The death has been announced of Colin Lowman, a veteran south London estate agent who had a 64 year career in which he put together an estimated 6,000 house sales.
During his career he sold houses for or to a vast number of influential figures and politicians including Anne Widdecombe, Jenny Éclair, Hardy Amies, Ludovic Kennedy, Nigel Lawson, Clement Atlee, Bertrand Russell, Wilfred Bramble, Donald Jackson, Jenny Agutter, Anthony Gormley and Terry Jones - and he was asked to value a property owned by Margaret Thatcher.
Much of his career centred on the Roy Brooks estate agency which, in the 1960s, became renowned for outrageously candid comments in advertisements taken out in the Sunday Times and The Observer.
Colin began his career in 1950 at the Kensington office of Roy Brooks, and continued as the company shifted geography to become increasingly identified with south London.
Colin went on to buy the Roy Brooks agency in 1971 and continued as a famous agent in the capital until the early 1990s when he was to retire - or so he thought.
Within six months of ‘retirement’ he was back, joining another south London firm; he continued in various agencies in and around Camberwell until the downturn of 2008.
Did he finally retire once and for all then? Not at all - he went back and rejoined the Roy Brooks agency, which by that time had shifted its base to East Dulwich.
He eventually really did retire, but not until 2016 when he was into his 80s - a remarkable career.
The notice from the Roy Brooks agency says: "Colin Gordon Lowman passed away peacefully, beloved and devoted husband of Hilary, Greatly loved father of Karen and Nicholas and much-loved Grandfather of Yara."
Around the time of his 80th birthday, Colin was interviewed by Felicity Blair from Roy Brooks, looking back on his career.
We are grateful to Felicity for sending us her notes on the interview:
How did you start your career as an estate agent?
“I was just finishing at Kingston Grammar, when my Headmaster suggested to my mother that I meet with Edward Herbert Brooks, who owned a company that was just getting into property sales.
“EH Brooks had just employed his son, Roy, and he was beginning to make a lot of noise. Not long after, Edward handed the company over to Roy, he took the firm over completely and his descriptions became legendary.
“Roy Brooks ads were always placed as classifieds in The Observer or The Sunday Times. They were at their best in the 50’s and 60’s. He wrote every single advert himself. He was a creative man, but the office was utter chaos.
“The Observer would send a young boy into the office to wait for the copy and run it back to the paper, usually on the deadline. His ads became essential reading on Sunday mornings and though generally it was London’s properties that we listed, the ads, being so entertaining were read from Lands End to John O’Groats.”
How did estate agency operate in those days?
“Originally, we didn’t take photos at all, just wrote blurbs which we printed off on an Ellams photocopier. We rarely posted anything out, just gave them to people who popped in. As for viewings, at least half the time, they were conducted by the owners themselves. The newspaper ad would conclude with ‘To view Sunday, phone the owner’ and the telephone number was supplied. If the property was empty, we’d simply give people the keys so they could go and have a look – they always brought them back!
“There was a queue of people outside the office on a Monday morning wanting to offer on the properties they had seen the day before. If two people came in to offer the same price, we would toss a coin. We didn’t think of sealed bids – it was all very gentlemanly.
“Roy lived in Gledhow Gardens – a flat referred to by Alan Whicker as ‘surprisingly grotty’ where he and Barbara fed and watered a varied gathering of people. One night he slept on the sitting room floor alongside a bit-actor, soon to become famous as Steptoe. Wilfred Bramble met Roy when he came into the shop to buy a house in Gloucester Lodge. He was very hard up at the time and we lent him our commission to buy it!”
Who were your customers back then?
“Bertrand Russel bought a little house in Hasker street off Walton Street Chelsea, just behind Harrods. A little man with a flock of white hair. He seemed very grateful. Anyone could afford to live in areas like that in the 1980’s.
“Moira Sheerer, wife of Ludovic Kennedy, she was known for her appearance in a film called Red Shoes. I sold them a house in White Lodge, Ovington Square, behind the Brompton Road, near Harrods.
“I sold Hardy Amies a beautiful house in Elden Road Kensington W8 in Oct 1952 for £12,250. It will be worth millions now.
“I remember when Roy Brooks went to value Clement Atlee’s house at Cherry Tree cottage in Buckinghamshire. He came back and reported that Mrs Atlee said ‘You finish off peeling the potatoes, Clement, and I shall take Mr. Brooks around the property’.
“I sold a house to a Chancellor of the Exchequer, (Colin was discreet and would not say which). A couple of years later, he decided to sell and called me. After a few weeks, when it hadn’t sold, he asked my advice on whether he should drop his price now, or wait for a recovery?” With all due respect Sir, you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer and you are asking me, a humble servant, when will be the best time to sell your house?”