Sussex mourns a major figure in the arts world

Sussex is remembering a “passionate and committed lover” of the arts who created huge opportunities for young and established musicians and artists.

Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 5:56 pm
David Bowerman

David Bowerman, who has died, was High Sheriff of West Sussex from 1990 to 1991.

He was also the creator of the Music Room at Champs Hill at Coldwaltham – a venue which continues to attract classical musicians from all over the world to the heart of West Sussex.

The venue sees around 30 concerts a year, with art days and garden openings.

Among the artists who have performed or recorded at the hall are Sir Thomas Allen, the Belcea Quartet, Ian Bostridge, Christine Brewer, Simon Callow, Nikolai Demidenko, English Chamber Orchestra, Stephen Isserlis, Simon Keenlyside, Viktoria Mullova, the Nash Ensemble, Raphael Wallfisch and Judith Weir.

Additionally, Champs Hill often hosts live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.

David, who was born in 1936, was well recognised in the art world as well as the classical music world, being made an honorary member of the Royal College of Music by Prince Charles in 2005.

The Bowerman Charitable Trust, which David established in 1984, seeks to promote classical music and art, including the support of young musicians and artists, as well as the growth of the Christian faith.

His wife Mary said: “Sadly David’s health deteriorated over the last five years.

“His humour and intelligence were very much to the fore, as well as a continued generous spirit, although he was unable to participate easily in all the activities taking place at Champs Hill.”

Long-term friend Michael Follis remembers David warmly: “Our friendship developed after meeting David and Mary 35 years ago, with our mutual love of music establishing many conversations and experiences.

“David was a passionate supporter of so much in the musical world – establishing numerous and generous scholarships to help outstanding young performers complete their studies, donating prizes at major competitions and providing recording opportunities for some of the most talented. Many of today’s celebrated performers owe a great deal to David and Mary for their invaluable assistance at the start of their careers.

“The formation of Champs Hill Records was a bold and extraordinary achievement: a small independent label that garnered rave review after rave review and concentrated on either giving opportunities for the stars of the future or the recording of unjustly neglected works by some of the major artists of today. So highly regarded was this enterprise that it received the coveted award from the Royal Philharmonic Society.

“In live performance so much of great quality has been delivered locally – from Music at Boxgrove of which David was chairman some years ago to the concerts at his and Mary’s home, Champs Hill, most of which would grace the world’s major recital venues.

“David’s arts support extended to young visual artists – many of them receiving career-enhancing commissions.

“On a personal level The Bowerman Trust became a wonderful supporter of the Petworth Festival during my directorship and that support remains today. I was delighted to be invited to be a Trustee of the Bowerman Trust where I learnt of all the non-musical ventures that received such generous support, including some I am associated with.

“David was a passionate and committed lover of the full breadth of the arts world – even the occasional contemporary work! There are so many who are in his debt. He will be greatly missed and leaves endless fond memories with those, like me, who were lucky enough to count him as a terrific friend.”

Anna Hill, chairman of the Chichester Chamber Concerts series, also underlined David’s importance to the county.

“David Bowerman made a huge contribution to music in this country and has given vital support and encouragement to young musicians in many ways, including the valuable opportunity to make recordings at Champs Hill and to perform for the loyal audience in the beautiful setting of his Music Room.

“David has been most generous to many charities, including Chichester Chamber Concerts, by inviting them to put on fund-raising musical events in the Music Room. In this context we have had the enormous pleasure of hearing pianist Martin Helmchen, the Sacconi Quartet and violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky perform there on various occasions.”

David William Bowerman was born in 1936, to parents who were farming in West Sussex. The war years were disturbing, being near to the airfield in Ford.

David went away to a public boarding school, Monkton Coombe, where he excelled in both sport (cricket and rubgy) and music. He proved to be a respected leader both during his years at school, and again when he went on to read science at Reading University.

David’s parents retired to Champs Hill in 1960, and David took over the running of the farm at Courtwick Park, breeding prize Hereford cattle (where he travelled throughout the world, to export his bulls), and also became expert at vegetable growing, especially brussels sprouts!

David married Mary in 1961; they have three daughters, two of whom are married to clergymen in large churches in London, with seven grandchildren between them. Their third daughter has recently retired from nursing (though does voluntary work with deaf children). David and Mary moved to Champs Hill in 1986, a year before the famous storm, which enabled them to create a whole new garden.

David became a lay reader in the Church of England, and had been assistant organist at St. Margaret’s, Angmering, playing regularly every Sunday. He was chairman of the Arundel Bench, and Juvenile Bench; chairman of the West Sussex Probation Service; founded a charity in West Sussex looking after the rehabilitation of offenders when leaving prison, which was originally known as CRI (Crime Reduction Initiatives); and he was highly respected throughout several different counties.

He was High Sheriff of West Sussex from 1989 to 1990; was made a Deputy Lieutenant and was awarded a CBE in 2004 for his services to West Sussex.

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