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Obituary: Robert Hill

Robert HillRobert HillRobert Hill who was involved with the Hills Group for more than four decades and was a leading figure in Marlborough Golf Club for many years has died at the age of 74 years.

Mr Hill died on Thursday afternoon after suffering a long and debilitating illness and today the club flag was at half-mast out of respect for the man who was a past captain, chairman and president.

Mr Hill, who is survived by his wife Rosie and four sons, Michael, William, David and Jamie, was a dynamic man both in the business world and in his sporting life.

He was at the helm at Marlborough Golf Club from the mid-Eighties until advancing ill health forced him to stand down as president recently.

The golf club issued a statement to its members today saying: “We are very saddened to announce the death of Robert Hill.
“Robert was 74 years old. He and his family business have been constant and generous supporters of Marlborough Golf club for many years.”

Mr Hill joined the committee of the club in 1984 and chaired its development committee which oversaw the modern clubhouse on The Common. His company continues to sponsor the Wiltshire Professional Championship which continues to be played at Marlborough.

He was also a keen bowls player and represented the county.
Ernie Newell, who was the Gazette and Swindon Advertiser’s golf columnist for many years said today: “Robert was a lovely chap and made a great contribution to the club.”

Mr  Hill was a grandson of Edward Hill who founded Hills of Swindon, then a brick-making business, in 1900 and which under the leadership of successive generations of the family moved into the construction and recycling business.

Robert and Rosie Hill with John Cleese and Mike HillRobert and Rosie Hill with John Cleese and Mike HillToday the Hills Group, chaired by Robert Hill’s oldest son Michael, is one of the leading recycling groups in Britain and is responsible for refuse and recycling in Wiltshire. Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

Born in Swindon Robert Hill was educated at Clifton College and Bristol University where one of his cohort was John Cleese. Mr Hill was credited with introducing Cleese to comedy.

Mr and Mrs Hill have lived for many years at Eagle House on The Green in Marlborough.

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Tributes pour in for the late Ann Harley, one of Marlborough’s citizens of the year

Anne HarleyAnne HarleyMother of three Ann Harley, who has died suddenly while undergoing treatment for cancer in the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, was Marlborough’s Citizen of the Year in 2010.

Tributes have poured in for the community minded mother and grandmother, who died last Friday March with members of her family at her bedside.

Ann Harley, who was born in Marlborough, was one of those people who could never say 'No' when asked to do something for her community.

Her community work, fundraising and generosity was legend said former Marlborough mayor Stewart Dobson.  His mayoral ball was one of many at which Mrs Harley volunteered to run the tombola in aid of charities, usually local.

Councillor Dobson said: “She did so much for the town for many, many years.  Whatever function you put on you could ask Ann Harley to help and many mayors like myself relied on her to organise the tombola at their mayoral balls.

“She was able to combine a very busy working life while doing so much for the community.”

Another former mayor, Councillor Peggy Dow, said:  “She raised so much money for me at my two mayors’ balls…she couldn’t do enough for Marlborough.

“She was a workaholic but she loved Marlborough.  She thought so much of our town and cared so much for Marlborough.”

Mrs Harley had helped organise the annual Christmas Day lunch for the town’s senior citizens over the last 10 years raising money towards them and helping run them in Marlborough Town Hall.

She ran the town’s oldest taxi business Marlborough Taxis, formerly called Harley Travel, along  with her husband Ray.

Town councillor Justin Cook who also runs a taxi business said:  “Ann was a pillar of the community.

“Ann was tough but also very sweet at the same time.  We had our ups and downs but if I ever needed a job covering Ann would always oblige and vice versa.”

Ann Harley was born in Marlborough, daughter of the late Dick and Hilda Milsom and her childhood home was in Chiminage Close.

She attended St Mary’s girls school and Marlborough Grammar School leaving at 16.  From the age of 19-22 she was a telephonist in the town’s telephone exchange behind the old Post Office in High Street.

At the age of 16 she joined the Territorial Army where she learned to drive, leaving shortly before her marriage.

Mr and Mrs Harley made their home at 117 London Road where their three children, Joanne, Susan and Jonathon came along.  Eventually the couple had six grandchildren, Christopher, Elizabeth, Thomas, Catherine, Harrison and Fraser.

Mrs Harley always supported the town’s carnivals and at the age of 17 was a carnival queen attendant.

Carnival stalwart Ian Philpott said of her death:  “This is a sad day for Marlborough…she did so much for the town.”

It is expected that St Mary’s Church will be packed for a service of celebration of her life next Friday (April 11) at 11.30am. C remation attended by members of her family only will have already taken place at Kingsdown Crematorium at Swindon.

Her sons in law Steven and Simon and two of her grandchildren, Christopher and Thomas will be pall bearers.

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Obituary: Joe Crook, 1920 - 2013

Joe CrookJoe CrookFather of six, Joe Crook, who has died at the age of 93 was a former Marlborough fire fighter who attended some of the town’s biggest blazes including the fire in 1966 that reduced the Polly Tea Rooms to a single storey.

Ronald Victor Crook  -- who was always known by his childhood nickname of Joe -- lived in Cherry Orchard in Marlborough where he spent the majority of his life.

His family moved to the estate when he was 11 years old and latter to the former Sebastopol Square – where ATS Euro Tyres is today – but he later returned to Cherry Orchard after marrying.

He was born on February 11 1920, the second oldest of five children and the last one surviving.

Mr Crook went to St Peter’s Boys School before winning a scholarship to Marlborough Grammar School.

On leaving school he worked for a period as an assistant to the professional Cyril Brooke at Marlborough Golf Club.

Then he went to work at Sunnyhill Farm at Oare but with World War 2 looming Mr Crook joined the Territorial Army and in September the same year, 1939, he was called up into the Wiltshire Regiment.

He was never sent into the battlefields of Europe and instead was posted to India where thousands of British troops were on the ready in case they were needed for the war against the Japanese.

Mr Crook’s unit was sent to several different Indian cities and he later loved to regale his family, said elder son Bob, with tales of his experiences on the sub-continent. He caught Malaria four times which kept him from active service.

After being demobbed Mr Crook went into the building trade and worked for a number of local building companies but in 1975 he became self-employed as a bricklayer.

At one stage he was employed as a maintenance man at Pelham Puppets, the former Marlborough factory that exported millions of puppets all over the world.  He also worked for a while on the maintenance team at Marlborough College.

One job he was particularly proud of was helping build the wall at the Salisbury Road entrance to the Recreation Ground to commemorate the Coronation in 1953.

Mr Crook met his wife Queenie, who died in 1998, at a dance in the Town Hall and they made their home in Cherry Orchard where they raised their family of six.

After his demob from the Army Mr Crook joined the former National Fire Service – later to become the Wiltshire Fire Brigade – and as a retained fire fighter for almost three decades was involved in tackling many of the big fires that have dogged the town over the years.

He loved darts and was chairman of the Marlborough Darts League for some years, and he was a member of the town’s two RAOB lodges.

In recent years, said son Bob, old age took an increasing hold on Mr Crook and he needed carers at his home before finally he was moved to Aldbourne Nursing Home where he died on Boxing Day.

In lieu of flowers at his cremation his family asked for donations to the Jubilee Centre.

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Mary Gray, a former mayoress of Marlborough

Mary and Tony GrayMary and Tony GrayTown councillors at Marlborough stood in silence on Monday in memory of former mayoress Mary Gray who died on Friday at the age of 73.

Welsh-born Mrs Gray who was one of 15 children died at Hungerford Newtown Nursing Home where she had been looked after since August last year as the dementia she had suffered for seven years worsened.

Previously she was looked after at her High Street home by her husband Tony helped by their daughter  Vicky, son Jerry and his wife Julie.

Her death was the third tragedy this year for former mayor Mr Gray whose daughter Vicky Philpott, 48,  and mother Sylvia Gray, 96, died within 24 hours of each other in March.

Mrs Gray was mayoress twice, in 1972/73 where her husband was last but one mayor of the former Borough Council and again in 1990/91 when he was mayor of the successor town council.

She also supported her husband when he served on the former Kennet District Council for many years from its inception in 1974 and was as its chairman for four years.

Mother of two Mrs Gray had the distinction of being the only person ever to be mayoress of both the borough and town councils and also the wife of a Kennet chairman.

Standing at a diminutive 5ft 1in Mrs Gray was a tower of strength for her husband in his early election campaigns and he said that when he was first elected to the borough council in 1966 it was largely due to her persuasive canvassing.

“She delivered my election leaflets up and down Cherry Orchard and Orchard Road pushing Vicky in a bog coach-built pram and very heavily pregnant with Jerry.

“I think people felt sorry for her and that was probably why they voted for me,” said Mr Gray.

Mrs Gray also played a pivotal role in the family’s former Ducks Toy Shop in High Street, managing it virtually single handed for years while her husband was busy with council activities.

Mr and Mrs Gray were married in 1964 in the village church at Oare where her husband’s family ran a garage and taxi business.

In was due to an accident Mr Gray suffered when driving from Oare to Marlborough that led to their meeting.

Mr Gray said: “I had a car accident at the top of Granham Hill when I was hit head-on by a lorry which put me in Savernake Hospital for a month.

“Mary was nursing at Savernake Hospital in those days although when I arrived she had been sent to work at Princess Margaret’s Hospital in Swindon for a few weeks.

“She returned to Savernake Hospital and I can remember sitting at the end of a long ward with my leg in plaster up to my hip waiting for an x-ray.

“I saw her walking towards me and all I could think was that she looked like an angel.”

However she did not reciprocate his feelings at first and it was after meeting several times at dances in the town at which nurses were in great demand that they started courting.

Mr Gray said: “We still have a cutting from an old Marlborough Times with the headline Nurse Marries Local Man!”

Daughter Vicky was born while the couple were living in Oare, and after they joined the family toy and cycle business in Marlborough they moved to live over the shop where Jerry was born.

One of the few perks Mrs Gray had for her hard work as a mayoress was being invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party where she was thrilled to meet the Queen.

On a second visit to a palace garden party when her husband was chairman of Kennet District Council, Mrs Gray took daughter Vicky with her.

Mrs Gray is survived by her husband Tony, son Jerry and his wife Julie, by son-in-law Ian Philpott and her four grand daughters, Kim, Jo, Mollie and Harriet.

The date for her funeral which will be in St Mary’s Church has not been confirmed.

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Tributes are paid to Kennet Valley Arts Trust's John Cornell

Brigadier John CornellBrigadier John CornellJohn Cornell, one of the leading lights of the Kennet Valley Arts Trust, has died following a short illness, at the age of 81.

Brigadier Cornell, who died on May 5, served as chairman of Kennet Valley Arts Trust for many years. He leaves a wife, Caroline, three sons, Mark, David and Tom, and 11 grandchildren.

KVAT colleagues said this week that due to his determination and tenacity the charity is  building up a very strong audience base for popular movies and exciting live performances, such as The National Theatre and The Glyndebourne 

John, who lived at Sharcott, near Pewsey, never wavered in his enthusiasm for promoting the aims of KVAT to bringing arts events to the local community, they said.

At a packed Town Hall on May 23 for the showing of Quartet, Rosie Hill, a fellow board member  of the arts organisation, gave a tribute to the late John Cornell “We owe him a big debt of gratitude and he will be very much missed.”  

Diana Turnbull who worked closely with John said: “It is deeply regrettable that he left us just as our film programme is becoming so successful, and before the final development of a cinema, on which he had spent so much time. 

“It was his vital interest to re-establish the development of a new cinema for Marlborough, and in keeping the idea alive, he enabled us to achieve all that we have accomplished to date.”

Born in London and educated at Winchester College, Brigadier Cornell was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade in 1952, serving in Kenya, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

He was made a CBE in 1981 and retired in 1986. His last posting was as military advisor to the High Commission in New Delhi.

After retiring from the Army, he took over the charity Gap Activity Projects, the body dedicated to international volunteering. 

Jenny Gibbons, GAP Project director from 1989-1995, recalled: "When John became the first salaried Director of GAP in 1988 he inherited a small low-key organisation which had been run mainly by volunteers.

"He was inspirational in his leadership and vision, and his enthusiasm inspired young and old alike. Recruiting both salaried and volunteer staff with specific skills and knowledge of the countries where GAP was operating, he quickly expanded the organisation from around 10 countries to 35, always looking for new and challenging opportunities for gap year placements.

"GAP was unique in establishing a two-way reciprocal scheme enabling young people from overseas to benefit from short placements in the UK.

"Moving from dingy first floor offices in central Reading, sandwiched between a department store and a language school, to new premises in Queen’s Road made this rapid expansion possible.

"He had great charisma and curiosity and a huge network of friends and contacts which he exploited with great charm when he thought they could do something for GAP.

"His fundraising skills were incredible and as a result GAP was supported by many businesses, trusts and individuals. Princess Anne came on board as a patron – I could go on and on.

"His brain never stopped and although it was at times exhausting and difficult to keep up, there was never a dull moment with John at the helm! It was a real privilege to work with him."

A sold-out live screening of The Audience from the Gielgud Theatre in the West End, and starring Helen Mirren as the Queen, will be presented in tribute to Brigadier Cornell on Thursday, June 13.

A second screening will be shown on September 4. A thanksgiving service will be held at Winchester Cathedral on Monday, September 23 at 11am.  

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Sir John Sykes pays tribute to Merchant’s House pillar of strength Jeffrey Galvin-Wright

Jeffrey Galvin-Wright at the planting of the Community Orchard on the Common last OctoberJeffrey Galvin-Wright at the planting of the Community Orchard on the Common last OctoberWarm tribute has been paid by Sir John Sykes, chairman of the trustees of Marlborough’s historic Merchant’s House, to its stalwart volunteer Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, who has died at the age of 77.

“Those of us involved in the Merchant’s House project will always remember Jeffrey’s great contribution to its success, carried out with conviction, commitment and constant good sense,” he told Marlborough News Online.

“A pillar of the Merchant’s House for upwards of 10 years he and his wife Alison made a formidable team and by their generosity, endeavour and single minded devotion to the project have done a huge amount to carry it forward.

“Jeffrey’s lasting memorial will be the creation of the 17th century garden to the rear of the House, a task for which his training as a garden designer, enhanced by his achieving a MA in Garden History from the University of Bristol, made him especially fitted.  

“As a volunteer he spent numberless hours planning the garden’s construction, its layout and its planting – his rigorous approach ensured that no plant was admitted which did not exist in this country by 1700.    

“Undeterred by the numerous obstacles to the fulfilment of his objective he kept quietly going and in 2007 the garden was formally opened by Sir Roy Strong.”  

A celebration of Jeffrey’s life is to be held at St Mary’s Church on May 9 at 11am.

Born in Surrey, Jeffrey was educated at Ashtead and Epsom College, where he was a keen cricketer and rugby player representing the College at the highest level, and later becoming a member of the MCC.

After National Service, spent in Khartoum he followed his father, head of publicity for ICI, into advertising and publishing, joining the top London advertising agency, SH Benson, which became Ogilvy and Mather, in 1955.

He joined the Reader's Digest as media director in 1962, playing a major role during its heyday of the sixties and seventies, but left in 1986 after a boardroom disagreement with its American owners.  

But after setting up his own agency he decided on a complete change of career in 1988.  He went to Merrist Wood Agricultural College and studied landscape construction and design and, having qualified, set up his own successful business in Oxshott, Surrey, before retiring to Marlborough in 2001.

He had married Susan Abell in 1965 and had two sons, Duncan and Jonathan.  Following divorce, he Alison Lovibond and acquired two stepsons, Charles and Max, and set up home in Old Lion Court, off the High Street, where their magnificent garden played a significant role in Merchant’s House Trust’s annual Open Gardens event.

He became early on with the newly formed History Association and went on to be chairman of the Marlborough History Society.

At the Merchant’s House, the 17th century home in the High Street of silk merchant Thomas Bayly, he also used his talents as its PR, producing numerous articles for the Merchant’s House Journal and other publications.

He was a leading light in Marlborough’s Apple Day initiatives and last year he designed the Diamond Jubilee Community Orchard for Marlborough.

Sir John added: “Jeffrey had a ready sense of humour and was always good company.  But, above all, we should remember him for the quiet courage with which he faced his last few months. 

“He never complained about his lot despite knowing that his life would be cut short untimely but accepted it with the stoicism which was his trade mark.”

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Nikki Rowan Kedge

Nikki Rowan KedgeNikki Rowan KedgeNikki Rowan Kedge was born in Leicester.  She never knew her mother or her father, who was an American G.I. stationed over here during the war.

She was adopted by Mr and Mrs Kedge and the fact that she was adopted gave her a lifelong sense of searching for identity.

Her love of the sea and the coast, which remained with her all her life, saw her join the WRNS as a young adult, serving for 12 years, stationed at HMS Mercury and HMS Victory; she was a Leading Wren and quickly promoted to Petty Officer. 

It was during this time that high standards of service were inculcated as her training was rigorously strict – she had to oversee a group of Stewards, learn to carve, mix drinks and serve at large naval dinners – often into the early hours of the morning, then having to rise a mere few hours later to ‘raise the officers’ for their breakfast.  Skills that were to inform her later life.

Whilst in the navy she met her life partner, Angela Rawson (who followed in the steps of her great-aunt Iris Syrett, who founded the Tante Marie Cordon Bleu School of Cookery) and they left the navy together.  They began a catering service offering dinner parties in peoples’ homes – (an idea ahead of its time!); they couldn’t think of a name but Angela’s mother suggested The Loaves and Fishes hoping it would mean they would never run out of food! The name stuck and Nikki and Angela began the business that would see them move from a small, one-roomed restaurant run from their home, to the Old Chapel at Rockley, nestled in the Marlborough Downs. 

The restaurant and cookery school in the atmospheric converted old chapel, was really ahead of its time.  They specialised in preparing fresh and wholesome food that used free-range, organically grown and non-intensively farmed ingredients (something which now seems to be the expected in great restaurants, but which then, was very novel). 

The reputation of the restaurant spread and was, on one occasion, visited by the Editor of The Sunday Telegraph who acclaimed it as “one of the best places to eat in England” and featured Nikki and Angela on the front cover of the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. 

They were also at this time writing their own cookery pages in various magazines and newspapers, as well as articles about the History of Food, and co-authored five cookery books.  Nikki was a member of the Guild of Food Writers.

Nikki was also a passionate, self-taught musician, and composed, wrote and devised many productions based on the Classics (and especially Shakespeare) which she produced and put on with her partner Angela, to be performed by young people between the ages of 6 and 15; she believed that they were more than capable of understanding the incredible richness of the English Language and never needed talking down to. These performances were formative influences in the lives of many, many young people in Wiltshire and Norfolk where she lived latterly.

Her passion for good food, good wine and good company lasted until the last months of her life when she was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer.  She had a deep sense of faith and spirit and her response to the registrar who told her of this diagnosis was typical of Nikki’s strength; she looked at him and said simply:  “No.  I’ve just bought a new pair of shoes and I am going to wear them.” Sadly she never did. 

She died on Monday, February 11 in Norfolk and is survived by her partner of 42 years, Angela Rawson, as well as a legacy of wonderful cookery writing, musical compositions and treasured memories.  A Trust is being established in her name to support young musicians.  If you wish to contribute to this, please contact the Rosedale Funeral Home on 01379 640810 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who will direct you to the right address.

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