Obituary: Mrs Philippa Southall

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Obituary: Mrs Philippa Southall

It is with great sadness that we record the passing of the Waterwork Museum’s President, Philippa Helen Southall, who died in her sleep on 14th May 2017, aged 92 years.

When the Waterworks Museum was founded in 1974, by her husband Stephen Southall, Philippa stood physically and metaphorically by his side and she has continued to support the Museum ever since. She shared the burden of establishing the Museum as a charity and when Stephen died she readily accepted the mantle of Museum President and fulfilled the role to perfection.

The Southall Trust has supported the Museum through thick and thin, and in her roles as Southall Trustee and Museum President Philippa took the greatest interest in developments at the Museum, reading every item of information sent to her. Discussions with Philippa always demonstrated the depth of her knowledge of its inner workings.

In May 2006, the Trustees dedicated the newly created water garden to Stephen and Philippa. Whilst Philippa unveiled the plaque, Stephen directed that ‘the water be turned on!’. As Noel Meeke, then Chairman, said in his address, ‘There is not a single major engineering project at the Museum which has not received their unstinting support.’

One thing we should not forget is that Philippa was a qualified doctor of medicine; one of the pioneering women of her generation who paved the way for others to enter the fields of science and medicine.

A personal remembrance by Emeritus Chairman, Noel Meeke …

Mrs Philippa SouthallThe very first time I met Philippa Southall was in the early 1980s. I had brought our young family to the Museum and the first person I encountered was a lady operating a 19th century till. As she was taking our admission money I casually said that I wouldn’t mind volunteering at some time in the future. She called across to another volunteer and said, ‘Nail this man’s shoes to the ground whilst I fetch my husband!’ So on day one I met them both, Stephen and Philippa.

The machinery at the Museum in those early days comprised mainly the steam engines in Museum Bays 6 and 7. The 1990s saw the Waterworks Museum burgeon with the addition of pumps and engines from Alton Court, the rebuilding of the Tangye House, and the construction of the original visitor centre, Philippa supported them all.

The main building required refurbishment, and later came the news that the first oil-fired boiler was no longer fit for purpose. In each case Philippa listened carefully, weighed up the situation, and acted accordingly. She never let us down.