Dorset Historic Churches Trust was founded in May 1959 for the purpose
of raising money in the county to help with the repair and maintenance
of Dorset Churches and was incredibly fortunate in having
as its founder and first chairman Sir Owen Morshead, who combined
great scholarship with a charming
and energetic personality.
was born in 1893 and educated at Marlborough from where, intending an
army career with the Royal Engineers, he entered the Royal Military Academy,
Woolwich. After a change of
mind he entered Magdalene College Cambridge in 1913, where he read engineering.
However, his academic studies were interrupted by the First World
War which led, by any standard, to an exceptional military career.
He was awarded the DSO, MC and Croix de Guerre and was Mentioned
in Dispatches no less than five times.
At the end of hostilities he returned to Magdalene to read Modern
Languages, which culminated in a ‘war’ degree.
His exceptional powers of leadership, scholarship and friendliness
must have impressed the college authorities because he was elected a fellow
despite, because of the war, not having
an honours degree. He
became the Pepys Librarian at Magdalene and he showed great flair in helping
the many scholars who used the library.
His stay in Cambridge was not to be long. In 1926, he was offered the post of Librarian and Assistant Keeper of the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. He
in the same year. His stewardship
of the job was driven by a desire to make as much as possible of the huge
archive available to scholars and, most importantly, to the general public.
Apart from cataloguing drawings from the
Royal collection, he put examples on show to the public.
He became a real friend to King George V and Queen Mary who he
accompanied on visits to country houses and antique shops.
He published several books and contributed articles on King George
V and Lord Stamfordham in the Dictionary of National Biography.
from work he remained a Fellow of Magdalene and became a member of the
Council of Marlborough College, a member of the Board of Management of
King Edward VII’s Hospital, Vice-Chairman of the Windsor Group of Hospitals
together with several other hospital management boards.
During the Second World War he commanded the 9th battalion, Berkshire
Home Guard and from 1946 to 1958 was a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Berkshire.
In retirement he settled in Sturminster Newton. From there, he extensively explored Dorset and personally visited all the county’s churches, sometimes several times. In the early days, to his many friends and colleagues, he was the Trust. He advised Sir Nikolaus Pevsner while writing his definitive guide to the buildings of Dorset. Sir Owen completed three editions of the Trust's very popular 'Dorset Churches' (the best of which has just been re-printed). By all accounts, he was a very friendly person and a most entertaining conversationalist with a huge store of anecdotes. He was a genuine connoisseur of almost everything and it is therefore slightly surprising to discover that this did not extend to either food or wine and he had a dislike of formal dinners.
was married with one son and two daughters. He died in June 1977.