Recent Presidents

For details of our current President, see here.

Professor John Mather PhD, DSc, FGS, CGeol. 2022–23

Born and raised in Lincolnshire, where he attended the local Grammar School, John Mather read geology at Liverpool University before joining the Geological Survey in 1966. Following assignments overseas, exploring for groundwater on small islands in the West Indies and Pacific, he became involved in waste management, eventually leading major government-funded research programmes on the disposal of hazardous and radioactive wastes. In 1990 he left his position as an assistant director in the Survey to become Lyell Professor at Royal Holloway University of London, teaching and running a research group investigating groundwater pollution. Awards have included the Whitaker Medal and Distinguished Service Award of the Geological Society, where he has served as a council member and vice-president. Research in Romania has led to his appointment as a Fellow and Honorary Professor at the University of Bucharest. He has been chairman of the British Chapter of the International Association of Hydrogeologists, an advisor to the House of Commons Environment Committee and consultant to a number of national and international agencies on aspects of waste management.

Retirement in 2002 as Emeritus Professor, brought a move to Devon, where he quickly joined The Devonshire Association, becoming chairman of the Geology Section, before joining the Executive Committee, where he served as vice-chairman and also chaired the organising committee of the 2017 celebrations of the historical links between Devon and Newfoundland. He is totally committed to his adopted county and is a member of the Devon Archaeological Society, the Devon and Exeter Institution, Devon Artists’ Network and the Westcountry Potters’ Association.

He lives on the northern edge of Dartmoor with his wife Dr Jenny Bennett who is also an active DA member. He has two sons, the youngest of whom has recently moved with his family to live in Devon. He continues to write articles on the history of hydrogeology and the geology of Devon and its geologists and, in any spare time, throws functional stoneware pottery in a shed in his back garden!

September 2022: Inauguration conference, held in Bideford
13 May 2023: President’s Symposium “Devon’s Ceramic Heritage”, at Petroc College, Tiverton.

Dr Robin Wootton BSc, PhD, FLS, Hon FRES. 2021-22

Dr Robin Wootton taught biological sciences at Exeter University for four decades and is still an Honorary Research Fellow. A zoologist, entomologist, biomechanicist and occasional palaeontologist, he is an international authority on the mechanics and evolution of insect flight, now a hot topic in the development of insect-sized micro air vehicles. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, having been its West Region Secretary, a Council member and a Vice President. He has also been President of the Amateur Entomologists Society. Locally, he has been a member the Board of Management of the St Loyes Foundation, and has long been active in the Devon and Exeter Institution, serving on the Executive and as a library volunteer.

Robin joined the Devonshire Association in the mid 1960s, encouraged by his Head of Department, who had co-founded the Entomology Section two decades earlier. He has served as the Section’s chairman and its secretary and also as chairman of the Literature and Art Section. He was the Association’s chairman from 2008 to 2013, in that time founding the Music Section and facilitating the foundation of the Industrial Archaeology Section. He has organised DA exhibitions on insect photography and Devon artists, and initiated the 2017 celebrations of historical and cultural links between Devon and Newfoundland. He has a keen amateur interest in the history of biology, and particularly in how Devonians, including prominent early DA members, reacted to the heretical scientific discoveries of the 19th century.

He is married to Pamela, equally active in the DA over many years and recently appointed as an Honorary Life Member. They have a son, a daughter and five grandchildren.

August 2021: Inauguration conference (held online)

May 2022: Symposium, “Devon in 2050”

Clare Broom DL. 2020–2021

Clare Broom has a professional and academic background in nature conservation, planning and countryside management. She spent thirty years working as an academic in the University sector, and as Head of an Environmental Science Department lead a small agri-environment research team. She was Dean of Faculty at the University of Plymouth’s Seale Hayne campus and subsequently served as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University. She has held DEFRA appointments on two of the Environment Agency’s Regional Flood and Coastal Committees. She has also worked as an environmental consultant.

Clare was a member of the National Trust’s Board of Trustees (2011–2017) and Chair of the Trust’s South West Regional Advisory Board and its predecessor (2006–2016). She served as an elected member of the Council of the National Trust for nine years until October 2018. She has been a Trustee of the Devon Wildlife Trust.

Clare lives in West Devon near Yelverton. Her family connections with Devon go back over two hundred years. She is a Deputy Lieutenant of Devon.

Due to the restrictions on gatherings as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Clare Broom DL became the 159th President of the DA in absentia on Saturday 6th June 2020.

October 2020: Symposium, “Valuing and Restoring Nature” (held online)

John Allan BA, MPhil, FSA. 2019–2020

John Allan has been Consultant Archaeologist to the Dean & Chapter of Exeter Cathedral since 1990. He is also Archaeological Adviser to Glastonbury Abbey, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Senior Hon. Research Fellow of the University of Exeter and Past President of the Devon Archaeological Society.

For twenty years (1984–2004) he was Curator of Antiquities at Exeter Museum. He has served as Joint Editor of the international journal Post-Medieval Archaeology and Editor (1984–1997) of the Devon Archaeological Society, and is currently the President of the Friends of Devon Archives. He has also been a leading specialist in the field of medieval pottery in South-West England since the 1970s. He has published one book, an edited volume and about 140 papers on different aspects of the medieval and later archaeology of South-West England including ceramics, church architecture, numismatics, domestic buildings and cultural links to Brittany.

He lives in Exeter with his wife Jill, and has two sons and two grandchildren who also live in the city.

June 2019: Inauguration conference, held in Launceston

October 2019: Symposium, “Exeter Cathedral”

Photo: Antony T. Buller

Dame Suzi Leather. Photo of Dame Suzi Leather2018–2019

Dame Suzi Leather chairs the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, the ombudsman for higher education students; serves on the board of the General Medical Council; and is a trustee of Stepchange, the debt advice charity. Locally, she chaired the Plymouth Fairness Commission, is a Vice-President of Hospiscare and served on the Council and Ethics Committee of Exeter University.

Dame Suzi has a wide professional background having been Chair of the Charity Commission, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the School Food Trust, the School Meals Review Panel, the Council of Food Policy Advisers and Lankellychase Foundation. She was the founder Deputy Chair of the UK Food Standards Agency. In the health field she chaired a local NHS trust and the Ethics Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Dame Suzi lives in Exeter and is married with three adult children and a grandson. She went to Tavistock School and has lived in Devon on and off since her sixth birthday. She is married to Professor Iain Hampsher-Monk, the historian of political thought. She is an active, if slow, triathlete and also enjoys long distance walking having done four camino routes to Santiago de Compostela and last year completed the GR20 in Corsica.

Suzi was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2006 and is a Deputy Lieutenant of Devon.

June 2018: Inauguration conference, held in Dartmouth

October 2018: Symposium, “Back to the Future: the Social Landscape of Devon”

Photo: Antony T. Buller

David Fursdon MA FRICS FRAgS, Lord Lieutenant of Devon. Photo of David Fursdon, Lord Lieutenant of Devon 2017–2018

David Fursdon came to Devon with Catriona in 1979 after an early career in the civil service, a short commission in the Gurkhas and a degree from St John’s College, Oxford, to improve the fortunes of his 750 year-old family estate at Cadbury, in Mid-Devon. After a spell teaching geography, debating and cricket at Blundell’s School, he went to the Royal Agricultural University and qualified as a rural surveyor. He worked in Devon as an equity partner of Stags and then became President of the CLA in 2005.

Since then he has been a board member of the Crown Estates, English Heritage, the SW Regional Development Agency, The National Trust, the Historic Houses Association, the Duchy of Cornwall Rural Committee and the Affordable Rural Housing Commission. He chaired the SW Board for London 2012, and the Government’s Future of Farming Review, and is currently Chairman of Beeswax Dyson Farming Ltd, and the SW Rural and Farming Network.

He was High Sheriff of Devon and is now Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of the County.

June 2017: Inauguration conference, held in Buckfast

October 2017: Symposium, “The Making of the Devon Landscape”

Dr Todd Gray, BA PhD FRHistS MBE. 2016–2017

Dr Todd Gray is a historian who was born in New England in 1958. He has served the Devonshire Association as chairman of the History Section and as a member and chairman of the Council.

Doctoral supervision at Exeter University was undertaken with Professor Joyce Youings, former President of the Association and a keen enthusiast of Devon’s history. Since that period his publication of more than 40 titles on the history of Devon has demonstrated an unrivalled knowledge of the documentary sources in the county and across Britain. He has conducted field work in every village, town and city in Devon and has given some 1,000 lectures in every corner of the county. He has also curated more than 12 exhibitions for the City of Exeter and was responsible for the loan of the Royal Salt, the only item of the Crown Jewels and Plate to be exhibited outside London.

The promotion and safeguarding of the local archive service remains a key interest as has been the underpinning of the county’s historical community through service with the Devon & Cornwall Record Society (chairman), Friends of Devon’s Archives (chairman), the Devon Family History Society (president), Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries (committee member) and the Devon History Society (committee member).

Research, publication and lecturing has made Dr Gray the most visible Devon historian since W G Hoskins.

June 2016: Inauguration conference, held in Cullompton

October 2016: Symposium, “Historians, their Manuscripts, and the Creation of History”

May 2017: President’s Walk & Talk

Dr Tom Greeves, MA PhD. 2015–2016

June 2015: Inauguration conference, held in Tavistock

April 2016: Symposium, “Science Meets Art — Aspects of 175 Years of Photography in Devon”

Mr Chris Cornford, BA (Hons) MSc PhD FGS. 2014–2015

June 2014: Inauguration conference, held in Barnstaple

April 2015: Symposium, “Devon’s Potential Energy Budget — 2030”

Mr Andrew Cooper, BSc. 2013–2014

June 2013: Inauguration conference, held in Kingsbridge

April 2014: Symposium, “Devon – Wild Wealth and Human Health”

The Revd Peter Beacham, OBE. 2012–2013

June 2012: Inauguration conference, held in Torquay

April 2013: Symposium, “The Inspiration of Devon”