Robert Aagaard

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Robert Aagaard

Personal details
Born(1932-06-27)27 June 1932
Died1 April 2001(2001-04-01) (aged 68)

Robert Aagaard OBE JP (/ˈɡɑːrd/ AY-gard;[1] 27 June 1932 – 1 April 2001) was an English furniture maker and conservator, magistrate, and founder of the youth movement Cathedral Camps.

Early life[edit]

The son of Villien Valdemar Aagaard and Florence Aagard (née Brooke), Aagaard was born at Norwich in 1932, after his father's family had migrated from Denmark at the time of the rise of Fascism in Germany.[2][3] He was educated at the junior and senior schools of Gresham's School, Newquay, and then Holt, from 1941 to 1949, where he was a member of Farfield.[2][4] His exact contemporaries at Farfield included Martin Burgess, later a master clockmaker.[4]

Life and career[edit]

After National Service, Aagaard worked at Woolworth's, a company of which his father was a director. However, his love of antique furniture led him to train as a furniture maker, in the Cotswolds and at Harrogate, Yorkshire. At Harrogate he had his own showrooms and operated a factory at Knaresborough which made period fireplaces and decorations needed by conservation schemes, with thirty employees.[3]

Aagaard was managing director of Robert Aagaard Ltd (Antiques), from 1960 to 1980, and the company's consultant, 1980 to 1995; a Director of Aagaard-Hanley Ltd, Fibrous Plasterers, 1970 to 1980, and consultant, 1980 until his death; Consultant, Robert Aagaard & Co., Period Chimneypieces and Marble Processing, from 1995.[2] He acted as a specialist consultant to the National Trust, supervising important projects in England and Scotland, and as Secretary of the Harrogate Antiques Fair.[3]

He became a Justice of the Peace for North Yorkshire, serving as a magistrate on the Harrogate bench for twenty years.[3]

With his wife, Fiona, Aagaard was the founder of Cathedral Camps in 1980 and served as its chairman until his death.[2] This is a youth movement recognised as a residential section of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.[3][5] The beginning of the movement came when the Dean of Ripon Cathedral asked Aagaard to organise on a voluntary basis the restoration of a house owned by the cathedral. While this work was in hand, Aagaard visited his son who was staying at a National Trust Acorn Camp and realised that cathedrals could also harness the enthusiasm of young people, training them as volunteer labour and giving them in return an interesting working holiday.

In the early 1980s, the Aagaards raised funds and found trustees, including architects, artists, and deans of cathedrals. Establishing a supply of suitable tools and conservation materials, insurance, accommodation, and transport all needed careful planning. In the twenty years during which Aagaard headed the organisation, Cathedral Camps enabled some nine thousand students to spend time working and living in cathedrals. Camps were organised every year at twenty-four centres, mostly English cathedrals, but also some larger parish churches and some Church of Scotland, free church, and Roman Catholic places of worship.[3]

Aagaard was a churchwarden at Knaresborough[3] and from 1995 a member of the General Synod of the Church of England. He was Chairman of the Ripon Diocesan Advisory Committee and a member of the Ripon Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee from 1993, a member of the Bradford Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee from 1997, of the Cathedrals' Fabric Commission for England, from 1995, and of the Ripon Diocese Redundant Churches Uses Committee, from 1984.[2]

Private life[edit]

In 1960, Aagaard married Fiona Christine Drury, and they had two sons and one daughter.[2]

In Who's Who, he gave his recreations as "Gardening, walking" and his address in the year of his death as Manor House, High Birstwith, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.[2]

Aagaard has an early place in any alphabetical list, and in May 2020 his entry in the combined index of Who Was Who was first out of 131,546 entries. Second came Professor Alvar Aalto.[6]



  1. ^ G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 'AAGAARD, Robert', in Who Was Who, A. & C. Black, 1920–2007; online edition by Oxford University Press, December 2007: AAGAARD, Robert (subscription required). Retrieved 10 August 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Aagaard, obituary in The Independent dated Tuesday, 3 April 2001. Retrieved 10 August 2008
  4. ^ a b Old Greshamian Club Book (Cromer, Cheverton & Son Ltd, 1998), p. 17
  5. ^ About Us page at Retrieved 11 August 2008
  6. ^ Who Was Who online index at, accessed 4 May 2020 (subscription required): “Aagaard, Robert, (27 June 1932–1 April 2001)“

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