Jay Appleton obituary

Publié le par The Guardian by John Houghton-Moss

Jay Appleton obituary
Jay Appleton obituary

The geographer Jay Appleton, who has died aged 95, devised the theory of “prospect-refuge”, which sought to explain why people feel safe in certain environments and not in others. Jay spent his entire career at Hull University, and I was a student of his there from 1968 to 1971.

In his 1975 book The Experience of Landscape, he argued that most people have an “inborn desire” for environments that provide the capacity to observe (prospect) without being seen (refuge). He attributed this urge to early human development in the savannah lands of Africa, where hunter-gatherers had a wide field of view across the grasslands as well as places to hide from danger. His theory became influential in many areas, including landscape design, architecture and art history.

Jay was born in Headingley, Leeds, to James, a Church of England clergyman, and Lilian (nee Ayers), but spent his early years living in vicarages across Norfolk. After Shrewsbury school, he graduated from Oxford University in 1940, and during the second world war was a conscientious objector working on bomb disposal with the Royal Engineers in London. After the war he was for a time a fruit farmer until he attended King’s College in Newcastle (now Newcastle University), where he studied for a master’s degree in geography.

In the early 1950s Jay joined the teaching staff of the geography department at Hull, and he remained there until his retirement in 1985 as a highly popular lecturer specialising in historical and transport geography. He was required to submit a PhD thesis as a condition of employment at Hull, and this was later published in 1962 as a book, The Geography of Communications in Great Britain, with help from the university librarian, the poet Philip Larkin. In the late 1950s Jay also wrote a series of Norfolk dialect stories that were broadcast by the BBC. 

In 1970 he compiled a report for the Countryside Commission, Disused Railways in the Countryside of England and Wales, which identified new uses for former railway land.

When Jay retired, a series of biennial Appleton lectures was established at Hull. These attracted speakers of the highest calibre and were events that Jay relished attending. In retirement he wrote a series of poetry books, many of which are still in print, and he also worked with the landscape photographer Simon Warner at the Royal Geographical Society to put on an exhibition in early 2014 that featured Simon’s photographs in conjunction with some of Jay’s texts on prospect-refuge. The exhibition was subsequently taken to Halifax and Edinburgh and is due to open in Bath in late June.

Jay’s wife, Iris (nee Hearn), whom he married in 1943, died in 2006. He is survived by three sons, Richard, Mark and Charles, and by six grandchildren, Helen, Emily, James, Jessica, Robert and Nicholas. 

Pour être informé des derniers articles, inscrivez vous :
Commenter cet article