Obituary: Charles Ian Ridgway, industrialist

Charles Ridgway, who has died aged 87, was chairman of the Group Rhodes engineering company, a businessman born in Wakefield who remained in the city all his life.

Ian Ridgway in the mid-1970s

Charles Ridgway, who has died aged 87, was chairman of the Group Rhodes engineering company, a businessman born in Wakefield who remained in the city all his life.

Known by his middle name of Ian, he was a passionate advocate for the community and contributed his time and money to many local causes. In particular he was a staunch supporter of Wakefield Cathedral.

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His connection to what had originally been the Joseph Rhodes company could be traced back to 1910, when his father joined the firm. In 1955 – after national service with the Royal Army Service Corps at the time of the Suez crisis – he began his own apprenticeship on the shop floor.

Ian Ridgway, chairman of Group Rhodes

He gained a diploma in engineering from Wakefield Technical College and rose through the ranks, from the drawing office to the boardroom. By 1978 he was managing director of Rhodes Interform. In 1984, when the business was threatened with liquidation by its owners, the Hanson Trust, he and his production director, John Blacker, acquired the company and its subsidiaries in a management buyout.

Born in Sandal to Harry – managing director of Joseph Rhodes at the time – and Eva, Ian and his brother, Ken, had aspirations to be patisserie chefs and Ken later opened the Ridgway bakery in Wakefield before moving into the hotel business.

Ian, meanwhile, was a chorister at St Helen’s Church, Sandal and gained a scholarship to join the choir at Wakefield Cathedral. It meant he could be educated at Wakefield’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar.

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

Outside the company, he became known and respected in the field of power-press manufacturing, developing and patenting several products and winning the Queen’s awards for both innovation and international trade.

An active member of the British Power Press Manufacturers Association, he became its chairman in 1974, 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.

Outside work, he enjoyed DIY and buying and restoring vintage cars, and remained passionate about choral music. He was also an accomplished organist.

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