Tributes to Lord Somerleyton

Tributes have been paid to a prominent peer who dedicated many years of service to the monarchy and was involved in raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for worthy causes as a patron to charities across the region.

Lord Somerleyton, Savile Crossley, died peacefully at his home in Herringfleet in the early hours of Tuesday, aged 83.

Born on September 17, 1928, the third Baron Somerleyton followed closely in the footsteps of his father, Francis Crossley, by being educated at Eton, but broke from family tradition to join the Army straight from Eton in 1947. He went on to serve with the Coldstream Guards between 1948 and 1956.

Having served in Palestine, Tripoli, Egypt, Cyprus and the UK, he finished his service aged 28 and studied at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester before spending a year working on Raveningham Farms, near Loddon, and a year farming abroad as a jackaroo in Australia, New Zealand and America.

His father died in 1959, aged 70, and the third Baron Somerleyton returned to the Somerleyton Estate to farm and manage it in 1959. He married Belinda Loyd in 1963.

Lord Somerleyton, like his grandfather Savile, entered public service and in 1978 he was appointed a lord-in-waiting to the Queen. In 1991 he was appointed Master of the Horse, one of the three great offices of state. He retired from the Queen's Household aged 70 in 1998 and a year later he received the Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in the 1999 New Year Honours list in recognition of services to the monarchy.

During the past 25 years he had supported many local charities, organisations and groups, holding numerous roles as a president, patron, vice-president, chairman, trustee and friend.

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A former county councillor, and a director of Essex and Suffolk Water until retirement in 1997, included among his presidencies were the East of England Tourist Board, Lowestoft RNLI, Age Concern, NSPCC, the Excelsior Trust and Waveney Harriers.

Paul Carter, acting Lowestoft lifeboat operations manager, said: 'We will remember Lord Somerleyton for his long and loyal service as station honorary president of the lifeboat management group, and the many things he did to help us.'

Lord Somerleyton carried on a long, proud family tradition as his mother was very actively involved with the RNLI. He became president of the Lowestoft Management Group in 1977 and had remained so ever since. Lady Somerleyton is president of the local fund-raising group.

His charity connections also included St John Ambulance, the YMCA and the Lowestoft club for the elderly. As a Waveney huntmaster, and life supporter of Waveney Harriers, Lord Somerleyton and his wife have also been heavily associated with point-to-point training.

Lord Somerleyton also took a keen interest in the Scout movement. As president of Lowestoft and District Scout Association for more than 30 years, he maintained his father's links – Scouts were first given permission to use Herringfleet campsite in 1947.

Peter Jarvis, Lowestoft Scouts district commissioner, said: 'He was an incredible guy, a great supporter of the district, and a great number of people owe Lord Somerleyton a huge debt of gratitude.'

In 2004 Lord and Lady Somerleyton moved out of Somerleyton Hall into a smaller house on the estate, with his son the Hon Hugh Crossley and his wife Lara taking over.

Lord Somerleyton, known fondly as Bill to friends, had suffered from Alzheimer's in recent years.

Speaking on behalf of the family, the Hon Hugh Crossley said: 'Dad died peacefully, but unexpectedly, on Tuesday morning, and we all feel very sad, though at the same time we all feel he has escaped the clutches of Alzheimer's for which we know he would be forever grateful.

'It is a time now to reflect on the happy times we all had together. At heart Dad was an estate man, a county man and, most of all, a great Englishman.'

Bruno Peek, who had been involved in the Golden Jubilee dinner for which Lord Somerleyton was patron, said: 'I was sad to hear of the sudden death of Lord Somerleyton. He served our Queen most faithfully, and was a credit to his family, the village of Somerleyton and his country too.'

As a much-esteemed president of the NSPCC's North Suffolk branch since its inception in 1988, Lord Somerleyton would be sadly missed by members, said a spokesman.

The third Lord Somerleyton leaves a wife and five children – Isabel, Camilla, Alicia, Hugh and Louisa.

His funeral will be held next Thursday, although exact details as to whether it will be a public or private funeral are still to be confirmed.

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