Mike Robins

It was five years and three months ago that I visited St Andrew’s Church on Waterloo Street for the first time. I recall photographing the exterior and then heading inside for a tour with the building’s charismatic custodian, Mike Robins.

Mike passed away last month and a special funeral was held at St Andrew’s in his honour. So it turned out that the place that I first met my good friend was the place that I was able to say goodbye.

Many people knew Mike as the energetic tour guide of Brunswick Town. Indeed, a huge image of Mike working found its way onto the side of a local bus. His trademarks were a Russian hat and a willingness at all times to stop for refreshments. Both were regular features whenever we met to discuss ideas for this very column and, if it wasn’t for Mike, I would never have investigated the hidden parts of Clifton Hill, the basement of the Freemason’s Tavern, the secret garden of 33 Brunswick Square or, indeed, Mike’s own ‘undiscovered Constable’.

Mike had hoped that an ink drawing of the Western Pavilion which he had found amongst his possessions was by the great John Constable. That drawing is now in the possession of the Regency Town House on Brunswick Square. As the energetic promoter of Brunswick Town that Mike was, he wouldn’t have minded me mentioning another drawing which has recently found its way into the museum – one of the most important surviving drawings by the architect of Brunswick Town, Charles Augustin Busby.

The 1826 coloured plan and elevation of a Brunswick Square house took pride of place in the private collection of the late Anthony Dale, founder of the Regency Society, and is in fact the only known drawing of a Brunswick town house by Busby. It was recently acquired at auction for over £7,000 by the Regency Town House and prints are now being sold on www.rth.org.uk to support the purchase.

One of my more gruesome DIY disasters was a foot injury. I jumped off a ladder straight onto a particularly thick 4” screw which had to actually be unwound from my foot. After hopping around for some time, it was Mike who came to the rescue with food and stories. I’ll never forget that kind deed.

Brunswick Town just doesn’t feel the same following the loss of one of its greatest sons.