Charles Richard Kenchington (J H 1944-1954)
We have included two pieces on OW Charles Kenchington, one from a contemporary who wanted his friend to be well remembered from school days and a second piece from a close family friend who knew Charles later in life and wrote the eulogy for Charles’s funeral. Both capture a man of integrity and loyalty to friends and family.
Memories of Charles Kenchington from an OW contemporary, Stephen Savery (SH 1950 – 1954)
“We were immediate contemporaries at Wycliﬀe during four years – 1950-54 – and I believe that he was one of the most outstanding Wycliﬃans of his generation.
He was the third or fourth generation of the Kenchington family to come to Wycliﬀe and he was an all rounder with a great personality.
He had a good academic record which took him to Magdalene College, Cambridge to read Estate Management and excelled at sports at school. An outstanding athlete, he was star of both the school Cricket and Rugby teams. The Wisden cricket almanac of 1953 lists him as the school boy with the highest national batting average.
He had been a leading light in the ATC at Wycliﬀe and went on to become a figher pilot during National Service.
To me, Charles epitomised the Wycliﬀe motto of Bold and Loyal and I have two vivid memories of events which testify to this:
The first memory, climbing the Matterhorn. In 1952 Head Master, George Loosley, invited around 15 boys for a summer walking holiday in Switzerland. Our final destination was Zermatt, where it was planned to walk up to the base hut for climbing the Matterhorn. We were not to go beyond the hut! Early on the last morning the Head Master appeared very alarmed because 18 year old Bill Ayton and 16 year old Charles Kenchington had gone missing. Before the rest of us set oﬀ for our walk George Loosley had established that two school boys had left the Youth Hostel at 5am with a guide to climb the Matterhorn. When they returned later that afternoon the Head Master was placated by the guide who proudly announced that he had taken the boys up and down the mountain in the fastest time he had ever experienced. We were in awe of our fellow students and the comment heard was “Of course it had to be Charles Kenchington at 16”.
The second event, relates to the rugby Stand at the Berryfield. The new stand opened in 2006 and funds for it were gathered by all former 1st XV captains. Each contributor who donated a minimum prescribed figure was entitled to a named seat for life.
In November 2015 Charles Kenchington and I were watching a 1st XV match on the Berryfield; he was sitting on his named seat. At half time I noticed the name of the seat next to Charles, it was Laurie Phelps, who had been our captain in 1953. I knew that Laurie had died prior to our fundraising so I mentioned to Charles that I though it very nice that his family had made this donation on his behalf. It was only at that point that he mentioned that he had paid for it and that Laurie’s family never knew!
Eulogy by Rupert Hughes, family friend
Dear Charlie, you will be much missed by your many friends.
Jayne and I first met Charlie and Jan, his wife, soon after we came to live in these parts in 1970. We soon became good friends and have remained so ever since. It was probably a combination of a love of walking and fun that started our friendship. Together with Patrick and Peggy Lawrence (Pat was my former senior partner at Wragge & Co in Birmingham) we spent long weekends together in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Wales and Devon where we combined walking with good company; and got to know each other very well. Later on, we all decided to invest in a timeshare at Court Barton near Salcombe where we spent 2 weeks of each November together for 25 years. During this time we walked all the coastal paths and many inland routes, including much of Dartmoor. But it was never just walking. We combined walking with visiting interesting places and properties, finding good pubs where we could eat delicious crab sandwiches, afternoons at the cinema when it rained, which it often did, and eating delicious cream teas. Later still Jayne and I joined Charlie and Jan and the Lawrences on sailing holidays in the Baltic and in New England where we had many memorable experiences and exciting adventures. Through all of this we developed a close bond of friendship, and were greatly saddened when Pat and Peggy died a few years ago, which, together with the onset of Charlie’s illness brought it all to an end.
Charlie was one of England’s eccentrics. He was born in Wolverhampton and lived in Wombourne, where his father was the local GP. He was sent to school at Wycliffe College, a public school near Stroud, at the age of 7 ½, because his parents already were finding him too much of a handful. After leaving school, he did his national service in the RAF in which he was commissioned and became a fighter pilot, serving most of his time in Canada. There were not many National Service pilots and this was quite an achievement. Following national service he went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge where he read Land Management and played a lot of sport, particularly rugby and cricket, for which he had a natural aptitude. He was also involved with the Footlights where he first made use of that amazing voice which has so often entertained us all. He subsequently became a chartered surveyor and worked for some time in the [City of Birmingham’s Surveying Department].
Already at school he had been marked out as having exceptional talents. When he became a member of the school 1st eleven, the cricket master, Peter Depres, told him that he was needed as a fast bowler, although he was a batsman. When asked how Charlie managed it, he just said, “Oh, Charlie could do anything”. He went on to play junior county level cricket. He was a naturally gifted sportsman. He played rugby for Gloucester schoolboys, for Worcester & Hereford at a senior level, and for the Varsity 2nd team. Sadly, he suffered a major injury to his knee during a county match at Bromsgrove when the scrum collapsed on him, severing a cruciate ligament and bringing his rugby career to a premature end.
Moreover, somewhere along the way, he developed an addiction to alcohol, as a result of which his life became increasingly racketty. Soon after this, he and Jan met and were married. His legendary exploits during this period of his life were only known to us second hand. However, it is clear from his own accounts and from the stories we have heard from his old friends from this time, that he was in danger of losing control of his life and was heading for disaster. That he managed to turn his life around was a great tribute to his strength of character and the help and persuasion he received from Jan. By the time we got to know him, he had conquered his alcohol demons, and had settled down to life in Hope Bagot, a quiet and picturesque village on the side of Clee Hill, where they lived in the Old Rectory. Many of you will know the house and its beautiful garden. It is where Charles and Jan have lived most of their lives and where Charlie died on Easter Monday morning.
Despite his jokiness, Charlie was a multi-talented and underlyingly serious man. He was a great reader and had a considerable intellect. He was competent at everything he turned his hands to. He was a good business man and ran the family property business with considerable skill and success. He was a thoughtful and considerate landlord. He selected tenants carefully and kept rents at moderate levels to ensure that his properties were always fully tenanted. He was considerate when tenants had difficulties paying their rents at difficult times. He was also an innovative property developer. When developing the family’s property in Kingswinford, by carrying out thorough historical research he was able to persuade the planners that the site had ancient market rights, which gave him the right to hold an open market without planning permission. Persuading the planning authorities of this involved considerable tenacity. Later on, he was to use this same tenacity to good effect in challenging parking fines in most unlikely circumstances, but with remarkable success.
And then, later on in life, Charlie and Jan took up sailing. Charlie became a Master Mariner and very good sailor.
By the time we got to know Charlie and Jan well, they had taken on the role of running the village, the church, its fete and the entertainments at the village hall. Charlie was also a member of the Ludlow Festival committee. They involved us and many of their friends in these activities, and from this we began to appreciate the many facetted nature of his personality, as well as his commitment to the community in which he lived. And although he regaled us with stories of his drunken exploits as a young man, which he seemed to remember fondly, he had already embarked upon his lifelong commitment to helping others with addiction problems. Together with his old friend, John Kane, he established or helped establish a Ludlow AA meeting and was a so-to-speak lifelong member. Two years ago he celebrated 50 years of sobriety. His help for the addicted was not limited to AA: he was also active as a prison visitor, where he particularly helped those whose addictions had landed them in prison. And the Kenchington’s house was always full of people to whom they were giving help and support. Our family has special reason to be grateful to Charlie and to Jan for the never-failing support and encouragement they gave to one of our daughters in her struggle with addiction, and to us as her parents.
Charlie’s role in the local community was by no means limited to helping others with addiction problems. He was a very active in the life of the little Norman church of St John the Baptist in Hope Bagot, where no doubt his powerful voice helped make up for its tiny congregation. He organised the repair and restoration of the church, tackled major damp and drainage problems at the church, much of which work he carried out personally, and created a wonderful wild flower meadow of the churchyard under the Caring for God’s Acre scheme. And he and Jan for years organised the Hope Bagot village fete, which became so popular that it became a mini-festival. Charlie also organised terrific entertainments in the village hall. I remember one occasion when he performed the dramatic monologue of “The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God” with his old friend [John Fenton]. Charlie and John were dressed up to look like an oriental god with 4 arms and 4 legs and they recited the poem together with dramatic actions which were truly hilarious.
Most people will remember Charlie for his sense of humour. I think Charlie thought most people take themselves too seriously and need to be shocked a little. Whenever he arrived somewhere, usually late, he would come out with one of his pet sayings such as “don’t stand up, chaps” or “stand by your beds” or “fall out the Roman Catholics and Jews”. Jayne has suggested that I explain that this last order was one given he would have picked up during his national service, which was usually barked out to troops on church parade by the serjeant major, as Roman Catholics and Jews were not expected to attend C of E services. One of our first experiences of Charlie’s dramatic behaviour was when we were staying at the Oxenham Arms in South Zeal after a long tramp over Dartmoor. In our party was an American friend and his Dutch wife. The dining room was very small, but in the corner was a Jazz trio which was playing away quietly while we were waiting to be served our evening meal. Many of you will know what is coming next. Charlie asked the band if they could play “Aint Misbehavin”, which they could and did with Charlie joining in with his famous growling Louis Armstrong rendition from his Footlights days, to the acute embarrassment of our American friends. As we got to know him better, we realised that whenever there was a band available, he would ask them to accompany him singing one of his favourite songs, more often than not to an appreciative audience.
Having been born and brought up on the edge of the Black Country, he always loved the Black Country sense of humour, and in particular Aynuk and Ayli stories. He loved their sense of the ridiculous, and whenever you met him he always had one to tell you, which might or might not be suitable for the occasion. About 10 years ago when he was in hospital, very unwell, awaiting a by-pass operation in a small ward with some other very sick patients, he thought they looked very miserable and needed cheering up. He decided to tell them the story of when Aynuk had been told by Ada that he was dying, and had asked him if he had a last wish. Aynuk said that he would like some of that bacon which was hanging up in the back pantry. Whereupon, Ada replied that no he couldn’t as she was saving it for the funeral. Charlie told me that one of the other patients laughed so much that he died.
I have no doubt that this is how Charlie would have liked to go. Throughout his long and incapacitating illness, Charlie was stoicism itself and, yet again, won the respect and admiration of his friends. He was always cheerful and pleased to see you. He never complained and was always ready with a joke or a few bars of one of his favourite songs. What is more, he continued to take an interest in the world and in his friends, and I dare say that he was as near as it gets to a model patient. Once again, his strength of character and the love of his family, and in particular of Jan, supported him through to the end. Charlie and Jan’s relationship was very special. Her loss is enormous, and one in which we all share.