Sidmouth's Sampson booklet launch

WITH her group of helpers around her, Sylvia Brownlee launched her booklet, Sampson s Sidmouth at Blini s on Friday.

WITH her group of helpers around her, Sylvia Brownlee launched her booklet, Sampson's Sidmouth at Blini's on Friday.

No definitive publication of Robert William Sampson, the man who changed the architectural face of Sidmouth from the late 19th century, existed and Sylvia, who worked, and now lives, in Fortfield Chambers, which Sampson designed, wanted to plug that gap.

It took six months for Sylvia to research and, she said: "I saw a window of opportunity and thought I would do it."

It took the Reverend Handel Bennett, chairman of Sid Vale Association, only five minutes to decide the association would pay for its publication. It will sell the �4.99 publication through Sidmouth Museum and other local outlets.

Following a plea for help in tracking down his family in the Sidmouth Herald, Sylvia was put in touch with a grandson by Esme Owen who read the article.

"I was playing croquet in Edinburgh about seven years ago. When he saw my Sidmouth badge he said his grandfather was Sampson the architect," explained Esme.

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A call from Martin Mellinson, whose wife Sylvia sits next to at Cameo Singers' rehearsals, was interested in architecture and family history and offered help.

The other main source of information was through Sidmouth Museum and John Edwards, who gave her a disk of photographs he had prepared for an exhibition of Sampson that took place in 2006.

SVA member Julia Creeke produced a comprehensive appendix of his architectural achievements and Jan Marshall "an enthusiastic amateur photographer" accompanied Sylvia to Sampson houses to illustrate it.

Sylvia said: "Everyone knew of him and were very proud to live in a Sampson house."

She should know. Her first home when she moved to Sidmouth in the late 1970s was in Alexandria Road and a Sampson design.

"I thought it was a real family house. We looked at eight that day, then bought it."

Now the booklet is published, Sylvia will be working on putting together an exhibition about Sampson, which will run from August 15-31 at Kennaway House.

"It will include an exhibition of his paintings, some of which are being loaned to me, and artefacts, including a glass paperweight from Mr and Mrs Kennett-Weare 'for the music room at Cotlands' which was demolished to build Cotlands Flats."

As for writing another book for Sidmouth Sylvia said: "I have only got one book in me. I was just fascinated by this man and I found out how prolific he was and how much he enjoyed life.