'Tenacious' county and stately-home librarian and author dies aged 94
- Credit: IAN BURT
An accomplished librarian and renowned supporter of Norfolk’s churches, who also penned several books, has died at the age of 94.
From the late 1950s, Sam Mortlock was the county’s librarian who went on to become an author of many books on local churches, which are still popular today.
He has been described as making a profound difference to the cataloguing of historic collections within the area and will be remembered for his “skill, knowledge and tenacity”.
Mr Mortlock, who wrote and published under the name D. P. Mortlock, was born in Wixoe in Suffolk, on March 6, 1927. He first moved to Norfolk in 1959 to take up the position of deputy – and later chief – county librarian, a role he held until 1985.
He was a Fellow of the Library Association and served as an officer in the Indian Army from 1945 to 1947. He married his wife Barbara on July 14, 1951. The couple went on to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 2001.
After taking early retirement from the library service, having overseen a significant expansion of the network of branch libraries in the area, he set out on two parallel post-retirement career paths.
He became librarian at the 18th century Holkham Hall, based in north Norfolk. There he took responsibility for its library and produced a comprehensive catalogue of its collection. This included the highly-regarded Cosmographia, a map collection that he worked on with several leading world experts in the field.
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Dr Mac Graham, the hall’s current librarian, said Mr Mortlock’s achievements were “monumental" and his "skill, knowledge and tenacity" shone through when cataloguing the collection.
Mr Mortlock also wrote a book about the history of Holkham Hall’s library, which was published in 2006. And during the same time, he set out to write comprehensive guides to all living churches in both Norfolk and Suffolk. For Norfolk’s churches, he co-authored the guide with the Eastern Daily Press’ former arts and literary editor, the late Charles Roberts, known affectionally as CVR.
The first volume was published in 1981 and Mr Roberts wrote the 20,000-word glossary, in which he noted that his favourite churches were Edingthorpe and then Barney. By 1985, when they had completed the three volumes, the co-authors had driven more than 7,000 miles to research the book covering the county's 659 medieval churches.
The Popular Guide series was originally published in six volumes, three for each county. Then in 2007, the Norfolk volumes were republished in a new edition as a single volume, The Guide to Norfolk Churches. In 2009, it was followed by a single volume edition of The Guide to Suffolk Churches.
The books remain the only comprehensive guides to the churches of the counties and continue to sell well. He published his final book Aristocratic Splendour: Money and the World of Thomas Coke Earl of Leicester in 2007 at the age of 80.
Churches were a particular passion for Mr Mortlock, who was a churchwarden for many years in Poringland, near Norwich. He later became a long-serving steward at Norwich Cathedral. He was also a talented bell ringer and rang in several churches in the city, including at St George’s Colegate and St Peter Mancroft.
His son, John Mortlock, paid tribute to his father on behalf of the family. He said: “He always had a deep love of Norfolk and his life and work were inextricably linked with the county.
“He was much loved and will always be remembered.”
Mr Mortlock died on November 3. As well as his son, he is survived by his daughter Caroline and two granddaughters.
His funeral takes place at Earlham Crematorium on November 19. More information, as well as details on how to leave a donations in his memory to The Norfolk Churches Trust, can be found at https://sammortlock.muchloved.com/