IN his capacity as city solicitor and deputy chief executive of York – deputy town clerk was the term he preferred – George Hepworth, who has died aged 95, was instrumental in guiding the city from post-war austerity to the comparative prosperity of the 70s.
He was on the boards of management of many organisations, including the Theatre Royal, the York School for the Blind, Castle Howard Approved School and the Wandsford Trust.
The ideals and aims of the National Trust coincided with his own, and he and his wife were founder members of the Trust’s York Centre.
Following his retirement in 1981, Mr Hepworth was secretary and then chairman of the 1000-strong Centre. Later, he served as holiday secretary, he and his wife organising holidays for members, visiting National Trust properties throughout the UK when his knowledge of historical buildings, be they castles, churches, monasteries or stately homes, was invaluable.
An only child, Mr Hepworth was born into a mill-owning family in Churwell, between Leeds and Morley – in 1917 a self-contained village. George Hepworth & Sons had been founded by his great grandfather, and the family was active and influential in Morley civic life.
At 10, he was sent to a boarding prep school in Scarborough, followed by five years at Oundle.
At home in the holidays he met Margaret Sutcliffe, who was at school with a cousin, and had become a friend of the family. They played tennis as a mixed-double pair on the courts next to All Saints’ Church in the village. Over the coming years, the relationship developed and they married in 1947.
After Oundle, Mr Hepworth studied for a law degree at Leeds University, and at the same time served his articles with the town clerk of Huddersfield. He ought to have paid for the training, but it was provided free on account of the town clerk being a friend of his father.
He played tennis in the summer, rugby in the winter, sang in the church choir on Sundays, swam after work, played the piano and took part in amateur dramatics.
Following the outbreak of war, he joined the RAF, working in communications and eventually serving in Northern France and then Australia.
The war over, he returned to complete his articles in Huddersfield and, having qualified, in 1947 – the year he married – moved to York as an assistant solicitor in the Town Clerk’s department.
The couple entered into the life of the city and their local community with verve and vitality, making life-long friends in the process.
Mr Hepworth served as a church warden at Clifton Parish Church, and after 1964, at Askham Bryan.
He became a member of York 65 Round Table and then 41 Club, of which he was made a life member earlier this year; he joined the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the Georgian Society, the Civic Trust, Probus and the York Company of Merchant Adventurers.
Meticulous in his attention to detail – leaving nothing to chance – he seemed imperturbable, except when meeting exhibitionism, loudness and bad manners, none of which he could abide.
Down the years, he accepted most changes to everyday life – except any that was, in reality, a euphemism for a decline in standards of behaviour or morality.
He is survived by his wife Margaret and their children Hilary and Mark, two granddaughters and a grandson.