Obituary – Professor John Tarn

Professor John Tarn – KStG, OBE, DL, BArch, PhD, FRIBA, FRHistS, FRSA, FSA (Hon LLD 1999), A Personal Appreciation by the Chairman

The late and much missed, John Tarn
The late and much missed, John Tarn

As many of you may have heard, John Tarn, our President, died recently. John was with us for nearly 20 years and I still can’t quite believe our good fortune that we in the Society, had such an eminent and wise man to support us so actively in our work.

Since formation in 1928, the Society has sought, and received, the gracious support of successive Viscount Leverhulmes’ to fulfil the Presidential role. They each kindly honoured us with their presence on some formal occasions.

However, when John agreed to my invitation to be our President, it was a great surprise when he said he would accept and that he intended to come to as many of our monthly Executive Committee meetings as his busy schedule would allow. 

Since then, he had honoured that commitment, having only ever missed the occasional meeting because of a conference abroad or a speaking engagement – and sadly, in more recent times, because of his increasing ill health. As Chairman, I have regularly sought his counsel and have always found his advice to be sound.

John was a professor of Architecture at the age of 33, initially at the University of Nottingham, then appointed the Roscoe Professor of Architecture at the University of Liverpool.  Latterly at Liverpool, Pro Vice Chancellor. Chairman of the Architecture Academic Advisory Committee at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  He also Outside of academia, John was very actively involved in the Royal Institute of British Architects and for 20 years, Chairman of the Planning Control Committee, at the Peak Park Planning Board. John was also heavily involved in the care of Liverpool’s two cathedrals, being on the Fabric Advisory Committee at the Anglican Cathedral, and the Art and Architecture Department of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.  Latterly he was Chair of the Riverside Group, a major Merseyside Housing Association.

Recognition for his achievements was significant.  In 1992, he received an OBE for services to architecture.  He received Honorary Doctorates from Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Liverpool. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside.  In 2016, Pope Francis appointed John a Knight of the Order of St Gregory The Great, for services to the Roman Catholic Church in the Liverpool Archdiocese – an honour of which he was especially proud. Wonderful and extraordinary achievements!

That he was able to support us so positively all these years, continued to amaze us on the Committee, especially given the long list of organisations with which he was involved. He also spent his weekends in the Peak District, providing the music and training the choir at Great Longstone Parish church.

As a committee, we have found his considered thoughts on the various issues being discussed, to be of immense help.  His total lack of any pretention never fails to impress us. We will miss him very much.

Rod Tann


The Wirral Society Committee members thank our chairman for his kind words, remembering our late President, Professor John Tarn.