With regret we report the death of Michael Lewis during the night of 14/15 May 2014. Earlier that day, the Trust had been celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the re-opening of the reconstructed Rochester Bridge. It was a sad, but in many ways appropriate, day for his passing, since for much of his professional life Michael had been involved with the work of the Rochester Bridge Trust.
He was first nominated by Gillingham Borough Council as an Assistant Warden in 1974 and continued as a member of the Trust until 1995. During his term he served a year as Junior Warden in 1979 and as Senior Warden in 1980. In 1995 he stepped down from the Court of Wardens and Assistants in order to succeed Glyn Jones as Bridge Clerk, a post that he held until his final retirement in 2005.
A solicitor by profession and a long-standing local politician and leader of Gillingham Borough Council, Michael brought his legal and political skills to the affairs of the Rochester Bridge Trust. During his years as Bridge Clerk he oversaw the first registration at the Land Registry of the Rochester Bridge Trust estate, including many properties that the Trust had owned since medieval times and for which no title deeds had survived. It was also during his term as Bridge Clerk that the Rochester Bridge Trust made the foundation grant for the Bridge Wardens College of the University of Kent, which brought higher education to the Medway Towns. Michael was intimately involved with the numerous legal agreements and steering committee deliberations for the establishment of the college and served as Secretary to the Bridge Wardens College Limited.
The post of Bridge Clerk being a part-time appointment, Michael was always at his desk at eight o’clock in the morning, dictating correspondence and discussing business with the Wardens and professional advisors, and always left promptly at midday as the Bridge Chamber clocks were striking twelve. However, he did not leave behind his passion for the Rochester Bridge Trust, as his extensive private collection of historical prints and engravings of Rochester Bridge will attest. That collection includes a photograph of a striking winter sunset photographed from the Bridge Chamber, officially titled “Sunset over the Medway”, and presented to Michael Lewis as a leaving present by the staff of the Trust. On receiving the gift, he joked with the then Finance Officer Frank Bentley that the photograph should be titled, “What I would have seen, had I ever done a full day’s work for the Trust.” He will be missed by all who knew him and worked with him.
There will be a private cremation followed by a memorial service on a future date to be announced.
1. The Rochester Bridge Trust is a charitable trust that exists to maintain the old and new bridges at Rochester and serve the travelling public. It is the only surviving bridge trust still serving its original purpose, and it has served the people of Kent since 1399. The Trust also supports numerous community and education projects across historic Kent and Medway.
2. The Trust’s assets all derive from endowments of land and money in the 14th and 15th centuries and are carefully managed in order to provide an income to fund bridge maintenance and local charitable grants. The Trust receives no external funding and is regulated by the Charity Commission.
For more information:
The Rochester Bridge Trust
Kent ME1 1QE
Tel: 01634 846706
Fax: 01634 840125