Monday, 5 October 2015

Matthew Hyde. 1947-2015

Matthew leads a tour of Christ Church, Macclesfield.

It's rare in life to meet someone who genuinely changes the way you think on a fundamental level about any given subject, who inspires and guides you. When you do meet these people, as well as  being inspirational and generous with their knowledge they tend to be genuinely nice. Matthew Hyde, whose funeral was today and whom died a couple of weeks ago was one of these people.

The first time I spent any amount of time with Matthew was on one of his famous guided walks through the town of Macclesfield during the Barnaby Festival. In the course of the two or so hours of that walk Matthew changed the way I looked and felt about the town I live in. As well as being an engaging and eloquent guide he had a remarkable depth of knowledge of the town and it's history and was able to provide context as well as detail and made the story of the town live. We looked at castle walls and lampposts, he showed us a mature English Elm standing quietly but majestically close to the town centre. He opened our eyes to the small wonders of our home.

When the plaster was knocked off the wall of the old Rose's shoe shop on Mill Street to reveal a remarkable stone wall consisting of several phases of construction and including a date stone, the first person I told was Matthew. At the time I wondered if some of this building was the old castle, but the general consensus is it wasn't. I started a small campaign to save the wall which was eventually plastered back over as leaving it open to the elements would be detrimental to it's preservation. The date stone was uncovered and perhaps one day we'll find out if it was contemporary with the castle or not; Matthew and I had different ideas about this but he encouraged me in my efforts to record the site.

When the ill-conceived and ill-designed Wilson Bowden scheme was being fought against it was ideas stemming from my discussions with Matthew that formed the basis of much of the reasoning I had formulated for the argument against the development. The driving concept of this was that Macclesfield was an ancient town, dating back pre-domesday and the present day layout of the centre was medieval in origin and that should be at the core of any plans for the town's development. I felt very strongly this history had to be respected, and wasn't being by planners and politicians alike. I'm not an eloquent arguer, but with my eyes opened by Matthew to the history of the town I felt I had a just and persuasive case.

I last saw Matthew only a few weeks ago. My wife and I were sitting outside Sutton Hall enjoying a late afternoon beer when he came walking past (a footpath runs through the grounds of the hall). He stopped and we spent the next half-hour happily chatting away about all sorts of things, including the history of the town centre (St Michael's mainly), the wonderful building of Sutton Hall and the various bits and bobs of daily life that go to make up a conversation. We knew he'd been ill but he looked well and were glad to see him.

News of his death came as a shock. As well as being a tragedy for his family and many friends, the loss of Matthew will be deeply felt in the town; no-one has his love, knowledge, appreciation of the town and desire to share these with as many people as possible that Matthew had.

I'll miss chatting to him, miss bumping into him around the town and running another idea past him, I'll miss his humility and his gentle nature. I count myself as being extraordinarily lucky to have known him.

Matthew Hyde. 1947-2015.