RICHARD Michael Oliver Hill, the seventh Baron Sandys of Ombersley has died at the age of 81 after a long illness.
He succeeded to the title and to the 2,000-acre estates of Ombersley Court more than half-a-century ago on the death in a road accident of his 84 years-old father, the sixth baron in 1961.
The seventh Lord Sandys filled a variety of prominent positions in the life of Worcestershire over his 52 years at Ombersley, and at national level took an active role in the House of Lords for several years, being the Conservative Government’s Deputy Chief Whip and Front Bench spokesman for three ministries – Agriculture, the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security.
But clearly the most colourful and unusual post he held was that of Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. He filled this quaint ceremonial appointment from 1979 to 1983, commanding the historic band of men who, in spectacular costumes, form the traditional bodyguard to the monarch. They form the oldest military corps in the world, having first been formed in1485 by King Henry VII.
Lord Sandys as Captain and wearing the traditional uniform with plumed hat and sword, accompanied the Queen on her regular inspections of her bodyguard on the lawns of Buckingham Palace.
The Sandys’ family tree, traced back to 1170 and to Sandes of Rattenby Castle in Cumberland, has branched widely down the centuries and thrown long shadows across the nation’s history and Worcestershire’s past. From the ranks of the Sandys have come: • An eminent yet controversial Archbishop of York in the late 1500s – Edwin Sandys who had previously been Bishop of Worcester for 11 years and Bishop of London for five • A succession of MPs who sat continuously in Parliament for more than 200 years • Colonels who fought on opposing sides during the English Civil War • A colonial figure and one of the pioneers of Virginia who drew up the document on which George Washington modelled the United States Constitution • And Arthur Hill, the second Lord Sandys, who was ADC to the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. Two days before the battle, Arthur was in London and told to come at once to the Duke’s side. With no scheduled sailings from Dover he had to hire a boat and rowed across the channel, arriving on the eve of the battle. Among the archives at Ombersley Court have been the £22 bill for hiring the boat and also kettle drums and flags from the Battle of Waterloo, presented by the Duke of Wellington on one of his visits to Ombersley Court. The duke also planted a Wellingtonia tree in front of Ombersley Court. A farm on the Sandys’ estate bears the name “La Haye,” having been designed as a replica of the La Haye Sainte farmhouse which was the centrepiece of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.
The seventh Lord Sandys was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and served as an officer in the Royal Scots Greys from 1950 to 1955, being stationed in Germany, Libya and Jordan. He was later private secretary to the Bishop of Jerusalem and then for three years before succeeding to the Sandys’ title he worked for the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.
In 1961, he married Miss Patricia Hall, elder daughter of the late Mr Lionel Hall and Mrs Hall of Parkgate, Sussex. He is survived by Lady Sandys.
Among the many prominent county positions held by Lord Sandys were Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire, President of the County British Red Cross Society, Vice President of the Royal British Legion, President of the Three Counties Agricultural Society, President of the Worcestershire Council for the Protection of Rural England, President of the Worcestershire Country Landowners Association, President of the Worcester Conservative Association, President for 10 years of the Friends of Worcester Cathedral, President of the Worcestershire Parish Councils Association, Vice President of the Worcestershire Association, President of the County Building Preservation Trust, Churchwarden of Ombersley Parish Church and President of Ombersley Cricket Club.