Samuel E. Carpenter, 53, a former chairman and executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, died Sunday in London, England, after an apparent heart attack.

He had lived in London and Marbella, Spain, where he was a real estate developer, since 1970.

Mr. Carpenter headed the Virginia Republicans from 1968 to 1970. He was the state GOP's first full-time salaried leader. During his tenure, Linwood Holton was elected Virginia's first Republican governor in nearly a century.

Mr. Carpenter, who had been a real estate developer and acoustical contractor in the Washington area, was chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Party from 1966 to 1968.

He was born in Ossining, N.Y. He came to Washington as a youth and graduated from Western High School. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he earned a degree from the University of Virginia. He worked as a sales representative here for the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. before going into business for himself.

He is survived by his wife, Nina G., of the home in London and Marbella; two daughters, Perry C. Swain, of Falls Church, and Brien C. Harrison, of Virginia Beach; his mother, Evelyn W. Barringer, of Charlottesville; a brother, David L., of St. John, Virgin Islands, and a sister, Ann B. Spaeth, of Rye, N.Y.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the University of Virginia Student Aid Foundation.