Roger Lockyer, Head of History at Lancing College 1954-1961 (October 2017)

Roger sadly died on 28 October 2017, his time at Lancing was hugely influential on those he taught at the College. After Lancing Roger became a successful author and professional historian at Royal Holloway College where he became a reader. We are happy to include these personal reflections on his life by two OLs, Christopher Meyer and Charles Anson together with Stan Houston, retired Head of History at KCS Wimbledon, Roger’s old school.

‘Learning worn lightly, the ability to inspire, love of tolerance - Roger had all these things and more. He may have been the single most important influence on my life’

‘Roger Lockyer was the outstanding teacher in my time at Lancing in a galaxy of other teachers we were lucky enough to have including John Dancy, Bernard Fielding and Donald Bancroft. Roger stood out for two reasons for me. He was such an engaging, witty character who had that rare gift of valuing all you said, regardless of whether it might have been nonsense, encouraging you to say it and then engaging in a genuine dialogue. He was a marvellous listener as well as teacher. He encouraged the exchange of ideas. You left every conversation you had with him feeling as if you had just had a very good glass of champagne and that life really was fun as well as stimulating.

And that for me was the key to his other outstanding gift which was to make the subject of history come alive. It was not just some dry old Tudor Monarch or republican tyrant (e.g. Oliver Cromwell) you were studying as part of the syllabus, but rather a warm blooded human being in history that he described and brought alive to the class. He gave one the thirst to learn more, the gift of enquiry, so that you really wanted to learn more about history. I looked forward to the next class with Roger the moment the present one ended. That love of history endured into adulthood and beyond.

In more practical terms, as a pupil of average intelligence and application, I became curious and for the first time started to have an ambition to go to university. Inspired by Roger’s infectious love of history, I then worked flat out on other subjects too and managed to get into Cambridge and subsequently into the Foreign Office. So I feel that, in many ways, I owed him my career and what turned out to be a very interesting life.

Roger also instilled in his pupils a great tolerance of other human beings, respect for the liberal tradition and combined these serious traits with a spirit of fun. He started at Lancing a history society called Leviathan, at which he met with a small group of students in the evening once a month over drinks. Discussion ranged over contemporary political topics or political philosophers such as Hobbs or Locke. Roger could make out of some slightly dry but important subject something really thrilling. He was the ultimate life-enhancer and we were lucky to have him for some of his best years at Lancing.

‘Roger’s most impressive and lasting contribution to seventeenth century was an immensely detailed and readable biography of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham published in 1991. Both elegant and persuasively revisionist, this book scraped away much of the grime that had smeared Buckingham’s reputation. It made extensive use not only of national archives but also those of the quai d’Orsay, Simancas and the Palacio Real – a rare feat for an English historian at this time. Roger portrayed a favourite who matured into a political heavy weight and in doing so became an influence over many aspects of English life, a purchaser of Titians and Tintorettos, a patron of the botanist John Tradescant and an early donor of Arabic manuscripts to the Cambridge University Library. The book made clear the intimate relationship between the young man and James l and, then, as Buckingham married and had a family, a continuing close society in which his children were said to play and dance around the royal apartments ‘like fairies’. Roger’s work permanently enriched our understanding of Jacobean politics and culture as well as the country’s place in the Europe of its time.’