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SIR CHARLES BRETT, CBE

Tuesday 20th December 2005 at 1pm 0 Comments

Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1994-1998

1928-2005

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with regret of the death of former Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council, architectural historian C.E.B. Brett, in Belfast on Monday 19th December 2005.

Sir Charles made a major contribution to cultural and artistic affairs in Northern Ireland over the last 40 years. In addition to being Senior Partner with the family firm of solicitors L’Estrange & Brett (1954-1994), he served as Chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (1962), HEARTH Housing Association (1978 and 1985-2005), the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (1979-1984), first Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland (1986-1989), and founder member and President of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (1967-2005).

Sir Charles was first elected to the Board of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1970-1974. During this time, he served as a member of the Art Committee (1972) and the Finance and General Purposes Committee (1974).

He was appointed for a second term to the Arts Council by the Minister in 1994, where he served until 1998 as Vice-Chairman of the Board and as Chairman of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Committee, overseeing the introduction of National Lottery funding for the arts in Northern Ireland. One of the major legacies of the early visioning for the use of Lottery resources has been a decade’s commitment to providing a dedicated arts facility within a radius of 20 miles of every person in Northern Ireland.

Sir Charles was actively engaged in architectural conservation since the 1950s, and is renowned for his work safeguarding Ulster’s architectural heritage. Through his prolific scholarly writings, he advanced the cause of architectural conservation and helped to awaken public appreciation of the importance of the build environment.

Over a period of almost 40 years from 1967, Sir Charles wrote many important books chronicling the history of architecture in Northern Ireland, including: Buildings of Belfast 1700-1914 (1967 and 1985), which endures as a definitive history of the city, Court Houses and Market Houses of the Province of Ulster (1973), Buildings of: County Antrim (1996), Armagh (1999), North County Down (2002) and Georgian Belfast; Maps, Buildings and Trades 1750-1850 (2004).

On the occasion of his 75 th birthday in 2003, the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society published Avenues to the Past, a celebratory volume of twenty-seven essays presented as a tribute to his distinguished life and career. The high esteem in which Sir Charles was held in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is reflected in the contributions by major historic writers from both sides of the border, such as Maurice Craig, David Griffin, Hugh Dixon, and former Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Sir Donnell Deeny.

Sir Charles Brett was awarded a CBE in 1981 and a Knighthood in 1990. He was an honorary member of the RSUA, MRIAI and FRIBA.

He is survived by his three sons, Charles, Adam and Roger, and wife, Joyce.

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