Heritage chief and Jewish architecture expert who saves buildings gets OBE

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Heritage chief and Jewish architecture expert who saves buildings gets OBE

Historic England’s development economics director, David H Tomback FRICS, has been awarded an OBE for services to the country’s heritage.

Historic England's development economics director David Tomback
Historic England's development economics director David Tomback

A heritage chief and expert on Jewish architecture, who saves endangered buildings, has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Historic England’s development economics director, David H Tomback FRICS, has been awarded an OBE for services to the country’s heritage.

For almost 30 years he has been touring the UK showing communities how they can save and make good use of existing buildings – rather than pull them down and put up a new structure.

His illustrated talk “From Succahs to Skyscrapers – the history of the Jews though their buildings” covers 7,000 years of Jewish history.

His grandfather Moshe, or Morris, came to England in 1908 from Zhitomir, a town in modern-day Ukraine, escaping from Tsarist, anti-Semitic pogroms – and David had never heard it mentioned anywhere else other than by his family until the Russian invasion.

He became secretary of his shul in Tottenham and a headteacher – one of his pupils, actor Ron Moody, would later play Shylock in the Oscar-winning movie Oliver!

David’s father, a doctor in Hackney, married Violet, the PA to a general at the Potsdam conference which ended the Second World War.

David, after 20 years in the private sector as a chartered surveyor and developer, joined Historic England – then English Heritage – in 1993.

His work looks at the economics of conserving all types of historic buildings across the country.

Working with the British Property Federation and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, he has produced a toolkit for sensitive regeneration – “Heritage Works”.

He said: “I am overwhelmed to have received this honour and still can’t really believe it. I have been so fortunate to see first-hand some of this country’s amazing heritage but most of all, to have had the opportunity of working alongside such knowledgeable and dedicated colleagues.

“My late mother Violet instilled in me a love of history, and Historic England has given me the opportunity to be able to combine this with my professional career.

“Heritage buildings have never been more important because as we face the challenges of climate change, reusing our amazing heritage buildings not only makes good commercial sense, but also the embodied energy benefits for the environment are tremendous.

“I am proud that I have been able to combine a love of history and buildings in my work as a surveyor.

“Reusing buildings has to be thought about very carefully – my job is to make it economically viable.”

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “David has contributed massively to the work of Historic England, and is much respected for his authoritative advice on the financial feasibility of development, both within Historic England and in the wider world.

“He has always been well liked as a good colleague. This honour is a fitting tribute.”

As well as lectures at Oxford Brookes and Birmingham City Universities, he gives other illustrated talks on

“My career in ruins” – about the historic properties he has inspected
“Does the past have a future” which focuses on re-using heritage buildings

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