Founder Patricia Fay included in the latest update to the Oxford DNB

Founder Patricia Fay included in the latest update to the Oxford DNB

15 Mar 2019 - 12:38 BY The Arts Society

The life of Patricia Fay (1933-1979), founder chairman of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), now The Arts Society, is recorded in the latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Patricia Fay (left) with Lally Robinson, the first Vice Chairman of NADFAS


NADFAS, launched in June 1968, was a runaway success.  But it had small beginnings in the Chiltern Antiques Group, founded in 1964 by Little Chalfont resident Patricia Fay.

Fay had left school at sixteen and became a dental nurse, before marriage to a barrister, two children, pushed her into ‘the well-heeled social life of a home counties’ wife’.  Her social round included coffee mornings, riding, and the Young Conservatives.

She started reading about antiques during a period of enforced rest, following a slipped disc. She wanted to know more, but with two young children evening classes were out of the question.  Instead her group of four fellow mothers established a programme of monthly morning lectures in Chalfont St Peter.  There were also regular visits to stately homes, and the creation of smaller study groups.

A change of name to the Chiltern Decorative and Fine Arts Society followed.  The foundation of other societies offering heritage volunteering opportunities created an unstoppable momentum which led to NADFAS (from 2017 the Arts Society)

The author of Patricia Fay’s life, Dr Caroline Shenton, comments: "Patricia Fay was a home counties wife and mother of the 1950s who, almost against her will, broke the bounds of middle-class expectations for women of her era and background. One paper called hers a 'lavender-scented women's lib' as she rose from beagling dental nurse to Founder Chairman of the UK's largest arts education charity, NADFAS (now The Arts Society). I was particular pleased to contribute her biography to the latest release of the ODNB, both as an accredited Arts Society Lecturer myself (my other contributions to the Dictionary are of medieval knights!), and also to mark The Arts Society's 50th Anniversary in 2018."


The Oxford DNB is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history, worldwide, from prehistory to the year 2015. From March 2019 the Dictionary includes biographies of 63,277 individuals, written by over 10,000 contributors.  It is freely accessible to members of most public libraries. www.oxforddnb.com

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