Tributes paid to a great servant of Northumberland

TRIBUTES have been paid to Viscount Ridley, who died aged 86 last Thursday following a long illness.

Lord Ridley owned the Blagdon Estate, near Seaton Burn, and was a former chairman of Northern Rock Bank and Northumberland County Council.

He also held posts as Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, Chancellor of the University of Newcastle and more recently served as Lord Steward of the Royal Household.

Born on July 29, 1925, Matthew White Ridley was the son of the 3rd Viscount and Ursula Lutyens, daughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens.

As a young man he was educated at Eton before joining the Coldstream Guards and serving in Normandy and Germany between 1944 and 1945.

In 1948 he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, before serving as an aide-de-camp to the Governor of Kenya.

Later he joined the Territorial Army, reaching the rank of Brevet Colonel in the Northumberland Hussars and became the Honorary Colonel of that unit in 1979.

After succeeding his father in the viscountcy in 1964, he embarked on a prolific period of public service, including roles as chairman of Northumberland County Council from 1967 to 1979, Chancellor of the University of Newcastle from 1988 to 1999, Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland from 1984 to 2000 and as Lord Steward of the Household from 1989 to 2001.

He married the late Lady Anne Katharine Lumley, daughter of the 11th Earl of Scarborough, in 1953.

The couple had three daughters, Cecilia, Rose and Mary, and son Matthew, a writer and former Northern Rock chairman who now succeeds to the title.

Close friend throughout his illness, Canon Alan Hughes, Vicar of Berwick, said: “Viscount Ridley will ever remain and inspiration.

“Born into a life of privilege, yet following Christ, he offered all that he was and knew in the service of others, whatever their station in life, through war and peace, prosperity and austerity.”

He also praised his courage in his military career where he saw active service in Germany, Holland and France.

Under Lord Ridley’s tenure, the Blagdon estate grew to employ around 340 people and is home to 320 people living in the estate’s 142 properties.

His talent as a water-colourist and ornithologist was also celebrated during his time as president of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust when he donated four of his paintings to celebrate the organisation’s 40th anniversary.

For many years he was a supporter and donor to several wildlife and landscape projects.

Trust chief executive Mike Pratt said: “Even when he was very ill, when I met him last month, he was still asking how he could help the trust, which says much about his personal commitment to charity work and to the environment he loved so much.

“I will always value personally the many escorted tours he gave me and colleagues around his tree collections, arboreta and to look for wildlife on his estate and other sites around Northumberland.

“And I will miss, in particular, his sense of fun and humour which made every visit so enjoyable.

“Above all, he was a great wildlife and conservation ambassador and an accomplished naturalist.

“From first to last, wildlife was his passion.”

Lord Ridley gained a reputation for his indefatigable championing of community groups, cadet forces and youth work.

There was hardly a street in Ashington or a valley in the Cheviots where he could not find several old friends.

Among the charities he chaired were the Sir James Knott Trust, a major donor in the North-east, and the Vindolanda Trust with its treasured archaeological discoveries from Hadrians wall.