Born in Bromley, Kent in 1948, just three years after the end of the Second World War, it is clear that Gavin came from a relatively modest background since he himself admitted in later life that he was homesick for the England of his childhood, of free orange-juice and nationalised steam railways. His life changed when he was ten in 1958, as he said in 2010 :
"I am happy to record that I am a beneficiary of the great ‘Gilkes Experiment.’ I passed the Eleven Plus and the Dulwich entry examination, and so attended the school on a Kent County Council grant. We lived at Hayes, and so Dulwich was one of the good nearby independent schools I was encouraged to try for. Later, I think when I was in the Fifth Form, my parents moved to Norwich but fortunately they left me behind as a boarder."
"It is now possible to choose as our entrants the best boys, quite regardless of their father's income."
Gavin's sketch of the Old Library and Barry Viney's painting of the school.
"I suppose the continuing public school ethos was Philistine to a degree. I detested rugby and all team games but, eventually, when it was clear that I had other serious interests, which dear old Bill Darby recognised, I was allowed to retreat to the Art Room which Barry Viney had made into a haven of civilization."
"It was only after I had left that I discovered that one of the finest and funniest writers in the English language was an Old Alleynian, but nobody talked about P.G. Wodehouse in my day. Now, of course, his name is exploited for all it is worth."
"I benefited greatly from being at Dulwich in that it encouraged my interest in architecture, above all in Victorian architecture. The great boon of being a boarder, when in the senior school, was that I had time to explore the surrounding parts of South London – above all, perhaps, Crystal Palace with its melancholy relics of past glories. And Dulwich, with the Estate criss-crossed by railway lines, is a wonderful place to develop an enthusiasm for railways and an interest in their history."
'No vandalism meted out to a kiosk by an individual has equalled that practised systematically by British Telecom.' It was his first victory for conservation when his article inspired a campaign by the Spectator which led to about 2,500 of the boxes being listed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz1DTmv4zgY&t=0m32s
on why Pevsner irritated him and the clash between Betjeman and Pevsner. In addition, he highlighted Pevsner's like of the Victorians and how he had "made the English take the 19th Century seriously." He also commented on his view of 'modern architecture.' and his "astonishing legacy."
In 2004 he retraced the great architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner's journey through the architecture and buildings of Oxford from the gothic vaults of Christ Church Cathedral to the neo-classical opulence of Canterbury Quad in Adrian Sibley's TV series 'Pevsner's Cities.'
In 2007 he left the shores of Britain to make 'Gavin Stamp's Orient Express,' in which he travelled on his architectural journey to Istanbul by train, at first in the lap of luxury on the Orient Express and from then from Vienna on more modest transport. https://vimeo.com/168327813 and https://vimeo.com/168327805
In 2014 he contributed to Dan Cruickshank BBC documentary : 'The Family That Built Gothic Britain' which charted the rise of Sir George Gilbert Scott to the heights of success, the fall of his son George Junior and the rise again of his grandson Giles. Gavin, who himself had written a biography of Sir George commented on the building of the new Foreign Office Building in Whitehall and the relationship between father and son.
Also in 2014, he contributed to the BBC TV 'Time Team Special' : 'The Edwardian Grand Designer' Sir Edwin Lutyens and his design for the London Cenotaph.
at 0.57 : https://soundcloud.com/privateeyenews/page-94-the-private-eye-podcast-episode-13
He reflected on victories where he had helped the good to thwart the bad and the ugly :
"It's very depressing with all the ridiculous things people do or outrageous behaviour by developers or councils which is why the occasional joke is good and the occasional good story where the 'Eye' has been on the right side. Often we have supported local campaigns and that really matters. I suspect what I say in the London context, they just brush Private Eye aside, but when a local scandal appears in Private Eye, I think it's a huge asset to local amenity groups and societies all over Britain. I remember in particular one campaign I was keen to help with which was very much Private Eye combining with local people where they were building on the glebe land outside Ely Cathedral and that went on for some time and .Nooks and Corners' supported their campaigning and that was a good victory."
at 2.12 : https://soundcloud.com/privateeyenews/page-94-the-private-eye-podcast-episode-13
He deplored the high buildings going up in London : "The complete lack of control.This Mayor and his predecessor both have applauded this and far too much happened and the damage is done I'm afraid. Some have been approved and an awful lot are going up already."
and at 4.21 :
"I've tried occasionally such as all the things that are happening in Battersea, I had a go. Suddenly that area which was partly derelict and Battersea Dogs Home and Nine Elms Market was up for grabs with huge developments which are all going up now the are being utterly changed."
In answer to the question : "Why get involved ?" he replied : "It's a subjective thing, whether there's any decent architect or planner involved ? and the nature of the opposition ? - when there's a serious local group objecting that : too dense a development, lack of affordable housing or just the height. I think there's a case for voicing a criticism. I think the strength of 'Private Eye' is that, as in all other spheres, it really is independent. Thank goodness I' m not an architectural correspondent attached to news papers because they're always in a way, 'tied.' I realised early on it's a huge mistake to ever meet architects. They take you out to lunch and then they think they own you. Architects are always charming even the worst ones, Charm is their speciality that is how they get their work and once you've met them and had drink with them or lunch with them, you've had it. So its very important to keep entirely separate from the architectural world. Then you can insult them."
at 4.44 : https://soundcloud.com/privateeyenews/page-94-the-private-eye-podcast-episode-13
"I have sometimes said : "Of course the best architects are dead ones," I mean, without being silly about it, at least then you can be objective about what they've done."