Death of heritage and community champion met with 'great sadness'

Picture of the Pavilion in Torquay

Torquay's Pavilion building - Credit: Getty Images

One of Torbay’s most well-known community and heritage champions has died. 

Colleagues and friends learned of the death of Sheila Hardaway ‘with great sadness’. 

Sheila, 88, died at her home in America before Christmas. 

She will be remembered for her work and passion as a local resident willing to stand up for the survival of Torquay’s built heritage, especially her beloved Wellswood area, which eventually led to the formation of the Torbay Civic Society..  

Long-time friend and current society chairman Ian Handford recalls: “Sheila first came to the attention of the public and council in the early 1970s when she established The Friends of the Pavilion in late 1971 while being part of the steering committee of the Meadfoot-Wellswood and Area Resident’s Association which she chaired when it was formally established in 1972.  

“She had by now become a formidable adversary of the Council due to her support of many historic properties in and around her immediate area including the Pavilion. 

“With her Friends of the Pavilion group joining forces with the Livermead and Cockington Resident’s Association and others a ‘watchdog committee’ was formed to monitor all future building developments within these areas. 

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“This new grouping of the various amenity associations eventually ensured that Sheila set up an all-encompassing group in 1976 which she called the Torbay Civic Society which later was officially turned into a Registered Charity.” 

Having been the first chairman of the Society, Sheila was elected its first President in 1980 by which time she had saved the Pavilion and proposed forming a Torquay Pavilion Trust with members of the Dartington Arts Society, the former South Devon Technical College and Torbay Council as partners. 

Sheila was born in London where she survived the Blitz, an experience that affected her deeply. As a child she organised campaigns helpful to the war effort. 

Her professional career included finance, where she and her late husband A. James Hardaway were Executive Directors of the local brokerage firm Whale-Hardaway and Company. 

She was also involved in politics and was a former Torbay councillor on Devon County Council. She was a Freeman of the City of London.  

She also became an authority on Torbay’s famous crime writer Agatha Christie, doing many public presentations both in Britain and America. 

She eventually moved to America where she married Richard C Wolfe. 

In retirement in Charlottesville,  Sheila was active in community affairs, including serving as President of the Charlottesville branch of the English-Speaking Union, where she and Richard met.  

Following their marriage in 2010 they resided in Mystic, Connecticut, overlooking the Mystic Seaport Museum, before moving to Williamsburg. 

She is survived by her husband, Richard, her stepsons: Stewart, Andrew and Christopher Wolfe, stepdaughter Sara Anne Meyer, and in England, niece Carol Evans and nephew Eric Walkom along with their respective families.