Tributes paid to ‘inspirational’ Westham founder of Sussex Guild

Sam Fanaroff at his home with one of his pieces of art (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Sam Fanaroff at his home with one of his pieces of art (Photo by Jon Rigby)

The founder of the Sussex Guild, recently awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the crafts, has died aged 92.

Sam Fanaroff died peacefully at his home in Westham on February 16, according to his loved ones.

Mr Fanaroff receiving his British Empire Medal

Mr Fanaroff receiving his British Empire Medal

Westham Founder of Sussex Guild receives honour for his services to craftspeople

In a moving tribute to Mr Fanaroff, Jonathan Chiswell Jones on behalf of The Sussex Guild called him “an inspiration” to craft workers.

He said, “The Sussex Guild recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and is a lasting testimony to the idealism, vision and determination of its founder. We mourn his passing and celebrate his example.”

Mr Fanaroff moved to Britain in 1950. Mr Chiswell said, “In post-war London, which he called his university, he met anarchist thinkers who affected the course of a long creative life.

“In 1965 Sam and his wife Mary Jo joined another family in Westham to live a communal life off the land and by the work of their hands. After the birth of their son David they moved from their caravan to a cottage in Hailsham.

“Sam spent his working life as a coppersmith in Westham completing church commissions as well as doing repair work and creating one off pieces, which earned him an international reputation.”

Mr Fanaroff’s idea for The Guild of Sussex Craftsmen came to him during an exhibition at Michelham Priory in the 1970s.

It was set up to combat the isolation of craftworkers and to foster friendship and cooperation.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours list celebrated Mr Fanaroff with a BEM for his efforts just last summer.

Speaking to the Herald at the time, he said, “It came out the blue, I had no idea. We were all surprised. You do your work and never think in terms of my reward.

“What we attempted to do was create not just a trade association but a community of craftsmen, that was the ethos, with a concern for the individual.

“So many people have benefitted from its existence. I’m quite proud of some of the things I did.”