Parish of Leatherhead - Remembrance

Sheila Warner 1925-2019

This article appeared in the Parish Bulletin, April 2019.

Thanks to Tessa Le Bars for excerpts from her tribute given at Sheila’s funeral on March 6th 2019.

Sheila was born in Balham in 1925 and grew up in Cheam. During the war, with all the men having gone off to fight, she became the first female draughtswoman at the Geological Museum in Kensington, where her father was on fire watch. She often cycled to work from Cheam to Kensington, via Richmond Park.

She worked at the Geological Museum for 43 years, and progressed to be the Museum’s Exhibition Organiser. One piece of her highly acclaimed work was the restoration of the huge globe on the main floor in the middle of the Museum.

Sheila was a woman of many talents: artistic, an accomplished dress maker, a member of the English Country Dancing Society, and widely travelled.

At the request of Dr Richard Leakey, the legendary Kenyan conservationist, Sheila volunteered her time and skills to assist in the design and construction of the Koobi Fora Museum on the remote shores of Lake Turkana. While still working in London she designed and built a scale model on her dining room table and wrote the scripts for the panels.

In 1981 she spent 6 weeks working day and night at the site achieving the beginning of the museum. She made three further trips to this almost inaccessible place described as ‘the cradle of mankind’.

Her retirement was just as busy: a volunteer helper at Polesden Lacey for 16 years, and a founder member of the Friends of Polesden Lacey Shakespeare. She took up Creative writing and also studied religion in later life taking confirmation classes with Canon David Eaton.

She won a Leatherhead Community Margary Award for the restoration of the Leatherhead Swan*.

She organised the Kirby Art Lectures, and had a splendid collection of art and pottery from her interest in artists and her travels. She was passionate about her garden and wrote copious notes on designs and planting plans.

She belonged to many groups and organisations, a walking group, the local Decorative and Fine Art Society, the LCA, Local History Society, Fairtrade and was very involved with U3A (University of the 3rd Age). She was a flower arranger for the church and was passionate about the birds in her

She was sociable, friendly, if feisty and with strong views on life.

*Frank Haslam adds: The Swan from above the entrance to the 300 year old Swan Hotel, which was demolished in the mid-1930s, had found its way to Sheila’s back garden in Fetcham. Eventually she restored it and today it can be seen at Leatherhead Museum. The Swan above the entrance to the Travelodge Hotel is a replica of it.

If you have further remembrance to add, please contact Frank Haslam, the editor of these pages.

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