Tributes paid to Belsize 'man of many talents' who co-founded Abacus school

Malcolm and Linda Grove at their home in Belsize Lane under the wisteria they planted together.

Malcolm and Linda Grove at their home in Belsize Lane under the wisteria they planted together. - Credit: Linda Grove

Malcolm Grove – father, husband, volunteer, community pioneer and co-founder of a free school – has died aged 76.

Malcolm was born on January 1, 1946, in the Cottage Hospital in Salop, Shropshire. His father was working as an accountant in Hong Kong so aged three months he went via boat with his mum to join his family.

Arma AhHo and another staff member are carrying him up the many steps to the top to Bowen Road

Malcolm at six months old. Arma AhHo and another staff member are carrying him up the many steps to Bowen Road where Malcolm lived. - Credit: Linda Grove

For the first seven years of his life, Malcolm lived in Hong Kong, attending the Peak School until he was sent to St Edward's, the boarding school in Oxford which his father had attended. He enjoyed canoeing and rowing there, and went back to Hong Kong to visit his family once a year.

Malcolm studied Physics and Chemistry at Christ Church college, Oxford.

"He had a very inquiring mind. He could do many things, as well as academic things. He was practical," said Linda Grove, Malcolm's wife of 51 years.

"We married because our parents introduced us. My parents were living in Hong Kong and they were friends with his family. We always knew about his family, but I didn't meet him until I was 20 because I kept avoiding it - as one does when your parents want to introduce you to someone," Linda said.

The couple married in Sussex in 1970 and bought a house in Lyndhurst Grove, Peckham, where they were "money poor but time rich". Along with a group of neighbours, they started doing up houses together and lived a communal lifestyle.

Black and white image of man on residential home building site in Peckham

Malcolm doing up a house in Peckham. - Credit: Linda Grove

Most Read

"Malcolm would watch local builders on how to do all the different jobs, whether it was plumbing or plastering, and he did all the work himself," she said.

In 1975 they had their first daughter together, Rachael, who was born at St Guy's and St Thomas' hospital in Southwark. 

Malcolm on his bike called Frankie cycling past number 27 Lyndhurst Way.

Malcolm on his bike called Frankie cycling past number 27 Lyndhurst Way. - Credit: Linda Grove

Malcolm got a job at Shell, which would later take the family travelling all over the world. 

They had their second daughter, Jessica, in Gouda, Holland, where they lived for two years.

They sold their Peckham home and bought a cottage in Benham’s Place in Hampstead, which they rented out while they lived abroad.

Malcolm's job brought the family to São Paulo in Brazil, where they stayed for four years.

"We lived in a nice suburb in a house, with a pool, where other foreigners were living. Most weekends we would drive to the beach through the jungle and over rickety bridges. I loved Brazil. I loved the people," Linda said.

After returning to England for a bit, they then went to Seoul, in South Korea, when Malcolm was general manager at Shell. They stayed their for six years and then lived in compounds with other expats in Shanghai and Nanjing in China, where Malcolm was a general manager of a plant that produced polypropylene.

Black and white picture of man in market in Seoul

Malcolm in Seoul. - Credit: Linda Grove

At 54, Malcolm retired, and the pair returned to north London, selling their Hampstead home and purchasing a property - a "nice house with a garden" - in Belsize Lane where they have been for the past 30 years.

Malcolm was instrumental in setting up Abacus Belsize Primary School, which is currently based in King's Cross but due to find a permanent home at Haverstock School.

There was no school in Belsize Park so, with other community members, they set up Abacus as a free school. After struggling to find a home for the school for five years, the temporary site was found and the couple stepped away to let others run it. 

Malcolm and Linda were involved in the community, doing volunteer gardening outside of the Royal Free Hospital.

Man in high vis vest doing some gardening with his little boy

Malcolm doing some gardening with his grandson Sebastian outside of Royal Free Hospital. - Credit: Linda Grove

Malcolm became ill three and a half years ago when he suddenly had pain in his back. He was told by doctors that he needed an aortic dissection to be saved, and underwent 14 hours of heart surgery. 

Malcolm survived but then contracted dementia.

"I've been caring for him for the past three and a half years. He could hardly walk by the end. But his courage was tremendous," Linda said.

She praised Camden's "excellent" palliative care team, and her community who would visit Malcolm once a week and go walking with him. 

On Tuesday, May 3, Malcolm passed away. 

"People in the community have once again been absolutely marvellous with helping me arrange the memorial service. We are sourcing everything locally. Budgens, our local supermarket, are doing the food," Linda said.

"You put something into the community and something comes back. You don't do it for that reason, but that's how it works."

A memorial service and celebration of Malcolm's life will be held at 11.30am on Wednesday, May 18 at St Peter's Church, Belsize Square, with a reception afterwards in the church gardens. RSVP to malcolm.update@hotmail.com. A video link will be available for those unable to attend. Dress code - come as you wish - and no flowers as donations are being collected for a new park bench: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/malcolmgrovebenches


The Ham&High wants to help our readers pay tribute to lost ones by publishing obituaries in the paper.

If there's someone you wish to see featured, please fill out the form below.