I was sad to learn that Father Michael Fisher, teacher, priest and scholar, has died.
He was a leader in studying the work of the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin who was sponsored by John, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, building Catholic churches in the Gothic Revival style across the North Midlands and particularly around the Earl’s seat at Alton Towers, near Cheadle in Staffordshire.
Michael was educated at Leek High School and the universities of Leicester and Keele and, after serving as Head of History at King Edward VI Grammar School, Stafford, was ordained in the Church of England in 1979.
He had visited Alton Towers from boyhood, and remembered the dismemberment of the house in 1951.
In the late 1990s the Tussauds Group, then owners of the ruins and the gardens as part of their theme park, commissioned Michael to investigate the history of the site and make recommendations about how they should be conserved.
This work led to his detailed study Alton Towers: a Gothic wonderland (Michael Fisher 1999), which was followed by a succession of books on Pugin’s work in and around Staffordshire.
His knowledge of Alton Towers enabled him to guide and encourage the present owners to respect the history of the place.
He contributed to the understanding and conservation of St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham – an Anglican priest on a Catholic committee, bringing what was described at his funeral as a “warm, ecumenical heart” to the enhancement of one of Pugin’s major buildings.
On the day of his funeral, at the church where he ministered, St Chad’s, Stafford, requiem mass was sung in his honour and remembrance at St Chad’s Cathedral.
I met him only once, when I was planning my Pugin and the Gothic Revival tour which took place in September 2019.
One of my regular tour-guests happened to be Michael’s school contemporary, who gave me the privilege of enlisting him to show the group St Giles’ Roman Catholic Church in Cheadle and the tiny parish church of St John, Alton.
I couldn’t possibly have asked for a finer introduction to the area and the architect than Michael’s elegant, insightful guiding. We were very, very lucky to have him show us round.