When we look around our Colchester Campus we can sometimes forget the skill, work and time it took to create our iconic buildings from the Albert Sloman Library to the Hexagon to the Towers.
They were the vision of our original architect Kenneth Capon, but they were turned into reality by teams of local workers.
When I contacted our Communications Office about my friend Terry Beaney, who had recently passed away, and told them how proud he was of his work at the University, they invited me to share a few details of his life.
I hope sharing his story will help you appreciate how special our Colchester Campus is. It’s also a reminder of how many people have played a part in our history and to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.
Terry was a carpenter and his wife Jean describes him as a “small cog in a large wheel”. When he found out I worked at the University of Essex, he told me how he worked there when it was being built in the early 1960s. He was involved in shuttering, making the temporary wooden moulds to hold the liquid concrete until it set and formed walls. He worked on the original buildings including the Hexagon, where it was critical to get the angles right. He enjoyed the challenge of the process and appreciated the details in wood used elsewhere in the building project. Talking with Terry made me look at the older University buildings more carefully, noticing the wood panels in the corridors and the details on the concrete walls.
Terry anticipated many years of work on the University campus, as the original plans proposed 28 Towers. In 1966, he married Jean and they moved to Wivenhoe. In his spare time he started building a bungalow on land belonging to his family in Chappel. After working on the University site, he worked on many other large local projects including the new A12 which bypassed Colchester town centre, the bus station in Lewis Gardens, and the church and shopping centre in Lion Walk. When the enthusiasm for concrete construction faded in the 1980s, he travelled further afield, building houses.
He grew up in Earls Colne and always wanted to be a carpenter, obtaining an apprenticeship with Bones, a builder in Colne Engaine. He was an experienced carpenter, aged 30, when he started working on the University campus. He had found out about the work through his brother Jack, who was a project manager here. He was always proud of his involvement, taking visitors to see the buildings for many years after it was completed. When I first met Terry a few years ago, he was retired and living with Jean in the bungalow he had started building when they first married. Their home does not have any tricky angles or concrete walls, but is full of space, light and a warm welcome. Terry became ill in 2018 with bowel cancer and died peacefully at home in autumn 2020, aged 86 years.
Honorary Professor, University of Essex
Wendy is an Honorary Professor in the School of Health and SocialCare. She practised as an occupational therapist in a range of health and social care settings from 1984 until becoming an academic in 2003. She was based at Brunel University until coming to the University of Essex in autumn 2013.