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Obituary: John Beal – Pennington archivist who captured local social history

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a Pennington man who captured the social history of the area through his passion for film.

John Beal was referred to as “the leading archivist of our time for what will be the social history of Lymington” in 2017 by David Rule, the then chair of trustees of the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery.

A passionate amateur historian and film-maker, John was often spotted out and about wielding his camera to capture the goings-on of local events, such as visits by royals, annual carnivals and the New Forest Show.

John Beal
John Beal

He also documented local scenes – rural and urban – such as Lymington High Street, with his footage capturing the subtle changes, such as the loss of Woolworths and the emergence of Poundland in its place.

Those recordings and research have now been snapped up by the Goldhill Museum in Shaftesbury, and archivists have been tasked with ordering John’s work for future displays.

Relatives Colin and Christine Beal told the A&T: “John’s legacy will live on for generations to come. He would quite simply want to be thought of as ‘a Pennington person at peace’.”

Born in Bournemouth to parents Rose and William Beal and big sister Mary, the family moved to Pennington in the early 1950s where they embraced life in the local community.

Former nanny Rose adored her children, Mary and John, and William worked hard as an upholsterer.

The children attended Pennington Junior School and Priestlands and their early years passed uneventfully.

Although John perhaps had an undiagnosed disability, it may have turned out to be his greatest gift as his ability to collect data so meticulously was beyond question.

When William suddenly died, the siblings were required to work to support their family home and John got a job as a precision engineer, a livelihood he held for 46 years – firstly with V.P.S. Ltd before it transitioned to E.D.L. Broomco Ltd.

He had many well-wishers on his retirement in 2011 and was held in the highest regard by colleagues.

Early retirement gave John the opportunity to indulge in his historical fact-finding and videoing, and he came to know the stallholders at Lymington market extremely well.

John never married, having lost the love of his life through illness when she was just 32 years old. He always spoke of her with great affection right up until the time he died.

He had some fantastic experiences, such as attending the first rock concert at Glastonbury while staying with his auntie Gertie.

“In 1970 no one could have imagined the iconic developments to follow at Glastonbury, now televised live and broadcast around the world,” Christine and Colin said.

“However, John Beal was there first! John had ‘been there, done that’ yet didn’t get to ‘wear the T-shirt’ as the personalisation of T-shirts had not yet begun.”

They added: “John’s family, Colin, Christine, Alex and Felicity would like to thank Elaine Barrett, director of Goldhill Museum in Shaftesbury, for accepting John’s work.

“Elaine’s team of archivists have been tasked with ordering John’s work and will then distribute it accordingly within the locality for generations to come.”

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