President of the Dulwich Society 2000-2010

It was very fitting that Michael Rich served as president of the Dulwich Society when plans were being made to raise a statue in memory of the Elizabethan actor and theatre owner, Edward Alleyn, on the 400th anniversary of his purchase of the Manor of Dulwich in 1605. Although a small committee had been formed to pursue this objective in terms of location and a competition to select a design, no one had been approached to shoulder the massive job of raising funds for the project. Initially the sum of £20,000 was thought to be required but when further estimates were received it was clear that this sum would be quite insufficient, and the target rose to £30,000.

Michael and his wife Janice were keen theatregoers and Michael had a great love and knowledge of the Elizabethan stage. He was delighted to be asked to chair the Edward Alleyn Statue Committee and provided wise and enthusiastic leadership. When Louise Simson was selected to create the statue, she shocked the committee by introducing a second figure - that of a poor boy - to the ensemble. Undaunted by the added cost of this challenge Michael encouraged the project to continue, even when the final cost rose to almost £50,000.

The statue project was not the only contribution Michael made to the Dulwich Society. He was a very early member, possibly a founder - member, and assisted when an application was made to the High Court in 1970 to require a consultative committee, made up of residents, to exercise oversight of the Scheme of Management granted to the trustees of the Dulwich Estate following the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. In 1974 he joined the Society’s new Town Planning sub-committee. Having recently co-edited Hill’s Town & Country Planning Acts 1967 (published by Butterworth 1968), he was in a unique position to provide expert advice.

Michael Rich was born in 1933 and grew up in Streatham, moving to Dulwich in 1964. He started school at Dulwich College Prep and in 1945 he went to Dulwich College, where he gained a State Scholarship to Wadham College Oxford. He deferred his entry to university by opting to carry out his National Service first and served in the RASC.

In Streatham, his grandfather, Samuel Morris Rich had been a founder member of the South London Liberal Synagogue, Michael followed in his footsteps, serving on the synagogue council. He led the fundraising and planning of the refurbishment of the building in the 1970’s and served as synagogue president until his death.

A keen scout, he became a King’s Scout and continued to be active in the Scout movement for over 25 years, becoming group scout leader in 1963 and running the Old Alleynian Troop, the 48th Camberwell ‘Lorne Campbell’s Own’. He led numerous scout camps and expeditions for senior scouts in this country and abroad. With Lt. Col. Bill Hall, Michael was instrumental in gaining the lease of the former WW2 gun battery site in Grange Lane and converting it into accommodation and activity blocks which they renamed The Fort. It continues to be used by the scout movement to this day with groups from overseas as regular visitors.

He entered the Law in 1958, being awarded both the pupillage prize and the Harmsworth scholarship at Middle Temple. He took silk in 1980, becoming a Bencher in 1985. In 1992 he was appointed a judge. He was elected Reader of the Middle Temple in 2006 and selected as the customary address a subject in line with his theatrical interests: ‘A Daniel come to judgement: The role of the advocate in three plays’. This demanding task he successfully undertook whilst still recovering from major surgery.

In his long career as an expert in planning issues, he represented Devon County Council in 1979-80 at the public inquiry of the Okehampton Bypass on the A30 road. The choice of the route had divided the town with an almost halfway split between the opposing sides over the issue of placing the new road to the south of Okehampton and on part of the Dartmoor National Park. The enquiry dragged on for over ninety days but one compensation for Michael, stranded so far from home, was that he was able to indulge in his passion for walking, when the legal timetable allowed. He enjoyed a similar experience in the Lake District on another road enquiry. A keen hill-walker, he completed the 170 kilometre circuit of Mont Blanc and shortly before his final illness he was walking the Thames Path from its source.