Richard Howard-Vyse

RICHARD Howard-Vyse, who has died at the age of 68, was an enthusiastic supporter of the countryside who played a significant part in the development of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

It was under his leadership that in 1992 the historic decision was taken to remain at, and develop, the Harrogate Showground.

After looking at other options his reasoning was simple, the present site was the best. He then oversaw substantial financial investment, including leasing part of it to Sainsbury's, the building of Pavilions of Harrogate, the Yorkshire Event Centre and the Nidderdale Complex with its sheep buildings.

His connection with the Society began in 1968 when he became the first President's Steward at the Great Yorkshire Show, eventually becoming Chief Steward for the Main Ring.

His influence began in earnest when, as a member of Council, he became deputy chairman of the executive committee and chairman in 1992 although when he stepped down six years later he continued to play a pivotal role, as a trustee, and committee member.

But it was as chairman of the Showground Working Group that he saw the completion of the most significant landmark in the Society's recent history, with the opening of the Regional Agricultural Centre last June.

Mr Howard-Vyse said of himself that he had lived a lucky life.

He was born at Wold Cottage, Norton, Malton, where he lived with his mother until his father returned from Second World War service in the Western Desert, Italy and Greece and eventually met his son who was then aged three.

His father had previously escaped from Dunkirk on the Margate ferry and immediately sent his mother a telegram proposing marriage.

When his father's elder brother died childless Mr Howard-Vyse came into the Langton Estate, near Malton, when he was 17 because his father, not wishing to incur two lots of death duties in one generation, stepped away from inheriting it.

He was educated at Cothill School, Oxfordshire and Wellington College before studying at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

His first job was in Hexham, in 1963, during which time he joined the Territorial Army serving with the Northumberland Hussars and Yorkshire Yeomanry, which were amalgamated into the Queens Own Yeomanry.

In 1965 he married his wife Sally, and since 1968 they have lived at Langton where he managed the estate which has been in his family since 1620. One of his forebears, a Colonel Norcliffe, is believed to have been one of the earliest members, and possibly a founder of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

Mr Howard-Vyse was a keen conservationist who developed wildlife habitat and woodland and was a member of the North Yorkshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Committee (FWAG).

In 1998 he won the Silver Lapwing award for conservation, organised by FWAG.

He was also a judge for the Tye Trophy for conservation presented annually at Great Yorkshire Show from one of three nominations by FWAG.

He served on the Country Landowners Association's national executive and its national council, and had been a member of its legal and parliamentary committee. He was also a former chairman of the Yorkshire branch.

As a member of York Race Committee he took a keen interest in the development of the course, and of the track which he would walk regularly with the present chief executive, William Darby, his predecessor John Smith, and the head groundsman.

He was an annual badge holder from 1970, and a main committee member from 1999 being involved with major award-winning developments including the County and Ebor Stands, as well a 2.5m track drainage and irrigation project, which was one of the largest such schemes in British racing.

He was also a member of Malton Racing Association.

From 1994 to 1995 he was High Sheriff of North Yorkshire and subsequently a Deputy Lieutenant.

He served as a magistrate and chairman of the Bench at Pickering and Scarborough, as well being Churchwarden at St Andrew's Church, Langton, since 1965.

Mr Howard-Vyse leaves his wife Sally, three children and five grandchildren.

The funeral service will be private, but a memorial service will be held at York Racecourse on Wednesday, December 9, at noon. Those attending are asked to email or call 01904 683932.