Senior figures from the Manchester property industry have paid tribute to Simon Fenton, founder of the surveying partnership that bears his name, who died in June. A service of celebration and thanksgiving is being held today.
Fenton became known as the go-to quantity surveyor as a gathering of architects, developers and civic figureheads in the city stepped forward with increasingly confident projects through the 1990s. He forged alliances with most of those who’ve become synonymous with modern Manchester, including Tom Bloxham, Ian Simpson and Rachel Haugh, Roger Stephenson and Dave McCall.
Urban Splash chairman Bloxham said: “Simon was one of Manchester’s greats: quiet, humble, totally likeable, his firm was the QS behind all of Urban Splash’s early schemes, making sure we could afford the great schemes designed by our wonderful architects.
“In 30 years I have never heard a bad word said about Simon, or an unkind word from Simon. He has made a huge impact on this city and beyond, a lovely man who will be sorely missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his son Tom, who also worked here, the rest of his family and his many friends.”
Nick Johnson, now head of Market Operations, said: “Simon was the creative architect’s choice of QS because he believed in good design and wanted to make it happen. He also believed in youth, the next generation, surrounding himself with kids half his age and giving them confidence, authority and self-belief.
“Forever smiling, endlessly enthusiastic and generous to a fault his presence at a design team meeting lifted the mood and made the impossible possible. Family played just as important a role in his life as his work and they were as proud of him, as he of them.
“Forever Peter Pan, he drank from the font of eternal youth. His contribution to Manchester’s skyline is immeasurable and as he laces up his heavenly Nikes for a quick 10k he can race on in the knowledge that his soul lives on in the people and the city he loved.”
The list of awards picked up by SFP as listed on the website is lengthy, but includes highlights such as Smithfield Buildings, Eastgate and Timber Wharf in Manchester, Collegiate and Old Haymarket in Liverpool, and Morecambe’s Midland Hotel. A book of condolences opened by Simon Fenton Partnership includes messages from right across the regional property scene.
Manchester writer Phil Griffin wrote an appreciation for today’s service, parts of which are reproduced here with thanks:
“The Simon Fenton Partnership set up in offices overlooking Pizza Express in 1988. From the off, Simon had eyes out for the young guns, design-driven architects who called their offices ‘studios’. Simon was on to them. He even managed to find the rare women in amongst the largely boys club, and Fiona McCauly and Rachel Haugh remained friends for the rest of his life.
“There followed a decade of round-up as Simon corralled the mustangs that made the Simon Fenton Partnership Manchester’s pre-eminent, even unique design-led QS and construction planning outfit.
“Simon’s other great strength was deeply held enthusiasm for public sector and Housing Association developments. Getting on to supplier lists in the first place took a certain amount of stealth, but his personal enthusiasm meant long associations with the likes of Irwell Valley, R-Gen, Great Places and more.”
Griffin’s appreciation ended thus: “In the mid-1990s, the stars began to align over Manchester, such that the Town Hall, design professionals, developers, entrepreneurs, writers, journalists and cultural disruptors of all kinds, in all areas, began to pull in the same direction, and that was towards lower Deansgate and the great Manchester salon that was Atlas Bar on Friday nights.
“Roger was there, and Nick Johnson of course, Patrick Thomas and the crash team from SimpsonHaugh, Stephen Hodder, Tom Bloxham, Howard and Richard (yet to be Sirs). And quietly circling them all, like a vigilant collie, was Simon Fenton, in black linen suit, blue linen shirt, his well-used dark leather briefcase filled with the numbers for all of our nobler schemes.”