Ian Ridgway, chairman of Wakefield-based engineering company Group Rhodes, has died aged 87

Well-respected Wakefield businessman Charles Ian Ridgway has died aged 87.

Ian Ridgway at Group Rhodes in 2004
Ian Ridgway at Group Rhodes in 2004

Mr Ridgway who went by his middle name of Ian, was chairman of engineering company Group Rhodes, and was born and lived in Wakefield his whole life.

He was a passionate advocate for his home city and contributed his time and money to many local causes.

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In particular he was a staunch supporter of Wakefield Cathedral.

Ian Ridgway, chairman of Group Rhodes

His son Mark, who is CEO of Group Rhodes said: “Dad was very much a family man, very generous, loving and supportive and always encouraged us to play to our strengths.

“He helped and assisted us where necessary, while wanting us to stand on our own two feet”.

“He was a man of conviction who believed in his own abilities and had great focus and attention to detail.

“He tried to instil that same confidence in his children.”

ian Ridgway taken sometime in the mid-1970s

Mr Ridgway’s connection to Joseph Rhodes goes back to 1910 when his father joined the firm. In 1955 he began his own apprenticeship on the shop floor after carrying out his national service with the RASC in 1952-4 at the time of the Suez crisis.

He gained an HND in Engineering from Wakefield Technical College and progressed to the drawing office, then rose through the ranks to assistant works manager and general manager.

In 1967 he took a seat on the board as commercial director and in 1969 became company secretary.

Mr Ridgway became the first sales director of Rhodes Interform in 1976 and its managing director in 1978.

In 1984, when the whole business was threatened with liquidation by owners Hanson Trust Plc, he acquired the company and its subsidiaries, in a management buyout along with production director John Blacker. Support was received from the West Yorkshire Enterprise Board and Wakefield MDC.

Mr Ridgway was born in Sandal to Harry, who was managing director of Joseph Rhodes at the time, and Eva and had one brother Ken. The brothers had aspirations to be patisserie chefs and Ken opened the Ridgway bakery in Wakefield before moving into the hotel business.

Ian realised the culinary world did not suit him and moved into engineering - a field in which he was eminently suitable and highly accomplished.

As a young boy he was a member of the choir at St Helen’s Church, Sandal and from the age of seven, he gained a choral scholarship to join the choir at Wakefield Cathedral.

This also meant he was educated at Wakefield’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.

A keen sportsman he played rugby for the school and for many years played tennis at Sandal Tennis Club where he was to meet Heather, his wife of 60 years, who was a PE teacher at Wakefield Girls’ High School at the time.

Outside the company, Mr Ridgway became both well-known and well respected in the field of power-press manufacturing, developing and patenting several products and winning Queen’s Awards for both Innovation and International Trade.

For many years he was a very active member of the British Power Press Manufacturers Association, and in 1974 he became its chairman, holding the post for six years.

He later took the chair of the European Power Press Manufacturing Board, setting European standards for the industry.

In 2008 he was presented with a long-service award for 53 years with the company by Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham.

He was also conferred with the life presidency of his trade association in 2011.

In his early years with Rhodes, Mr Ridgway was chairman of the Wakefield Junior Chamber of Commerce and then in the 1970s was president of Wakefield Chamber of Commerce itself.

He was also a member of the Chantry Lodge of Freemasons, Wakefield.

Mr Ridgway enjoyed DIY and buying and restoring vintage cars and was passionate about choral music, as well as being an accomplished organist.

He is survived by Heather, children Mark and Jacqui, three grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

The funeral will take place at Wakefield Cathedral on July 29 at 11am followed by a family burial at St Helen’s churchyard in Sandal.