Obituary: Desmond WH Hodges, architect, 84

editorial image
Have your say

An architect who was instrumental in preserving the New Town has died at the age of 84.

Desmond WH Hodges was the first full-time director of the Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee (ENTCC), which was formed in December 1970.

Born in Dublin, Desmond began his career as an architect there before moving to Northern Ireland. His father, Evelyn Hodges, was the Bishop of Limerick.

Desmond moved to Edinburgh when he was 44 and found many of the buildings in a poor state and at risk of being demolished.

A volunteer army of more than 120 architects, surveyors and students organised by the Edinburgh Architectural Association took to the streets to carry out a survey and assess the scale of the damage.

The first completed project by the ENTCC was at 23 Fettes Row, which was officially unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1975. Today the brown plaques which mark the buildings repaired can still be seen throughout the New Town.

Desmond helped to develop the maintenance manual Care and Conservation of Georgian Houses, which quickly became an essential guide in providing practical, down-to-earth information in order to make suitable repair decisions. It is still regarded today as the authority on the detail of Georgian houses.

As a direct result of the success of the ENTCC and the conservation of the Old Town, the Old and New Towns were awarded World Heritage Site status in 1995.

In 1999, the ENTCC and the Old Town Renewal Trust merged to form Edinburgh World Heritage.

Desmond was involved in numerous organisations, including the National Trust for Scotland and was on the board of the Cockburn Association.

One of his proudest achievements was when he was made an honorary fellow of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

He was also one of the first to recognise the value of architectural salvaging, collecting iron and metals from buildings to re-use.

Canon Alan MacLean, who delivered the address at Desmond’s funeral at the Church of St John the Evangelist, in Princes Street, said the architect was responsible for how much of Edinburgh looked today.

“He saved New Town for the people of Edinburgh. He made the public aware of the treasure the New Town is,” said Mr MacLean.

“He also ensured the grants went to the right people so that repairs were undertaken so that the buildings could be maintained for the future.

“Desmond’s work was the envy of all conservation projects because he was so successful at doing it.

“He was quite charming, had a great twinkle in his eye and was slightly unorthodox in how he did things. He was an incredibly popular man which is why there were 300 people at his funeral.”