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from Normandy
A Tribute to
Trevor Dudley Wilks
(1945 - 2008)
 
Trevor Dudley Wilks
Trevor Dudley Wilks

Trevor was the eldest of two children born to Douglas and Elsie Wilks of North Place, Guildford on the 11th June 1945 at St Luke's Hospital Guildford. Brenda, his sister, was born on the 30th October 1948. The first family home was at 9 North Place, Guildford moving in 1955 to 47 Artillery Road; both homes chosen for being close to their father's workplace The Surrey Advertiser, then in Martyr Road, where their father held the prestigious post of Group Advertisement Manager. The Surrey Ad, as it is affectionately known, is now located in the renovated and modernised Stoke Mill on the Woking Road and the original premises and site in Martyr Road redeveloped for multiple level residences.

Like most children of the 1950s Trevor enjoyed a happy home upbringing and, more often than not, could be found outdoors playing 'cowboys and Indians' or on his bike in the roads and cross-lanes in central Guildford that still abound but are seldom used for children's games today. Furthermore, like many boys of his generation, he enjoyed a closeness to his father that possibly influenced his adult life, expecting a high standard of objectivity and proficiency, not just of himself, but from those with whom he came into contact. Moreover, as he grew older, he developed a strong belief that anyone can experience a good life without the need for a conforming religious belief. By embracing all these values Trevor lived his life to the full.
Trevor age 3 years
Trevor age 3 years

Trevor age 9 years
Trevor age 9 years
Sandfield Primary School, Guildford was the starting point for his 'educational trail', moving on to York School for Boys in Chertsey Street. He then took the 13+ exam and transferred to Guildford Junior Technical College whose pupils were then absorbed into the new George Abbott School at Burpham, a school then in its infancy.

On leaving school Trevor was successful in obtaining a post as an Architectural Assistant with Arthur Saunders (Architect) of Denmark Road Guildford and, with permitted day release to Brixton School of Building in London, was rewarded with an HNC in Building. As a qualified person he was now in a position to apply for posts that would expand his knowledge and experience within the industry. Seemingly, buildings in their style and construction occupied Trevor's thoughts from a tender age and as such he was observed and nurtured by professionals, which would eventually provide him with a successful career in Building Design and Maintenance and Project Management.

In the meantime Trevor and his family had moved from central Guildford to Shalford in 1964 and then subsequently to Wonersh in 1967. Trevor bought a second hand Austin Devon so that he could get to work and expand his social life too!

As is inevitable with young people a "boy meets girl situation" occurred when Trevor and Christine Fooks (his future wife to be), first met on either side of an aisle of school desks at night school in 1964, each attending to improve on their GCE English Literature qualifications. Surreptitiously a note was passed from him to her suggesting a date and again as so frequently happens in novels and equally so in real life 'the rest is history'. Although their first date was Leap Year Day 29th February, when traditionally 'she' may ask 'him' the traditional question, Christine thought it a bit premature to avail herself of the opportunity. Thus it was a further two years before Trevor popped the vital question and an incredible further four years before the two were once again in an aisle, this time within a church, pronouncing their wedding vows. Trevor never made hasty decisions!

Trevor and Christine on their wedding day 1969
Trevor and Christine on their wedding day 1969

Before their marriage Christine lived at Normandy and he in Guildford, but their day jobs were in relative closeness to each other within the centre of Guildford. It was inevitable, therefore, that much of their daytime courting was conducted during lunch breaks and whenever possible were taken outdoors. The gardens and grounds of The Castle, Allen House, Racks Close and The Quarry were their most popular meeting places, with the occasional visit to the roof garden of Harveys Department Store in Guildford High Street. Trevor certainly knew how to show a girl a good time!

Christine and Trevor were married on the 4th of October 1969 at the United Reformed Church, Portsmouth Road, Guildford, subsequently sharing 39 very happy years together, the majority of which were shared also with their two children Katie and Caroline. Their early married life was spent in a very damp basement flat in Godalming. Shoes went mouldy in the cupboard and occasionally the floors were invaded by frogs that had to be carefully caught and carried away in a bucket for a better life elsewhere!

Eventually, and by making sacrifices in their general well-being, they had saved sufficient capital by 1971 to buy 'Stonesthrow' in Glaziers Lane Normandy; their home for the next 37 years.

With marriage came early professional success for Trevor. In 1970 he was appointed as a Building Surveyor with Union International, a London based firm with extensive coverage in the UK and overseas with a folio of large building projects, many of which became Trevor's responsibility during his 25 years service with the company. When the company was wound-up in the late 1990s the high regard in which he was held by the managers was recognised by engaging him to see through the closing of the company and literally 'switching off the lights and shutting the door' when he left ! Shortly thereafter he went solo, starting his own practice Trevor Wilks Limited (Building Surveyor) with Christine as Company Secretary.

Trevor at a topping-out ceremony
Trevor at a topping-out ceremony

Trevor always had a passion for trains; perhaps influenced by his grandfather, an engine-driver who had valiantly driven ammunition trains during the 1914 -1918 War. In his teens Trevor was an avid member of the Guildford Model Engineering Society; an interest that was to follow him to Normandy. He built an indoor model railway and constructed another railway in the back garden with a real steam engine pulling rolling stock he built himself.

Trevor's enthusiasm for trains and model engineering was shared by Richard Halton, a close cousin of Christine's. Between 1969 and 1982 they organised model railway exhibitions in Holy Trinity Halls, Guildford with sales stands to raise money for the Kent and East Sussex Railway, then a disused line which local inhabitants were endeavouring to re-open. Their very good friends and steam enthusiasts Paul Dyson and Phillip Teddar were drawn regularly into helping to staff the exhibitions along with various girlfriends, wives and mothers who ran the kitchen providing home cooked refreshments for visitors and exhibitors. Attendance figures advanced year by year from an initial 1200 to a maximum of 2000. Elected to the committee, Trevor and Richard travelled the long distance to meetings at Maidstone, well before the advent of the motorways! In later years (about 1988), their fund raising expertise expanded to include The Medway Queen Trust; a body dedicated to the restoration of The Medway Queen paddle steamer, then laid-up at Chatham in Kent, one of the few remaining brave little ships that went to Dunkirk.

Trevor's enthusiasm for helping was renowned and he could be relied upon as a regular volunteer at such shows as the Astolat Model Railway Club show, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum and that of the Merstham Live Steam event. He particularly enjoyed helping out at Richard's Annual Carnival at Earley, Berks (Richard was the Treasurer) and relished helping him count the takings at the end of the day.

Like Trevor, Christine thoroughly enjoyed her own leisure pursuits. She was a member of Normandy United Reformed Church, an enthusiastic singer performing in concerts and in latter years going on singing tours and also entertaining as part of a singing quartet at celebration events. In married life she was more often than not accompanied by and supported by Trevor. However in the early part of their marriage they thought it would be a good idea to engage in some sort of shared activity or hobby. So, having seen a play by the Normandy Amateur Dramatic Society, they decided to have a look in at the old Normandy Village Hall, then located at the crossroads, where there was an audition taking place. To Trevor and Christine it looked like it could be great fun; so much so that they joined the society but declined acting roles in favour of stage management. That was in 1964, remaining members for over 40 years until the society disbanded.

It was probably Gordon Stuart, a founder NADS member and a wonderful orator, who suggested that they be made stage managers and for many years Trevor and Christine worked diligently and conscientiously together at ensuring that 'all went well on the night'. Pantomime rehearsals were a disaster waiting to happen but all who took part had great fun in building the sets, making the props and organising the lighting and sound effects. Notwithstanding the larking about, under the excellent management of Trevor and Christine, public performances were terrific and very well received by the audiences.

Trevor, Gordon Stuart & Phillip Bayne-Powell at rehearsal
Trevor, Gordon Stuart & Phillip Bayne-Powell at rehearsal

From stage management Trevor progressed to producing, demanding the highest standard possible from everybody. His sets were meticulously designed and at times ambitious but nonetheless were always functional. He was adamant, however, that he would never appear in front of the curtain until that is for one memorable evening of entertainment, then provided annually and exclusively for the over 65s of the village - the Senior Citizens Party. Those evenings were one of many provided by members of NADS and other volunteers, but that particular night 'The Glen Miller Band Take-off' brought the house down, notably because of Trevor showing off a hidden talent with his mimed trumpet playing! Perhaps on that occasion he had transported himself into the world of music he loved and for which he had an eclectic taste. He much appreciated the raucous sound of the big bands and the unmistakable earthy voices of such singers as Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen.

Although not quite the drama to which he was accustomed, he did appear, however, in an Open Air Pageant at Wanborough Station in 1991 together with members of NADS and others to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the station in 1881. He was the Station Porter, hamming it up for all he was worth!

He then 'moved-on' in the world of amateur drama and entertainment by voluntarily assisting at WI drama festivals to provide sound background to some of the presentations, particularly for those of the Surrey Federation of Women's' Institutes. He had the unusual distinction, for a man, of being appointed an 'Unofficial Associate Member' of the WI for his services to drama.

The history of the old village hall is well documented and few would deny that the gift made by Lady Louisa Roberts in 1921 would play the role that it undoubtedly did in sustaining the community life of the village to the end of the 20th Century. Trevor was for many years a Trustee and a Manager of the old hall but he will be long remembered as the designer and build supervisor of the new hall at Manor Fruit Farm, for which he was appointed Chairman of the Trustees.

The New Hall at Manor Fruit Farm
The New Hall at Manor Fruit Farm

The new hall bears the original name 'Normandy Village Hall', replacing the old hall which was demolished in February 2002 and the vacated site redeveloped as a small compact housing estate named Old Hall Close. On the roof of the new hall is a weathervane pointing into the direction "from which the wind cometh". The design of the weathervane was the idea of Christine, his wife, and is modelled on the logo of Normandy Historians.

Weathervane on the
New Normandy Village Hall

Weathervane on the new Normandy Village Hall

Ironically Trevor, in his role of Chairman of the Trustees for both the old and the new hall, was instrumental in 1989 in coming to the aid of the Guildford O Gauge Group of railway modellers then desperately seeking new premises for their activities. He arranged and negotiated rental terms for the group to occupy the near derelict room above the back room of the old village hall on Monday nights. With the demolition of the old hall the group moved to temporary premises at Aldershot and were delighted to hear that a clubroom was to be included in the design of the new hall. Trevor arranged a new annual contract for the club so they were able to move right back in when the new hall was completed. The group is but one of a long list of beneficiaries to use the splendid facilities of the new hall.

Trevor's vision, influence and unrelenting drive as Chairman of the Trustees has made Normandy Village Hall a venue to be envied and undoubtedly it will provide the means to sustain the community life of Normandy until at least the end of the 21st Century. Christine recalls her first visit to the newly completed hall and saying jokingly to her husband "They should call this the Trevor Wilks Memorial Hall, the amount of time and effort you've put in!" - a poignant remark in retrospect.

Sadly, in the last few years of his life Trevor was a sufferer of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), a slow progressive form of cancer affecting the body's ability to produce normal blood cells. He passed away peacefully on the 2nd of November 2008, survived by his wife Christine, daughters Katie and Caroline and granddaughter Lily. A celebration and non-religious thanksgiving service for his life was held at Guildford Crematorium on the 13th November 2008 followed by a reception for his family and friends in his beloved 'second home' the village hall.

Trevor was one of those few individuals who made friends easily, rarely fell out with anyone, was well liked and respected by family, friends and work colleagues alike. His presence is missed so much by so many.

Regular user groups of the hall and individuals contributed to a memorial seat in the garden of the hall, suitably sited so that the sitter views 'Stonesthrow', the road to the hall, and the peaceful surroundings of Manor Fruit Farm.

Memorial seat at the Village Hall
Memorial seat at the Village Hall

Peter Blakiston

With my sincere gratitude for notes and memories from: Christine Wilks, Brenda Coleman, Richard Halton, Pat Hunt, Gareth Floyd & Jonathan Pick

Wikipedia links
PS Medway Queen
Kew Bridge Steam Museum

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