Tributes to former High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire Sir Simon Towneley who has died at the age of 100

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The head of Burnley’s historic Towneley family, Sir Simon Towneley KCVO, has died peacefully at home in Cliviger, aged 100.

Sir Simon, whose daughter Cosima is the current Mayor of Burnley, was born in Belgrave Square, London.

He enjoyed holidays spent with his grandmother, Lady Alice Reyntiens, at Dyneley Hall, Cliviger, the place he would later call home and where he died peacefully on Friday, November 11th surrounded by family. He inherited the Worsthorne Estate in 1954.

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Sir Simon married his second cousin Mary Fitzherbert in 1955, who became Lady Mary Towneley, later well known for setting up the Mary Towneley Loop on the Pennine Bridleway. She died in 2001 from cancer, aged 65.

Sir Simon Towneley alongisde the late Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth IISir Simon Towneley alongisde the late Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II
Sir Simon Towneley alongisde the late Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II

The couple had seven children – Alice, Charlotte, Katharine, Peregrine, Victoria, Cosima and Frances. He also leaves 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He was educated at Stowe, then Worcester College, Oxford.

Durting the war he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifles (60th Rifles) and later became a lecturer in the History of Music at Worcester College from 1949-55.

His many roles included Lancashire County Councillor 1961-1964; High Sheriff of Lancashire 1971; Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire 1976-1996; director of Granada Television 1981-1992; chairman, Northern Ballet Theatre (now Northern Ballet) 1969-86.

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Sir Simon and Lady Mary TowneleySir Simon and Lady Mary Towneley
Sir Simon and Lady Mary Towneley

He was also a member of the Board of Governors, Royal Northern College of Music; a member of Court, University of Manchester; and a trustee of the British Museum.

Sir Simon was Honorary Colonel Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry 1979-1988, and a great supporter of arts in the north west.

A very keen gardener – the garden at Dyneley is his creation – and a longstanding member of the International Dendrology Society, he was an active supporter of horticultural projects including Trees for Burnley, the Millennium Project and all greening Burnley initiatives. To Offshoots at Towneley Hall he donated rare seeds.

Instigated and driven along with unstinting energy by Lady Towneley, Sir Simon strongly supported the opening up of the Pennine Bridleway and Mary Towneley Loop, the first and still only multi-user national trail, a trail of national importance centred on Burnley.

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He volunteered in the Pendleside Hospice Shop for 20 years, and was devoted to the Wednesday morning team.

He kept on many roles right to the end of his life: Patron, Riding for the Disabled Dyneley Group (a group started by Lady Towneley); president, Mitre Angling Club; founding member and patron, Burnley Civic Trust; patron of Towneley Hall Society.

A faithful Catholic, with Mass said at Dyneley for many years, Sir Simon latterly attended St Mary’s Church, where he was a familiar figure in his favourite seat at the back of the church.

A keen bibliophile, Sir Simon was a member of the Roxburghe Club, the oldest society of bibliophiles in the world, and its members celebrated his 100th birthday with a party for him at Towneley.

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He was very proud of his daughter Cosima carrying on the family tradition of civic duty as a county and borough councillor and now as Mayor of Burnley.

Cosima said: “My father worked tirelessly in support of many local people and associations. He often worked behind the scenes to ensure that Burnley residents benefited from national and local projects.

"He was a great support to me and wise counsel. The family tradition will of course continue and we will miss him terribly.”

His funeral will be held at 11am on Friday, November 25th at St Mary’s RC Church, Yorkshire Street, Burnley. No flowers. Donations to Pendleside Hospice.