling trees and transporting the logs by cart to timber merchants. This necessitated a move, in early 1940, to Stoke-by-Clare, a village between British and American airbases. Aircrew were often billeted in the house. The American pilots were the most exciting, as they often gave the children sweets and chocolates – both rare commodities at the time.


Much of Janet’s earlier school life was chaotic. It included a primary school in Seaton, near her grandparents, a short period with a governess, two ‘dame schools’ (small, privately run establishments where young children were educated by a local woman), and two years living with her aunt, Phyllis, in London, while attending Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. She was asked to leave Sadler’s Wells after two years because her legs were not long enough. Later, she was a weekly border at a school at Long Melford, which she hated.

Finally, in 1947, aged 13, with her brothers Bruce and Rodney, Janet reached Endsleigh School in Colchester, where she would spend the remainder of her school life. She settled into Endsleigh well, and enjoyed the organized exchanges with a school in Paris, where she spent several months, becoming fluent in French.

In Paris, she stayed with families who had been in the Resistance during the war. Many of the students, having been involved in resisting the German occupation, were ‘somewhat wild’. At 17, she, along with Bruce and two cousins, spent the summer navigating an adapted MOD-tender motorboat from Brightlingsea to Paris (and back). They and their Parisian friends spent the summer of 1951 roaring up and down the Seine.


Torpedo Boats, Water Mills, and Myland Lodge

In 1947, Arthur had begun a new and successful engineering career – selling the family house to buy a share in a small engineering company in Sudbury.

The Fulfords initially moved to a rented house in Stoke-by-Nayland. Later on, the family moved to St Osyth Creek (about 12 miles south-east of Colchester) to live in an ex-MOD motor torpedo boat which Arthur had converted. They lived on the boat for two years before moving to the village of Great Henny, near Sudbury, where Arthur built a house on the site of an old water mill. The large mill pond in the garden provided the children with a place for swimming and boating.

Finally, in 1955, the family settled down at Myland Lodge in Mile End. Janet, now 21, had been in London for three years of her five-year architectural course.

Her mother, Marjorie, had always provided loving family continuity and stability. However, one can only speculate how this unusual start set Janet’s course in life.


Architect and Town Councillor

In the early 1960s, Janet became a member of the (very social) Young Conservative Club in Colchester and, as an architect, joined Stanley Bragg Architects Limited (an architectural partnership). Her work there included designing a conversion for the Hippodrome in Colchester and an extension to Le Talbooth, a renowned hotel and restaurant in nearby Dedham.

In September 1970, Janet joined Colchester Borough Council as councillor for Mile End. In May 1985, she became Mayor of Colchester and, by general agreement, grew skilled at giving long orations. She retained her seat for Mile End until 1992.

Activities after Retirement from Architecture

Janet retired from Stanley Bragg in December 1990. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life. At the time, the government was committed to moving people with learning difficulties into the community, rather than keeping them in institutional care. Janet was asked to join a group examining how this could best be achieved.

She relished the task and, to her surprise, was asked to become chairman of the New Possibilities National Health Service Trust in Colchester. She held the position for nine years. Murray Duncanson, CEO, stated that he considered her achievements there to have had a nation-wide impact.

Janet’s other activities included:

  • Chairman of Colchester Town and Army Club (Colchester is a garrison town, and there is a strong connection between the garrison and town council with respect to ceremonial events)
  • Chairman of the Governors at St Mary’s School, until June 2005
  • Director of the Stockwell Centre, for 10 years until 2002
  • Trustee, then minutes secretary, of Colchester Archaeological Trust
  • Secretary of the Friends of Colchester Museums, a group organising museum-related lectures and outings
  • Green Badge tourist guide, under the Institute of Tourist Guiding, for Colchester and East Anglia
  • Talking Newspaper for the blind
  • Friend of The Minories
  • Member of Court at Essex University

Janet Irene Fulford


Selected Leisure Pursuits

Janet designed and built her own home, 301 Mile End Road, and lived there for 30 years.

She amassed a substantial art collection during her life, mostly paintings from local artists she knew.

She was a prolific reader. Her house at Mile End included multiple floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with the tomes she had read.

She was also a prolific writer: documenting, among many others, three holidays spent sailing around the South Pacific and New Zealand on the Søren Larsen, a square-rigged brigantine, which had been restored at Brightlingsea decades earlier.

Earlier in her life, she had taken a six-month break in Canada, where she joined her brother Rodney, who was doing his postgraduate degree there. Janet worked for a local architect and kindly typed-up Rod’s thesis, gaining him many brownie points with the academic authorities.

In later life, she met her former Stanley Bragg work colleagues for lunch at the Dog and Pheasant public house in Mile End every two months. This tradition continued until the pandemic lockdown.

Janet also swam regularly at Colchester Leisure Centre.

Decline & Death

During the final weeks of 2018, Janet began to suffer osteoporosis of the spine. This caused intense and chronic pain, and her health deteriorated rapidly from that point.

Unable to stay at home, she moved into Freda Gunton Lodge, close to Colchester town centre, and remained there for eight months. During this period she managed to maintain some social life and a few of her personal interests.

Her final 14 months were spent at Alderwood Care Home. She died in her sleep on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, aged 86.




The tributes below were read in person at Janet’s funeral on 18 November 2020.

Di Fulford
(Sister in Law)

I have a few memories I would like to share.

Janet has been my friend and sister-in-law for over 55 years. We were both Young Conservatives. She and Rod went on to represent Mile End and Braiswick on the Borough Council but, after 10 years, Rod had had enough. I was elected in his place and joined Janet for the next 12 years.

Janet’s achievements were many and varied. She became Mayor of Colchester and after 21 years’ service was made an Alderman. This allowed her to maintain her interest in Council matters and be invited to the civic occasions she loved. Her mayoral year was a triumph. She loved meeting Colcestrians active in the community and foreign visitors to the Town Hall, and hosting receptions in the Mayor’s Parlour for the unsung groups who conduct voluntary and charity work in the community.

Her Oyster Feast was always a wonderful and happy occasion, and she displayed great talent for attracting thought-provoking speakers. She documented her mayoral year in meticulous detail, with numerous pictures and amusing side notes explaining ‘who was who and married to whom’. These were kept in three huge A1-size volumes which are now en route to the archives at Essex University Library.

She particularly relished visits to the Town Hall from schoolchildren, and reading their thankyou letters. These often contained lovely drawings and descriptions of things like the Colchester Shield and Oyster Gauges. Her enthusiasm for history was clearly infectious.

Another abiding recollection is Janet’s ability to talk. She was a Chairman’s saviour (and occasionally nightmare): always ready with a question, often long and convoluted. Many years later, when I attended the AGM of Essex University Court as her guest, I discovered her talents were undiminished. Few people question annual accounts. But Janet did. Like a shot.

There was a favourite civic function in the Council calendar which Janet and I particularly loved attending: the Opening of the Oyster Fisheries, with lunch in a Nissen hut the highlight. After a short boat trip from Brightlingsea, the mayor ate the first oyster harvested from the Pyefleet Channel and declared the fisheries open. We would then head for this Nissen hut on Peewit Island where the Talbooth and Lay & Wheeler plied us with food and drink (at our personal expense, I would add). Unfortunately, health and safety rules have put paid to this tradition: a shame, as it was a marvellous venue and event.

When I cleared her house, I discovered that Janet loved writing and research more than I had realised. Lots about the history of Colchester and East Anglia. She wrote books on the history of both Turner Village and Essex Hall. She joined a creative writing course and wrote four volumes on her life, friends, and family. She also relished writing-up her holiday exploits.

On the family front, Janet was a very special aunt to our children, Katy and Mark, and great aunt to our grandchildren, Mia, Grandson Alex, Frankie, and Emma. The adoration was mutual. She always badgered their parents for the latest photos for her display collection.

Her presents were something else. No mere boxes sealed with Sellotape, but rather elaborate concoctions of co-ordinating ribbon and bows, with glitter in abundance. As they got older, money became the order of the day. So she constructed fabulous crackers in which to hide it.

Janet always volunteered to dress the table on Christmas Day. Nothing simple, like candles and holly. Instead, imaginative and intricate models, different every year. Christmas scenes made from balsa wood and card. Handmade people and animals. Reindeer with antlers. Father Christmas in his sleigh, riding a hot air balloon, or skiing. Lots of cotton wool snow and glitter. She loved glitter. That was our Janet.


In full flow


Robin Matthews
(Former colleague, partner at Stanley Bragg Architects)

I first met Janet when I joined Stanley Bragg, in June 1978.

From the onset, she was welcoming and friendly, and made me feel at home in the practice. This was typical of Janet, with her outgoing and warm personality. For all her time at Stanley Bragg, she was supportive of me and passionate for the work we did.

Her enthusiasm and love of architecture endeared her to clients. In the decades of greatest business growth, Janet was serving clients such as G Milsom, Lay and Wheeler, Frincon, and many others. The work encompassed golf clubs, restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities, nightclubs, and residential. There were few project types in which Janet did not have expertise.

On top of all this, there was the fact that Janet was a rare breed, certainly in the 1960s and 1970s: one of the small band of female architects working in the Eastern Region, and indeed the UK.

She never let that hold her back, and her energies and endeavours propelled her into many areas outside the practice. We partners were proud when Janet become Mayor of Colchester, a role she undertook with charm and tenacity – all the while keeping live practice projects on the go.

Janet loved a party and was always at the forefront of our annual festive event, greeting clients and consultants, and ensuring the hospitality was not found wanting. She was an avid, if irregular, supporter of the Stanley Bragg cricket team. One of my colleagues recalls her keeping the scores – no doubt with a tipple in hand and busy chatting to everyone. The scoring might have been somewhat contentious that day …

Janet’s love of the town and its architecture continued into retirement, when she contributed her considerable professional expertise to archaeology and related matters. I encountered Janet in my role with The Minories Victor Batte Lay Trust where, as a Friend of The Minories, she was a keen advocate of the visual arts, often speaking in support of our cause.

We were all pleased that, in her later years, Janet was one our band of former Stanley Bragg staff who met at bi-monthly lunches to put the world to rights. She was captivating company, generous and warm and – despite failing health – retained a keen humour and perceptive wit.

All of us who had the privilege of working with Janet know that a unique star has passed through our firmament.

We will not see her like again.

Katy O’Connell

Janet was a force of nature throughout my life. She was always full of fun, arriving with a laugh and a bottle of wine. She was always on hand to help with creative projects, be that the ‘making box’ of my childhood and, more recently, house extensions.

We loved the speech she made at my and Mark’s wedding, 22 years ago. She spoke passionately about a life where the spirit of adventure remains important. It was obvious to all who knew Janet that she lived this spirit in her own life and travels.

She connected with the younger generation too. Emma and Alex have fond memories of Fulford family Christmases. Emma wrote ‘I loved the way Great Aunt Janet called me her sweetie whenever I visited and made the most beautiful art. I also loved the way she read so extravagantly and was so loveable towards everyone.’

She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

Simon and Nick

Dear J

What do you do if you are a mum, at home, with four sons, who are driving you crazy and (literally) pulling each other’s hair out?

One option is to say “why don’t you guys go and visit Aunty Janet?” So off we would go in a file of bikes across the fields to your house, via the ‘offy’ on the way and the golf course coming back. What a … ‘pleasure’ … it must have been to have your Sunday morning interrupted by four raucous nephews. But you were always pleased to see us and made us welcome.

Your house was like a cavern, filled with nick-nacks and wonderous artifacts from around the world. You loved to travel and were fascinated by the people and places you visited. And you loved that old MG. Did anyone, ever, keep the same car for longer?  By the end it was more duct tape than car. You almost kept Will in work, as your mechanic, single-handed.

As an aunt you raised the bar in many ways, such as insisting your teenage nephew participate in conversation rather than giving monosyllabic answers. You were remarkably able to speak to people of all stripes, and it was evident that others took pleasure from your company.

Then there was your pride in Colchester – you would walk up to strangers on the High Street and ask them to pick up the trash they had dropped, and they would do so with a smile. You were the family artist and historian, making meticulous logs of our past and your travels. You also taught us the importance a glass of wine every now and then.

Thank you for the interest you showed in everything and everyone. And for the example you set: your sense of fun, the mischievous glint in your eye, the steel in your spine, and your boundless energy for every project.

I am a better person because Janet Fulford was my aunt.

Ruth Oberg

My brother Peter and I are here today not only because Janet was our parents’ dearest friend, but because she was one of the most influential people in our lives.

Both of our parents are buried in this woodland and it was Janet who stood strong by our sides to help us plan, mourn, and get our act together during those difficult times. Losing her came as more of a shock than I had realised, as she was the person we had left.

The things she has left behind for me to keep are … the knowledge of how important a strong female figure is in the lives of girls, the importance of being active in mind and body, the importance of occasionally spending frivolously (Janet sent me money for every single birthday and Christmas – even when I was well into adulthood – with instructions to spend it on something fun), and a love of white wine.

When we were children the knowledge that Janet was coming for dinner was always a highlight. We knew then that the evening would be fun. Great fun. She would sit by our giant fireplace, with a cigarette held up the chimney, and ask us questions, tell us stories, and laugh, a lot. She would then whizz off into the night in her exceptionally cool white MG sports car, leaving us all feeling a little more special.

When I got married, my husband’s best man was working as a magazine journalist. He said to my husband “I have just met Janet. She is the most interesting person I have ever met.” He didn’t say that after he interviewed Gwyneth Paltrow.

Janet – I am so glad you are here with my mum and dad, as it would make them so happy to be with you again. Please know that you are so missed. However, I continue to feel a bit more special because of you, and I can still feel your energy all around me.

Jyl Marsh, Ruth Oberg, and Janet Fulford at Ruth’s wedding

Peter Baker
(Honorary godson and self-appointed ‘special nephew’)

I’ve noticed that it is rare, as you go through life, to hang onto people for the long term. My whole family hung on to Janet. First, my Mum and Dad. Then, my sister and I. She has been a constant in my life, from my earliest memories, though childhood, to adolescence, and adulthood. It was a relationship that, as I grew up, evolved from nurturing, through being my bolsterer and encourager, and finally into something like equality and friendship.

That relationship’s richest period was the past 20 years, after Mum and Dad had retired. Regular, highly social, visits to Essex and Suffolk were a central part of the rhythms of my life. On those social visits, Janet was always top of the guest list. Towards the end, she was the guest list. She was riveting company. Not given to tittle-tattle, but instead to matters of substance – about the world, its goings on, and what we were all up to.

I learned a lot from Janet. Stories of my parent’s pre-children lives. Facts about my extended family, which only she could open my eyes to. And about personal responsibility, being an enduring and steady presence for others, and remembering birthdays.

The last time I saw her in full command of her facilities was 2018, when I drove her across Colchester for dinner with friends. I was still an inexperienced driver and floundered at a couple of junctions. She did not hesitate to pull rank when guidance was needed. One of her commands was “and stop apologising”.

Thank you Janet, for walking some distance on the journey of life with me, and for sharing so much. You will live-on in my memory for the rest of my time on this Earth. At which point, I will join you. Somewhere in this field.

(Niece by marriage)

I’ve known Janet for almost as long as I’ve known Mark. I have a clear memory of our first meeting, sat next to her at a family dinner in Stroud. She put me completely at ease.

I feel that was Janet’s strength – to put people at ease. I always felt that we had a certain rapport. Perhaps because we are both fiercely independent, and love wine.

Janet took a keen interest when Mark and I went travelling, and then in our family. She was a fantastic great aunt. Although Janet never saw herself as a feminist, to my mind she was. Her achievements as a woman have been inspirational to our girls. They will both miss her dearly.

But she has left a legacy. Her attitude has been firmly cemented on them: that anything is possible, and being a woman doesn’t prevent you from doing anything.

She was much loved. We will all miss her.

Rodney Fulford

When setting-out to compose this I had great difficulty in trying to work out what to say. Any words were chased away by other words, any memories chased away by other memories.

Too much. All inadequate. In the end, I found that all that was left was to say thank you.

Thank you, Janet, for always being there for me, for taking my side, and for believing in me. Thank you for playing racing demon with me when I was a nine-year-old pest, and you had better things to do. Thank you for joining us on so many holidays, family gatherings, and meals out.

Thank you for all your ideas and contributions to my projects with Di – ideas which transformed the mundane into things exceptional. Thank you for our late-night philosophical and political discussions. Unsurprisingly, we seldom agreed. Thank you for enlivening many Christmases and birthdays with your special creative gifts and decorations.

Thank you for taking such a loving interest in Katy and Mark, and our grandchildren, and making them such an important part of your life.

And thank you for being in all our lives.

Paul Spendlove
(Alderman of Colchester)

There was a great lady called Janet;
She was one of the best on this planet.
She performed with such flair
As our Colchester’s Mayor;
That’s our fun-filled, our wonderful Janet.

Involvement was Janet’s great rubric.
There’s so much she’s achieved – measures cubic.
But at Braggs, on one morning
She missed ‘l’ from her drawing
And the footpath was labelled as pubic.

Say farewell – but it’s not what she’d choose;
A pandemic has forced us to lose
All those hugs we are missing.
And that’s what she’d be wishing,
Is ‘Cheers Janet’ with a glassful of booze.

With her laughter and smiles without end;
Took such pleasure in family and friend.
We’ll remember – and scoop her
In arms – just so soo-per,
Our love to you now we all send.


[An abridged version of the words spoken by Ms Eastoe as Janet was laid to rest.]

“Janet has been described as a sociable bubbly character who – although involved in many prestigious projects over the years – never sought public recognition. Her strength was her ability to connect with people. Her rewards were was the interest her activities afforded her, and being with people.

We will shortly be saying our final goodbyes, as Janet is lowered into her final resting place.

Be grateful that she lived among you all and shared your lives; you are richer for having known her.

She chose to be buried here, at Wrabness, to be with her two great friends, Jyl and Reg, for whose children, Ruth and Peter, she stood as guardian.

In sadness for her death, but gratitude for her life, we remember Janet with love and respect. She is now beyond harm, and pain.

Here, in this last act, we commit the body of Janet Irene Fulford to the earth which sustained and nourished her throughout her life, and which regenerates all life.

Janet will be part of this beautiful place for all time,
Through the warmth of summer and the cold of winter,
Through the freshness of spring and the mists of autumn;
Here under the wide and open sky Janet will now rest in peace.”


Janet on the beach in the 1930s


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