A biography depicting the “extraordinary life” of one of Lavenham’s most famous sons has detailed the role he played almost 90 years ago in promoting tourism in the picture postcard village.
Robert ‘Pum’ Gayer-Anderson lived with his family in the Great House on Lavenham’s Market Place – and is cited as being integral to safeguarding many of the village’s most well-known buildings.
Away from the village, he was also a renowned Egyptologist and noted collector whose work can be viewed in museums worldwide - including the Gayer-Anderson Cat which is one of the British Museum’s most recognisable treasures.
His fascinating life has now been told in the book ‘Gayer-Anderson: The Life and Afterlife of the Irish Pasha’, by award-winning historian Louise Foxcroft.
The book, which was launched this week at the Little Hall museum, tells of how Gayer-Anderson and his twin brother, Tom, identified the importance of tourism in Lavenham in the 1930s.
Among their achievements, they restored the Great House, created what is now the Little Hall museum, helped form the Lavenham Preservation Society and lead a campaign to raise money to save the Guildhall and pass it on to The National Trust.
Wendy Barnes, chair of the Little Hall management committee, is in no doubt of how Gayer- Anderson helped shape modern Lavenham.
She said: “The brothers moved into the village at a time when agriculture was the only source of employment. The Colonel [Gayer-Anderson] realised that tourism was the only way the village was going to survive.
“They helped start the Lavenham Preservation Society which safeguarded a number of important buildings that we know and love today. They showed amazing foresight and it is true that Lavenham would be very different without them.”
Regis Crepy, owner of The Great House and chairman of the Lavenham Forum, added: “Major Gayer-Anderson’s influence was enormous on Lavenham, not only helping to preserve and restore its rich heritage but firmly placing it on the map as a tourist destination.”
Author Louise Foxcroft said she was delighted to bring the story to life – revealing it had been a 16-year labour of love.
Louise said: “I worked really closely with the Gayer-Anderson family – it involved lots of letters, notebooks, sketches and even a trip to Cairo in 2012 to visit the Gayer-Anderson Museum.
“Gayer-Anderson lived the most extraordinary life and one that is very different to what we might live now.”
Grandson Theo Gayer-Anderson, who lives in Cambridge, said: “The whole family have told these stories for years but it is such a relief after more than 15 years to see the book published.
“He had a passion for life and was both eternally curious and always incredibly generous. With all the things he collected over the years, his aim was always to eventually give them to museums and institutions. It was his amazing gift.”