JAN Preece, Newport historian, has been remembered by his family as a hard-working, devoted family man who always had a smile on his face.

Last week, the Argus reported Mr Preece, the well-known author and photographer, had died aged 72.

His son, also named Jan, said his father was equally happy immersed in a model-making project as he was sharing tales of Newport's history.

South Wales Argus:

Newport historian Jan Preece (left), pictured with his son Jan Jr. Picture: Jan Preece Jr


"He had a passion for telling stories," his son said. "Because of his light-heartedness, people wanted to listen to him. He had a desire to keep history alive."

Mr Preece was born in Newport in 1948. He was an only child, but grew up regarding his uncle Duncan [Brown], who was eight years his senior, as a brother.

"They were very close, getting up to all sorts of mischief," Jan Preece Jr said. "They'd go and explore places, and always had a passion for trains."

South Wales Argus:

Jan Preece as a young boy, growing up in Newport. Picture: The Preece family

Mr Preece would eventually work on the railways, but his first job was rather more unusual. During the construction of the George Street Bridge, the young Mr Preece was tasked with sitting in a boat in the middle of the River Usk, ready to rescue any workers who might fall from above. Fortunately, his son said, Mr Preece was never called into action.

South Wales Argus:

Jan Preece as a young man. Picture: The Preece family

Mr Preece spent some time working for Wynn's heavy haulage firm, then in the early 1970s he met Sally, his future wife.

The two married in 1974 and set up a photography firm, Capel Friars Photography, named after their former addresses.

The young couple remained in Pill, raising six children and an impressive range of animals – one Easter, Mr Preece even gave each of his children a chick to rear.

South Wales Argus:

Jan and Sally Preece on their wedding day. Picture: The Preece family

The couple's next venture was the Pill Heritage Centre, a wartime museum full of exhibits either donated by the local community or lovingly crafted by Mr Preece himself. The main attraction was an air raid shelter hooked up to a fearsome sound system, which would delight visiting schoolchildren as they took cover during a mock Luftwaffe bombing raid.

Though the centre would eventually close, due to climbing rents, Mr Preece kept his passion for history alive at home, where he pored over models, curated a digital photography archive of Newport's industrial past, and wrote several books on the city.

He also help found the campaign to save Newport's Medieval Ship, and spent many seasons photographing Newport County's matches and events.

In his spare time, Mr Preece loved music and had played drums in a jazz band at the old Engineers Arms pub. He was also an ardent football fan, and obsessed over every fine detail of his beloved Liverpool's matches.

South Wales Argus:

Jan Preece was a keen photographer who turned professional. Picture: The Preece family

Mr Preece was also proud of his Polish heritage, and had managed to track down his grandmother there – keeping in regular contact and adding her recollections to his extensive archive of historical research.

Following his wife's death in 2015, Mr Preece devoted much of his time to model-making – taking commissions and sending his creations to collectors all around the world.

Mr Preece died in hospital, surrounded by his family, on Tuesday, November 19.

South Wales Argus:

Jan Preece with some of his photography work. Picture: The Preece family

He leaves children Jody, Toria, Lucy, Anna, Gemma, and Jan, as well as 16 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

"He was always trying to think of ways to make someone happy," his son said. "It's a shame he's gone before his time – he had a lot more to give."

A funeral for Mr Preece will be held at St Woolos Cathedral, Newport, on Wednesday, December 11, at 11.30am, followed by a service at Langstone Crematorium at 12.30pm, and a wake at Newport Cricket Club at the International Sports Village. Donations can be made in Mr Preece's memory to the RNLI lifeboat organisation.