Joan, was born in Kingsbury, North West London in September 1932, the only child of Alf and Elsie Butcher. She had an uneventful childhood until war broke out when she was 7. Evacuated and separated from her parents she had a miserable time and soon returned to be with her mother in London (her father having been mobilised into the army).
In 1944 her father was injured in France, being shot in the leg by an over zealous guard, resulting in him being returned to England and a long period in hospital. By the time her father returned home Joan was no longer the little girl he remembered, but a fiercely independent young woman resulting in a relationship which could be strained at times.
Joan’s schooling was extremely disrupted by the war with long periods of absence from school due to closures, damaged school buildings, temporary teachers and at least one further evacuation to Coventry. By the end of the war, she was attending Preston Manor County School in Wembley. Her first-year school report shows she was above average in geography and mathematics, an achievement which was to continue throughout her time at the school. In later years she excelled in science and in the third and fourth years she managed to be top of her class.
In addition to her academic achievements, she was an active member of the sports teams including captaining Hockey and Netball teams, and playing in London Tennis tournaments.
In June 1949 she obtained her General Schools Certificate, and then entered the lower sixth form. By December she had passed her Matriculation Exemption. At which point, at the behest of her father, she had to leave to obtain work.
As Joan’s interests were in the sciences, she got a job at the GEC Laboratories in North London. Through this job Joan was able to further her education including obtaining a London University External Physics Degree. Most of Joan’s work related to cathode ray tubes including phosphors for colour televisions.
While working at the GEC Laboratories Joan met Brian Davies, and they started going out. They made the most of post war London, attending concerts, ballet and “the proms” at the Royal Albert Hall. Brian and Joan were keen cyclists, visiting many of the beauty spots south of London. Joan and Brian were married in October 1954 buying their first home in North Cheam in Surrey.
As was customary at that time, Joan gave up work to have her first child, Roger (autumn 1956), followed by Helen in 1958 and Chris in 1960. Joan’s hands were then full, looking after the children, cooking, making clothes, and looking after the garden. In spite of this both Joan and Brian found time to attend adult education classes in a wide variety of subjects such as geology, forestry etc, and to volunteer as Scientific Advisors to the county emergency planning team.
In 1971, Brian’s job was transferred from Sutton in Surrey to Harwell in Oxfordshire. After an extensive search to find somewhere to live, the family moved to a house on the edge of Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, where Joan and Brian were to remain for 47 years.
One of Joan’s passions was the garden, the formal and shrub rose beds were particularly important to her. When Brain and Joan acquired the woodland that backed onto the garden, Joan created a number of woodland glades which were planted out with spring bulbs and flowering shrubs which created ever-changing views.
Once the children went off to university and jobs in the late 1970’s, Joan had a lot more free time and ended up getting involved in a lot of other activities around Marlborough. It was about this time that Joan developed an interest in digital photography.
Initially Joan became a Councillor on Savernake Parish Council on which she served for 40 years, including being the Clerk for 15 years and Chairman for 25 years. During this time, she worked on many things, including grass cutting in Cadley, a bus shelter for Clench Common, and fighting to keep services at Savernake hospital. A highlight of her time on the Council was when she was invited to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. She remained actively involved in the parish, until she moved away in 2019.
Joan was a strong supporter of the need for local medical services and joined the Friends of Savernake Hospital. She took part in a number of fights with the Primary Care Trust to keep the hospital open. This included being part of a group that took the Trust to a judicial review in the Royal Courts of Justice. At the final hurdle they did not win that particular case, but Savernake Hospital is still serving the community.
While Helen and Chris were at school, they were introduced to walks and talks by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Joan became involved and became a member for the rest of her life. Joan’s interest in photography led to her working with retired doctor and active botanist, Dr Jack Oliver, to survey all the ancient Oak trees in Savernake Forest. They wrote a paper about them for the Society. In 2003, at the request of the Forestry Commission, Dr Oliver used Joan’s photographs for a display at the International Oak Conference in Winchester.
At the turn of the Millennium Joan and Jack Oliver authored the Savernake Forest part of the ‘The Books of Trees’ which was part of the ‘In Praise of Trees’ project run by Salisbury Festival and English Nature. Joan provided most of the photographs for the book including twelve A3 size prints of named or significant trees in the Forest.
More recently Joan worked with Graham Bathe on a number of further papers for the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society magazine, including one on local water colour artist Mary F May, who painted scenes around Marlborough and Savernake Forest in the early 1900s.
Brian and Joan celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary in 2014. Sadly, Brian’s health started to deteriorate and he died in October 2018. Joan then sold the house moving in the summer of 2019 to a flat in Alton, Hampshire to be near two of her children.
Joan’s mobility started to deteriorate, the isolation during Covid being a particularly difficult time. In February 2021 she had a fall and broke her hip. On discharge from hospital, she managed with help from carers to return to her flat.
Unfortunately, shortly after her 90th birthday in September 2022, she was again hospitalised. By this time her health had deteriorated to the extent that she was discharged into the care of BrendonCare at their care home in Alton. Joan passed away on Boxing Day 2022.