Hundreds at Ripon Cathedral for memorial service to city stalwart

The late Mr Michael Hutchinson, second left, with Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and general manager Mrs Georgie Curry, second left, at Ripon Spa Hotel in 1972.
The late Mr Michael Hutchinson, second left, with Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and general manager Mrs Georgie Curry, second left, at Ripon Spa Hotel in 1972.
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Obituary: Mr Michael Hutchinson: February 8, 1933 to January 8, 2016

Hundreds of mourners attended the memorial service for Mr Michael Hutchinson, Ripon solicitor, businessman and racecourse managing director at Ripon Cathedral on Thursday, January 21.

He died at the age of 82 on January 8.

He practised at the law firm of Hutchinson and Buchanan, in North Street, Ripon, from 1958 for 50 years. In doing so, he matched the five decades of his father, Charles Barstow Hutchinson, known in his day as Mr Ripon for his own myriad endeavours for the city’s community, and of his grandfather, William Hanley Hutchinson.

Between them, they notched up almost 160 years as solicitors.

Born in Knaresborough in 1933 on February 8 – he shared his father’s birthday – Michael Charles Hanley Hutchinson was brought up at Hob Green, Markington, although he moved to The Meads in Ripon when Hob Green was requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War.

Graduating in law from Oriel College, Oxford, he studied at the Guildford School of Law before following in his father and grandfather’s shoes by joining Hutchinson & Buchanan.

His son Andrew would do likewise in 1991, matching his path from Radley College to Oriel and Guildford.

Hutchinson & Buchanan would be the fulcrum of Mr Hutchinson’s business enterprises, assuming the reins from his father as chairman of Ebor Concretes, the company his father had set up after the war to provide employment for the returning men of Ripon; Allton (CORRECT) Engineering and Allton Contractors; and WE Dixon and WM Moss, Ripon electrical and paint-spraying businesses respectively.

The Hutchinson family has had an association with the Ripon Spa Hotel since 1906, acquiring full ownership in his father’s time.

Mrs Georgie Curry was the formidable general manager and director for many years – now followed by her daughter Samantha – and during Mr Hutchinson’s chairmanship, the Spa was among the five founding members of the Interchange group of independent hotels.

In 1982, Mr Hutchinson and his wife, Prue, whom he had married in June 1959 at St John’s Church, Knaresborough, took the bold business decision of converting Hob Green into a country hotel in a £500,000 investment.

It was an unprecedented, adventurous step, and plenty more hoteliers have followed suit across North Yorkshire.

His great sporting love was horse racing – he had a badge from every British course tied to his binoculars – and he was a director of Ripon Racecourse from February 1961 to August 2011, managing director and company secretary from 1977 to 2007 and chairman from August that year until 2010.

Again he followed his father and grandfather as company secretary and his father as managing director at “Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse”.

Under his tenure, he increased the fixture list from nine to 15; oversaw prize money across the season rise from £150,000 a year to more than £850,000 per year and rebuilt a large section of the grandstand in 1992.

Ten years later, he introduced the first permanent Big Screen to show racing on a British course, while a new band stand was testament to his love of brass band music.

His son James, clerk of the course since 1991, took over as managing director in August 2007.

In tandem with director Freddie Newton, Mr Hutchinson established the Ripon City Gravel Company, which created the lake in the centre of the racecourse and subsequently Ripon Racecourse Marina.

Often working seven days a week, and many nights too, it is said he participated in as many as 50 committees, ranging from the Ripon Ring to boost tourism in the city, to the development of the Ripon Canal Basin.

He played his part in the Ripon City Partnership that attracted European funding to the city, most notably for the paving of the Market Place.

He was chairman of Markington Parish Council and served as president of the Harrogate and District Law Society in the 1970s. The Church of England played its part in his life: he worshipped both at Ripon Cathedral, where he was also the cathedral solicitor for 40 years, and at St Michael the Archangel, where he was a long-serving church warden and chairman of the parochial church council.

In the field of politics, he was chairman of the Ripon branch of the Ripon and Skipton Conservative Association, having earlier started the Ripon Young Conservatives with Messrs Charlie Shaw and Terry Knowles.

He spent many years involved with agriculture, first at his home at Holly Lodge Farm, then in partnership with Leslie and Douglas Peacock in Hob Green Farmers, farming dairy herds, pigs, sheep and turkeys for the Christmas market.

His life-long passions were bridge, kitchen gardening, travelling on the Continent and antiques, even re-creating a Victorian laundry in outbuildings at Hob Green.

He never officially retired, but struck by Alzheimer’s Disease, he spent his last years at the Granby Rose dementia care home in Harrogate, nursed so diligently to the end.

He leaves a wife, Prue, three sons, Charles, James and Andrew and five grandchildren, Victoria, Charlotte, Edward, William and Kitty.

His funeral took place on Wednesday, January 20 at Markington Church and his memorial service will be led today, Thursday, at 2pm by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Reverend John Dobson.

Donations will be divided between the Alzheimer’s Society and Ripon Cathedral.

Obituary by Charles Hutchinson