Peter Stephens Obituary

News has only just reached us of the death of former ABTEM chairman Peter Stephens on 1st December.  Andrew Scott reminds us that Peter was a professional civil engineer and active member of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Peter was a Project Engineer or Resident Engineer on the Victoria Line early in his career.  He then spent several years in the 1970s as a curator at the Science Museum before becoming Director of the London Transport Museum spending about a year appointing staff, including John Freeborn, Bob Bird and Rob Lansdown from the Science Museum, and preparing the displays at its new home at Covent Garden which opened on 28 March 1980.

Peter made a major contribution to the Association of British Transport Museums.  He was co-opted on to the committee in 1979 by Brian Lacey and then took over from Brian as its Chairman in 1981. During his Chairmanship he initiated a regular newsletter in 1982, edited initially by Oliver Green, and reviving the Association after a period he describes as ‘in the Doldrums’ in the newsletter of March 1985. 

In February that year re-joined the Science Museum in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, where amongst other things he helped Dorling Kindersley prepare a couple of very well illustrated books involving photographing many objects in the Science Museum. ABTEM Secretary, Robert Excell, remembers helping him remove an object from a case when walking past one day.

Peter steered the ABTM committee through its evolution to become the Association of British Transport and Engineering museums with a new constitution before handing over Chairmanship to Bob Bracegirdle in 1989 the year Peter finally retired.

Andrew Scott says “during my time at the LTM (1988-92) Peter was active as a Friend/volunteer and I always valued his support. I’d known him for some years before my time there and he was a lovely man, a great friend of my family and a wonderful supporter of the world of Transport Museums.”

He remained on the ABTEM Committee, not least as its constitutional expert, regularly attending committee meetings until very recent years. David Senior says “I still remember his approach to me at Didcot (in 1995) – when he encouraged me to take on Chairmanship – He was a very good colleague.” Peter was also ABTEM’s first link with the Lottery’s consultative group.

Robert Excell recalls “Peter was very active as a Friend of London Transport Museum for many years after this retirement and I saw him frequently all through the time I was there” (1994 – 2015).


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