Geoff Egan RIP

Published: 10 years ago Author:

London Bridge Anniversary Fayre

The Scheme is very sad to announce the untimely death of our friend and colleague Geoff Egan. Geoff died shortly before Christmas from a coronary thrombosis at home. He will be missed by all who have been touched by his presence. An appreciation of Geoff has been posted by Paul Courtney, Society for Post-medieval Archaeology at

In due course more tributes will be collated on our site.

Requiescat in pace.

Contact: The Portable Antiquities Scheme +44 (0)20 7323 8618


There are 27 comments on this story.

  • charles bullock wrote @ 20:27:06 on the 5th January 2011.

    I was deeply saddened to hear of the untimely death of Geoff Egan, I met Geoff a few times at the Museum of London during my time as a Thames Mudlark. Quite often after a dig the words " one for Geoff " would come up,in fact a dig was not a dig without a piece for Geoff to see. His books are masterpieces and will always hold pride of place on my shelves.

  • Dave Applegate wrote @ 21:35:52 on the 5th January 2011.

    It is with great regret and sadness to learn of the death of Geoff Egan. Geoff was a wonderful archaeologist, and his knowledge of medieval finds was unsurpassed. Geoff was a renown expert on cloth seals and he identified many examples that I personally recovered. Archaeology and the Portable Antiquities Scheme have lost a truly great talent. Geoff's longstanding legacy is the wonderful series of publications he has left which stand as a fitting memorial to a remarkable individuals life's work. R.I.P Geoff.

    Dave Applegate

  • Ceinwen wrote @ 21:41:40 on the 5th January 2011.

    Geoff was an inspiration,modest though brilliant and he taught me everything that I ever wanted to know-and more-about dress accessories and Hanseatic League cloth seals!I'm going to miss him and miss knowing he's at the end of a phone or email.

  • Tom Redmayne wrote @ 11:29:03 on the 6th January 2011.

    Very, very sad news and a huge loss to the heritage world, the BM, PAS and to anyone who just needed a friendly chat about that interesting object that they had found. His outstanding written works are the standard reference sources for so many people and he was always approachable and willing to talk.

    I was only talking to Geoff last month about one of my finds and we were looking forward to discussing it more in the new year.

    He will be very greatly missed.

  • Peter Twinn wrote @ 19:31:58 on the 6th January 2011.

    Geoff was a giant amongst us lesser mortals, his knowledge and interest in all things archaeological was beyond what many of us could ever hope to achieve. His legacy was to leave us a corpus of works that generations shall refer to both now and in the future. Geoff on my part will be remembered for his ability to make you feel at ease with him, truly he was a man within whom there was no guile. He is a great loss and will be sadly missed.

    Peter Twinn

  • Steve Rice wrote @ 21:06:16 on the 6th January 2011.

    I only met Geoff once, but the meeting had a lasting effect. His energy and enthusiasm for Archaeology, and his close relationship with the hobby of Metal Detecting, will never be forgot. RIP.

  • Alan Radley wrote @ 10:44:22 on the 7th January 2011.

    A lovely chap. First met him a few years ago when he gave a talk at my club, on lead seals and pilgrim ampullas. Last time I spoke to him was at the PAS conference in 2009. A very aproachable and knowledgable person. He will be missed by all.

  • David Mortimer-Kelly wrote @ 17:35:59 on the 7th January 2011.

    When I first met Geoff he immediately identified a button I showed him at a Meeting of Lancs detecting Club. He was keen to include it in one of his books. I found it at a sight near Pennington in Cumbria that was the sight of an English Civil War skirmish. It was a blue and white enamelled button that would only have been worn by the retinue of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Geoff was very passionate about the artefacts he studied and a mine of information. I am glad that I had the privaledge of meeting him.

  • Steve brooker mudlark wrote @ 17:59:48 on the 8th January 2011.

    I'd been working with geoff for nine weeks leading up to his tragic death and geoff as an archaeologist was a truly a brilliant man, a real genius in finds and of course we all know.

    I'd known him for years, but eating and drinking with him everyday l saw a side to geoff that i had'nt really taken notice of before, extremely funny, very quick witted and a really top bloke to be with.........just one of the boys really, when it boiled down to it.

    I really will miss that moth-eaten shirt and that tiny ruck-sack with all his worldly possessions in me geoff was "a one and only"..............a lovely man and a great loss to everyone................i still cant believe he's not here any more, such a sad loss.

  • Heather Cunningham wrote @ 21:13:12 on the 8th January 2011.

    I met Geoff though working on my Master's dissertation on medieval buckles and strap-ends. I acutally crashed a conference so that I could have a 15 minute conversation with him, and I was completely in awe of his knowledge and at the same time his willingness to share and teach me.

    Later I had the chance to talk to him again at the Church Archaeology in York, and I am very glad I felt brave enough to go up and chat with him, we ended up having a heated discussion several hours later in the pub about John Wayne vs. Clint Eastwood. He really was a great guy and he know so much about so many interesting things.

    I suppose having only met him a few times, I can not justify saying that I will miss him more than his close friends but I will miss knowing there will be a friendly face at conferences and I will miss the lost oppurtunities of working with such a great archaeologist again.

  • Vanessa brady wrote @ 14:31:06 on the 9th January 2011.

    Geoff was the kindest funniest member of the family. He managed to say just the right thing at family occasions to provoke thought and debate. Geoff lived in London and we lived in Dorset. I remember him being reserved as an only child growing up. He was always particularly kind to me during my childhood and later as a young mother and when I had moved to London he was the closest member of family my daughter has ever had. He arranged for Lavinia to do work experience at the London museum while she was at Edinburgh University and they became two naughty children. It showed me a side of Geoff I had not known. He was very funny. His stories from the people he met and the things that had happened around the world had us in stitches. When he came for lunch he and Lavinia didn't stop laughing. I was closer to him in the past ten years than ever and he saw in Lavinia also an only child much of himself growing up. We kept in touch and i have a haunting voice message on my phone from him still. When he didn't show up for lunch or call we thought he had confused the dates. He left behind Graham also an only child and the closest thing to a brother Geoff had. It is the end of an era. He didn't marry. His Aunt, and Grahams mothers funeral was also just a few weeks ago. I remember joining Geoff on the Thames and at Sandbanks beach as a child and he would pick up a 'stone' to describe what part of a ancient pot it was, who would have used it as well as it's approximate age and composition. We used to think he was so clever and he was. He was a walking encyclopaedia like his father Harold. Geoff used to buy me chocolates and as he was leaving he would pull out a beautifully wrapped box of truffles from Fortnum & Mason out of that duffle bag on his back and pull up that duffle coat summer or winter. Geoff you will never be forgotten in my heart for the kindness you showed to me and Lavinia over the years. I never told him I don't like truffles, he would have laughed at that. I was so shocked to receive the call from Graham after we arranged a visit. Geoffrey was a star, a true national treasure himself. RIP Vanessa Brady

  • Alison Goodall wrote @ 10:38:58 on the 10th January 2011.

    It was a terrible shock to hear of Geoff's untimely death. It is hard to believe that jovial and amiable friend and colleague is no longer here. I first met Geoff when he was an undergraduate in the mid 70s, and my brother's friend. Later I would meet him regularly at archaeological meetings and conferences as we began to work on similar topics. It was great to bounce ideas off him and to benefit from his wide-ranging knowledge. He was a true antiquary, following in the tradition of the great antiquarians of the 18th and 19th centuries, gentle, witty and learned.

  • Graham Martin wrote @ 18:16:20 on the 10th January 2011.

    I have read so many tributes to my beloved cousin, Geoff, and for this I thank all who have posted.

    If I began to write about Geoff on any of the forums I really wouldn't know where to stop, except to wipe a tear, I would simply run out of space. There's just so much to say and just nowhere on any forum is there the space available to me to do him justice.

    I know just how many people out there loved, cherished and valued Geoff both academically and personally, no one more so than I. Although not a religious man, I thank God that not only did I know him, but that he was also the nearest thing I ever had to a brother.

    Rest in peace Geoff xx

  • John Winter wrote @ 22:02:17 on the 10th January 2011.

    Geoff's untimely death was a shock to us all. I first met him at a museum open day when he presented a paper on bag seals. Until that moment never realised just how important and interesting the subject was. Fascinating.

    I met him on several occasions after that and came to realise what a fine fellow he was and a great friend to detectorists. I recently introduced him to a detectorist in Durham who had found lots of seals in the River Wear. The next thing I knew was that Geoff had travelled North to examine the seals. Nothing ever seemed too much bother.

    Geoff has been an inspiration to me as well as others and will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.

  • John Mills wrote @ 22:32:37 on the 10th January 2011.

    News of Geoff's death came as a great shock indeed. I was privileged to recently make Geoff's acquaintance and to spend several days in his company and was extremely saddened to hear of his passing.

    Not only was he a genius but he really was a lovely, warm man with a great sense of humour. Absolutely no airs and graces.

    Rest in peace, Geoff.

  • Mike Heyworth wrote @ 22:50:40 on the 10th January 2011.

    It was with great sadness that I heard about Geoff's untimely passing.

    I first worked with him back in the late 1980s when I was in the Ancient Monuments Laboratory of English Heritage and we worked together on the analaysis of a wide-range of medieval dress accessories from London (together with Justine Bayley & Frances Pritchard). Since then I have often admired his amazing knowledge of a wide range of material culture, and also enjoyed sharing his company. I last saw him in early December at the launch of the Treasure Act report and he was in good humour, as always. I shall long remember his laughter, among his other many qualities.

  • John Auld (mudlark) wrote @ 23:39:37 on the 10th January 2011.

    First met Geoff in the 1970s when he used to surface search the Thames It was inevitable that he would join the Museum of London His knowledge of archaeology and small finds was immense a quiet but hugely knowledgeable man taken at far too young an age we will miss him

  • Dot Boughton wrote @ 16:26:08 on the 12th January 2011.

    I couldn't believe what I saw when I opened Roger's email that told us the sad news just after Christmas. Geoff had been up in Lancashire just a couple of weeks before Christmas - it must have been one of his last trips - and he seemed fine even though suffering from an upset stomach. I always admired him for having accumulated such a huge amount of knowledge and being so kind in sharing it with everybody including younger finders and metal detectorists. He spoke to Blackpool MD Club when he came up and unlike many other presentions, his were never boring or pointless. He caught the attention of the finders and he always had something encouraging to say. Geoff would always take his time to identify an object and then, weeks later when I'd already given up hope that the object in question could be identified at all, a letter from Geoff would turn up - with photocopies, notes and images. He was so interested and knowledgeable... his passing away is such a great loss and having seen him (albeit not well) so close before his untimely death, makes me feel very, very sad. You'll be missed, Geoff - by me and the metal detectorists of Cumbria and Lancashire.

  • Deb Klemperer wrote @ 11:34:56 on the 14th January 2011.

    From another news item here, now deleted?

    Bill and I are very saddened to hear of Geoff’s death. We will always remember pleasant times with him, his dry sense of humour, his professional support, his eager interest in finds, his wonderful artefact training sessions, his modesty – and his utter astonishment, many years ago, when, as a guest at our house one weekend he was awakened by our curious and friendly 6 and 4-year-olds jumping on him at 7am, asking him to join in playing with their Duplo (lego)..

    Comment by Deb Klemperer — January 4, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    Thanks for getting in touch Deb and sharing the heartwarming story about Geoff. I shall always remember Geoff’s complete lack of pretention in all his conversations with me, despite the fact that his sentences were so peppered with historic and literary references that he caused me to constantly rush to consult Wikipedia. He was a very wise man who was a joy to spend time with, and we all miss him.

    Comment by Ian Richardson — January 6, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  • Brian Read wrote @ 11:20:07 on the 19th January 2011.

    I am deeply shocked about the loss of Geoff Egan. I had been privileged to know Geoff for a goodly number of years & considered him a good friend. I am but a lowly metal-detectorist, yet it was never beneath Geoff to consult me for an opinion on some small object of metalwork. He kindly proofread & scribed the foreword to several of my books, & always proffered much advice & encouragment. Roger, I can only echo your comment (& many other peoples' comments), how do we find another with Geoff Egan's vast knowledge concerning, in the main, small utilitarian metal artefacts of yesteryear? It is said that no one is indespensible; but in Geoff's case, he probably is (I know of only one person who could possibly fill the gap, but here it is inappropriate to give a name). Geoff was a true antiquarian & one of those enlightened archaeologists who early on recognised the important contribution metal-detectorists made to understanding the material evidence of our past. A fitting memorial to Geoff will be for us all to fight for the continuance of the PAS & eradication of intolerance from whatever camp one is in.

    Geoff, I shall miss your quiet way, your sharp wit, twinkling eyes & shaggy head. RIP dear friend.

    Brian Read

  • Stuart Elton wrote @ 17:01:19 on the 20th January 2011.

    I had several email contacts with Geoff and met him once but was hoping to meet him again this January as he was always supportive and encouraging of my amature efforts with lead seals. He much preferred in hand examinations to 'computer' ones and I have about 40 sitting here that I was saving to show him. I wish I had made the effort sooner to tap that unique knowledge - his books and papers are a wonderful consolation but no substitute for the man himself.

  • Alan Kershaw wrote @ 16:15:18 on the 22nd January 2011.

    Geoff and I started on the same day at Harrow County Boys' School in September 1963. We studied Classics together throughout. His passion for all things old was obvious from the first. Even at the age of 12 his bedroom resembled a museum more than a living space, and he lost no time in inveigling several of us to Saturday morning digs in the mud at Blackfriars when the Thames tides were right. The stink on the way home meant that we frequently ended up with a tube carriage all to ourselves. Throughout his life he was a man of the greatest good humour, bonhomie and affability, a great companion and the truest of friends. H was with the rest of us at a party just twelve days before he died, in his usual form and (as far as we could tell) his usual state of health. Oh how we are going to miss you, Geoff. There won't be another like you. Nature broke the mould.

  • Stephen Games wrote @ 20:36:23 on the 22nd January 2011.

    Alan Kershaw has just emailed the news of Geoff's death to the group of half-a-dozen or so friends who knew him at Harrow County. This comes as a terrible shock. Admittedly, he hadn't looked well for several years – terribly over-weight and sweating profusely – and perhaps one of us should have had the presence of mind to encourage him to get himself checked out. Not that he would ever have listened to such advice. He was social, but he was also a loner, living by himself in the house in Sudbury, near Harrow, that he'd inherited from his parents, and that he remained in as it gradually decayed around him, augmented only by huge piles of books (I have photos, somewhere, that show it, and him, in what seemed like picturesque decline, its interior decoration suspended in time since the early 1960s). This was Geoff's base, and from it he travelled widely to digs and conferences around the world – always, unusually, in surprisingly well-made hand-tailored clothes that belied the state of his home. For our first two years at grammar school, Geoff and I were part of a threesome, with David Passingham, now in Bilbao, in one of the school's four scout troops, and much of our fun was honed at easter and summer camps, ridiculing the conventions of scouting and, of course, of the teaching staff we'd left back in London. Especially important to Geoff's future career, however, was an eccentric uncle of mine who'd given up his career as a pharmacist to investigate dowsing, and thence archaeology. Following their meeting, the two spent many weekend afternoons together, looking for Bronze Age remains on the Barn Hill nature reserve, and this, Geoff told me many times, helped to fix the idea for him of archaeology as a calling. We lost touch after school and only got together again ten years ago, after a school reunion, since when we've talking occasionally on the phone, met for the occasional meal, and gathered to sing carols at the Christmas party of another of our reunited school group. Whenever we met, we talked about meeting and then failed to do so, so busy was his diary. About 18 months ago, I was in touch with Geoff about the Finnish art historian Tancred Borenius, who more recently got identified as the spy who'd lured Rudolf Hess to the UK in the war, and we talked briefly about the possibility of organising an exhibition about him, following my discovery of some of his papers. This too came to nothing. And at Christmas, we discovered that we were both about to become freemen of the city of London, and discussed having our joining ceremonies together. Now that won’t happen either. Geoff, you were an elusive sod, but you didn’t have to underline it by having a heart attack. God bless you.

  • Alan Bennington wrote @ 13:16:35 on the 23rd January 2011.

    Geoff and I were best friends at primary school (Perrin Road, Sudbury). Even then he was fiercely proud of his collection of clay pipes and ammonites! To have that degree of enthusiasm for a subject at an early age and to have it stay with you throughout your whole career is a rare gift. I remember arriving at school the day after the 11 Plus results came out and we discovered that we were the only two who were going on to Harrow County. In our great glee we danced together around the playground!

    At secondary school we drifted apart socially and academically, he into the classics and me into sciences, and then it was over thirty years before we met again at a reunion of Old Gaytonians. I was a little shocked at his increased girth, both around the waistline and the facial hairline, but I guess it was entirely in keeping with the eccentric nature of his personality and lifestyle. How sad to think of him dying alone over Christmas. I'm so sorry to have missed out on a lifetime of friendship with him.

    Alan Bennington

  • Stephen Frost wrote @ 11:16:18 on the 24th January 2011.

    I will always have a special feeling for Geoff because as others from Harrow County School will recall, we had to sit in alphabetical order in the first year, and he and I shared the same desk together during our first traumatic year in Form 1A of 1963, in our form room in B14, overlooking Sheepcote Road. Geoff was an only child and commuted to school on the 18 bus every day from North Wembley. He lived at Medway Gardens and inherited that house when his parents passed away.

    His specialization in classics meant that as years passed, he tended to circulate with other outstanding classicists of the 1963 year – Kershaw, Robinson, King, Murdie, Woods, others. He was also an active member of the HCS scout troop. Since I specialized in other subjects and was in the CCF, we say each other less in the middle years of school.

    I went youth hostelling with Geoff, Boris Robinson and Alan Kershaw, in Scotland in August 1969 and around Ireland in August 1970, linking up with Peter Hall. A great time.

    I think that Geoff was the only PhD from our year of 1963, is that correct? I think so, and it is very sad for him to pass away so early.

    Geoff was always a little shy, keeping his own company for much of the time. In the sixth form, I remember he always kept a metal rule in his briefcase, I don’t know why, he had long dropped maths. And a Swiss army knife. The first time I had ever seen one. I have my fourth now. And where I live I can still carry it in my pocket.

    When we resumed contact by email a few years ago, he told me much about his past. Although he missed out on Oxbridge, he did his first degree at London University and later his PhD there. *Editor comment: Geoff actually went to Peterhouse, Cambridge and subsequently London.

    He was very happy in his work of mediaeval archaeology, and commented wryly that it seemed so strange that his Saturday visits with school friends to the Thames embankment picking up fragments of clay pipes could have led to a career in archaeology, and many book titles to his credit. He also told me, with a little sadness, that he had never married and about the two relationships that had that never quite led to that final step. Nevertheless, he loved his work and the many opportunities for travel and lecturing that it provided.

    He leaves behind many book titles, and many friends, from school days at Harrow County and later.

    Stephen Frost

  • Michael Schwartz wrote @ 03:51:12 on the 2nd February 2011.

    As Stephen Frost says,there was a wonderful group of classicists in the 1963 Harrow County intake. As a 1965 classicist at Harrow County, I looked up to these students with respect. I am very sorry to learn of Geoff's passing - who will take his place?

  • Mike Robinson wrote @ 23:07:19 on the 7th March 2011.

    Stephen King, Dave Passingham , Alan Kershaw, Geoff Egan and I all studied classics at Harrow County from the age of 11. Our mentor was Bernard Marchant - a great scholar in his own right who dedicated his life to sharing his love and enthusiasm with us. “I never cease to be amazed that you are willing to devote your adolescent lives to the classics” he remarked on one occasion. Stephen subsequently went to Lancaster University, Dave to UCL and Alan and Geoff to Cambridge, while I chose Oxford. While we were still at school, Geoff would lead us into the Thames mud, and show us his already extensive collection of clay pipes and bottles. We also regularly visited his parents’ house in Sudbury, which was already packed with the books and relics collected by his father. As well as the travels referred to by Stephen Frost above, in the late seventies Geoff and I hired a small car and spent a couple of weeks travelling round Portugal and Northern Spain. After an extremely scary few minutes with Geoff at the wheel and narrowly avoiding oncoming lorries on winding mountain roads, I drove for the rest of the time. He stayed with public transport thereafter…….. Dave, Geoff and I spent many hours listening to the Incredible String Band: "No one can do it for you Make your own sky blue Make your own dreams come true Make it come true." Geoff did indeed make his own dreams come true. What a tragedy that he had so little time to enjoy his success.

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