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Sudbury history man Barry Wall celebrated at town hall commemoration

A fearless, tenacious and devoted historian, who had a gift for bringing Sudbury’s history to life.

That is how town resident Barry Wall was remembered at a recent memorial event.

More than 100 people attended the gathering at the Assembly Room in Sudbury Town Hall to pay their respects.

Barry Wall: ‘a remarkable stalwart of historical research’. Picture courtesy of Ashley Cooper
Barry Wall: ‘a remarkable stalwart of historical research’. Picture courtesy of Ashley Cooper

Mr Wall died shortly before Christmas, aged 88.

The event was organised by Sudbury Historical Society, of which he was chairman for more than 30 years. It was held to “fondly remember and recognise Mr Wall’s invaluable contribution” to Sudbury and local history.

Tributes were paid by three fellow historians and society members: Ashley Cooper, Peter Minter and Roger Green.

Barry Wall presenting a unique catalogue of works by Thomas Gainsborough to Paul Gareth of Sudbury Library, in 2019. Picture by Mark Westley
Barry Wall presenting a unique catalogue of works by Thomas Gainsborough to Paul Gareth of Sudbury Library, in 2019. Picture by Mark Westley

Ashley Cooper, said: “The hall was packed with people wanting to show their appreciation for what Barry had done for the town, and history generally.

“Barry was a towering figure in local history and one of the most significant contributors to our understanding and knowledge of the architecture and history of the town and local area.

“His knowledge of Sudbury’s buildings was simply extraordinary, which he combined with an enormous knowledge of the villages, churches and country houses of East Anglia, together with a great understanding of art and social history.”

Mr Wall, who moved to Sudbury when he was seven, published four books on the town’s history. He also published a fifth on the history of Long Melford.

He was responsible for unearthing a number of new historical facts about the town, adding to its rich history.

He was instrumental in saving St Peter’s from demolition in the 1970s, when he staged a play there to demonstrate its value to the town, which was hugely attended.

He also organised exhibitions, the latest of which in 2022 brought 10,000 visitors to the town.

Mr Cooper added: “Almost anything published on Sudbury today, be it a leaflet, tourist information pamphlet or school materials, will have drawn its information from research Barry carried out and information that he published 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

“What’s more, nearly all of Barry’s research was done in the pre-internet era, when every single iota of fact had to be ferreted out in record offices or by pouring over old manuscripts for hours or days at a time.

“He was an utterly devoted, remarkable stalwart of historical research, who left no stone unturned.

“He was involved in ground-breaking research about the town, which he shared generously and unsparingly. He gave literally hundreds of talks in the area and pioneered walking tours of the town in the 1980s and ‘90s.

“He would never charge a penny for them, and instead pass around a hat for donations in support of St Peter’s. Today, they now happen on an almost weekly basis with volunteers.

“Barry deserves to be remembered and commemorated in some tangible form, with a permanent memorial for him – a man who dedicated his life to local history, sharing it with everyone around him.”