Retired teacher found true calling as sculptor

Oxford Mail: Anne Backhouse with one of her sculptures, ‘Wowl’ Anne Backhouse with one of her sculptures, ‘Wowl’

THE family of sculptor and former teacher Anne Backhouse say she positively touched the lives of many who knew her during her 82 years.

Mrs Backhouse, a member of Bicester Sculpture Group, who taught at Longfields Primary School in Bicester from 1967, died at home on Friday from complications relating to pulmonary disease.

She was born Kathleen Anne Page on June 30, 1931, in Exeter, to Quaker parents Ernest and Jess, with an older sister Sylvia.

After teacher training at Froebel College, London, she returned to Devon to start a teaching career.

As a teacher and youth worker in South Devon, she met her future husband Francis Backhouse.

Following their marriage at a Devon Quaker meeting house in 1959 they moved to Oxfordshire and raised four children. They later divorced.

On return to work, Mrs Backhouse became a teacher at Longfields Primary School in Bicester, where her husband was headteacher from 1964 to 1982.

Son Julian, 49, who lives near Abingdon, said: “Along with our father, she was in the vanguard of the vital work that developed through the 1960s and 70s transforming Oxfordshire’s primary education using experience-based learning.

“As her career evolved, her talents in transforming schools and leading them through difficult transitions was recognised and she became a specialist peripatetic head leading several schools including Salford, Freeland, Clifton Hampden and Heyford.”

She also managed Hill End field studies centre near Farmoor for several years in the 1980s.

In 1989 Mrs Backhouse took early retirement, paving the way for a second life as an artist.

Her family said it was as a sculptor that she found her true artistic calling.

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Working with Bicester Sculpture Group, she created a range of stylised figures and abstracts with energy, grace and emotion.

Mr Backhouse said: “Plaudits, commissions and purchases came her way when she exhibited her work, but in keeping with her modest Quakerism these rather surprised her.

“Her faith, like her liberal socialism, was never overt, but gave her a strong moral foundation.”

She was committed to environmental issues, local theatre and social justice and was never afraid to lift a pen or a phone to get her message across.

She is survived by her four children, Julian, Alison, Helen and Richard Backhouse, and six grandchildren.

Friends are welcome at her funeral at Banbury Crematorium at noon next Thursday.

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