Obituary: Norfolk architect Graham Keith dies aged 91

The architect behind a number of interiors at some of the country’s most famous landmarks – such as Buckingham Palace and the Ministry of Defense – has died aged 91.

Graham Keith, of Ashdown Court, Cromer, was not only involved in many well-known places across the county and country but was also ‘admired and feared’ for his knowledge of the industry.

As well as designing kitchens at Buckingham Palace in London and the MOD’s main building in Whitehall, he also designed a studio at St James’s Palace, the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral and, more locally, a new dining room and kitchen at Gresham’s School, Holt, and staff accommodation at Norwich Cathedral.

And his expertise has earned him frequent calls as an expert witness and arbitrator – both “admired and feared” according to a former colleague – in construction and architecture cases.

Born Graham Alistair Keith on October 25, 1930 in Wolverhampton, he attended local schools St Chad’s College and Wolverhampton College of Art, before becoming a student at the Birmingham School of Architecture.

During his final period of National Service he became a Lance Corporal, Commercial Architectural Draftsman, before moving to live with his parents in Overstrand, near Cromer, where the family had been vacationing since 1945.

His first job as an architect was in the Architectural Department office of Norwich City Council in the late 1950s. He then moved to Feilden + Mawson (F+M) in the city until his retirement in 1995.

In 1960 he married his wife Sheila née Easton. For 50 years they lived in Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, and had four children; Robin, Mary, Alistair and James. In 2010 the couple moved to Cromer. Ms Keith died in 2018.

His family described him as “interested and interesting”. Paying tribute, they said: ‘He was sweet and genial yet firm, knowledgeable on most subjects, creative with a sense of humor and had a strong sense of family.

“He was also meticulously meticulous to the point of pedanticism, and while maintaining firm boundaries for his children, he wanted to maintain the magic of childhood through games and activities.


A toilet cartoon drawn by Graham Keith
– Credit: SUPPLIED BY THE FAMILY

“There were sometimes dark moods, which seem to plague many creative people, but he was always childish at heart – sometimes childish but not childish.

“People who knew him often said he was kind, generous and very accommodating.”

A physically active person, he has run several half marathons, completed long distance swimming challenges and sponsored bike rides, taken long walks with the Rambler’s Society and hiked Peddars Way and Offa’s Dyke.

And with Ms. Keith, he completed two long-distance bike rides; Barmouth to Great Yarmouth and Bournemouth to Tweedmouth. He documented this final trip in a self-published book illustrated with his own cartoons.

An avid artist, Mr. Keith has worked in painting, drawing, printmaking and ceramics, among other materials, and has contributed numerous illustrations and cartoons to F+M’s in-house magazine.

A member of the Thorpe Hamlet Residents Association, he contributed his cartographic skills to the book Memories of Thorpe Hamlet published in 2004 and to the Rosary Cemetery information map.

While in retirement, he completed a foundation course and a BA in Visual Studies at Norwich School of Art and Design, graduating in 2004. He then embarked on a Masters but stopped following the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Keith’s Alzheimer’s.


One of Graham Keith's beloved Christmas card designs

One of Graham Keith’s beloved Christmas card designs
– Credit: SUPPLIED BY THE FAMILY

His family brought back many special memories.

An accomplished pianist, he is remembered for his playing drifting up the stairs while the younger members of the family slept.

“He will also be remembered for his hats. Especially the black Santa hat adorned with “bah humbug”, worn proudly every Christmas. Her unique, homemade Christmas cards were also a highlight for many.

“He made furniture for the home, including bookshelves, desks, dining tables, nesting camping furniture, and toys for children, including a dollhouse, a fortress, and a small sailing canoe in which he took the children to the Broads. .”

Other treasured memories included books of empty crossword puzzles next to ticked clues, family frolics on Mousehold Heath, sledding on St James’s Hill, camping trips in West Runton and Wells and Scottish pancakes from Mr Keith.

“He never cooked apart from these and we would sing songs to celebrate the days he made them. He always made one more for the cat.

Friends of Cromer’s North Lodge Park Tea Rooms also paid their respects. They said: ‘He was a real gentleman, humorous, quick-witted, kind, had a great sense of fun and was loyal. He was always full of smiles and was applauded for his cheerful jokes.


An excerpt from when Graham Keith wrote to the Eastern Daily Press

An excerpt from when Graham Keith wrote to the Eastern Daily Press complaining about the early arrival of Santa Claus at department stores in Norwich
– Credit: SUPPLIED BY THE FAMILY

One of his proudest accomplishments was that of Chief Steward at St Andrew’s Hall for the Norwich Philharmonic Society, where he was introduced to Princess Michael of Kent. He was also one of the first principals for a newly created Ofsted in the early 1990s.

Finally, Mr. Keith was a man of many nicknames; From his childhood tag of “Midge” and “Mij”, to “Noddy”, then “Mr Saga” as he traveled the world in retirement, to the personal family name for him of “Grimbo” . His children and four grandchildren called his jokes “Grimbo moans”.

Mr Keith died on December 12 at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after a short illness.

His funeral will be held at Cromer Crematorium on Friday, January 21 at 2 p.m. Donations in his memory will be collected for the Architects Benevolent Society, payable locally or sent via Fox’s Funeral Service, 10 Canada Road, Cromer, NR27 9AH or online at www.absnet.org.uk/get-involved/donate

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