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Andrew Underwood Obituary

Andrew Underwood - Schoolmaster and local historian.

Andrew Underwood

On 12th June 2012 Bedfordshire & Luton Archives lost a staunch supporter when Andrew Underwood died after a long illness. Born in Ampthill on the 20th May 1934, Andrew devoted his life to the study and enhancement of the town of his birth, where both sides of his family had lived for generations. He inspired the setting up of the Ampthill History Forum and wrote numerous books on the town's history, a guide to its parish church and several other local churches, and for many years contributed a weekly piece to the Ampthill News. His published works were just the tip of the iceberg, as they were based on a lifetime of collecting material about the town on which to base his research. Understanding that his collections would be useful to others he placed them in the care of the Archives Service and the collections we hold are very much stronger because of him.

His first deposit of material to Bedfordshire Record Office was made in 1960. Under the reference X291, this is generally a collection of illustrations and printed ephemera to which Andrew added new deposits on a regular basis for the next forty-five years. However, this was not Andrew's only collection at the Record Office. In 1958 the company of Swaffield & Son auctioneers and estate agents deposited a large collection of sale particulars, valuations and other estate management material [ref.SF]. Andrew, a descendant of the Swaffields, deposited more material in SF and also deposited Swaffield family papers under the reference SFM. Finally in 2005, when Andrew began to feel that he could no longer cope with enquiries himself, he deposited his box files of papers relating to his own family and to Ampthill, Steppingley and Millbrook, and his main collections of illustrations [ref.AU].

By profession, Andrew was a schoolmaster. He taught at Bedford Modern School from 1966 to 1989. In 1972 he was appointed the school's archivist, a post he held until 1998. He was anxious that any form of catalogue identification and numbering should be compatible with the County Record Office system, 'as I foresaw a time when the BMS archive might be safest if transferred to their care on deposit.' This transfer occurred in 1984 and, as agreed between Andrew and the County Archivist, Patricia Bell, the prefix BMS was all that was required to slot the collection into our holdings. For several years in the early 1970s he also arranged for a class of boys from the school to spend an afternoon a week at the office creating indexes to the Bedfordshire Mercury and catalogues to other collections.

Andrew Underwood Diary Extract

 Andrew records tranferring Bedford Modern School archives to  the Archives Service in 1984

As well as collecting and depositing archives, Andrew was responsible for creating some. For example his hand is to be found in the Ampthill parish church collection due to his long years as a churchwarden there. Andrew will be missed, but his legacy will live on. 

Pamela Birch