Sultan of Brunei architect dies at 92

Sydney Litherland
Sydney Litherland

AN EXTRAORDINARY architect who designed the capital of Malawi and once worked with the Sultan of Brunei has died aged 92.

Sydney Litherland, who used to live in Eversfield Place, St Leonards was handing his wife Stella a glass of champagne to celebrate New Year’s Day when he fell over and sustained a severe head injury at his daughter’s home in Ninfield.

He was taken into the Conquest Hospital for treatment for his head injury but died on January 12.

Mr Litherland’s fascinating life began in Burton-Under-Needwood near Burton-On-Trent in Staffordshire in 1919.

He went to Burton Grammar School and was studying for his architectural qualifications when he was drafted in to the Army at the start of the Second World War.

Mr Litherland was sent to Crete where he was taken prisoner by the invading German forces in 1941.

After being sent by boat to mainland Greece he was transported by train to Germany where he spent four and a half years in captivity in prisoner of war camps around Berlin.

After liberation in 1945 he returned home to England married to his fiance Stella and the couple moved to Norfolk where he took a job as an architect for a local brewery.

While returning home from honeymoon in Scotland in September 1945 the couple were badly injured in the Bourne End rail crash which killed 43 people, one of Britain’s worst rail disasters.

They were in hospital for six months before being allowed home.

In 1949 they moved to Rhodesia where he took a job working for the government, the start of a 20 year career in Africa. In 1961 he moved to Nyasaland, now Malawi, as a town planner

In 1964 he moved to Uganda to head up a United Nations planning mission. Two years later he was invited back to

Malawi where he designed and planned out the country’s new capital Lilongwe.

In 1968, following his success in Africa, the government of Brunei invited Mr Litherland to work as the commissioner of town and country planning.

He spent 15 happy years working for the Sultan of Brunei before eventually retiring in 1983.

He returned to Europe and built his own villa in Tenerife where the couple lived until they moved to St Leonards in 1995 to be closer to their family.

In 2009 at the age of 90, Mr Litherland and his wife moved to live with their daughter Bridget Corry in Ninfield.

Mrs Corry, 62, said: “My father was a good, kind and generous man - a real philanthropist in the true meaning of the word. He was always giving of himself.

“His family was very important to him and he delighted in their successes. He was a very intelligent man, very well read with an amazing memory.

“He went through some tough times especially during the war and his memoirs make very interesting reading.

“Sadly he did not live to see their publication which is due in May. They will be a fitting tribute for him.”

The funeral will take place on Thursday (Feb 9) at St Laurence Church in Catsfield at 2.30pm.