Christopher Lewis Loyd

Christopher Lewis Loyd, who died aged 90 on July 14th 2013, was a well-known and much-loved figure. Friends have paid tribute to a man who, though in charge of the 7,500-acre Lockinge Estate, “never acted the grand gentleman” but was rather the epitome of a benevolent landlord, working tirelessly in the interests of villagers, tenants and local businesses. Giving the eulogy at his funeral, Reverend Elizabeth Birch said: “His whole life had this place, this land, this community, this church as the hub from which everything else radiated out.”

A happy childhood

Christopher was born in Lockinge House on 1st June 1923, a busy and lively place that embraced his family – his parents, his two older brothers, John and Martin, his two older sisters, Anne and Hester, “Heck”, as well as himself and his beloved twin, Catherine.  Catherine was always known as “Ag”, just as Christopher himself was always known as “Larch”  – the twins for some reason had been nicknamed Archibald and Agatha while still in the nursery and the names stuck, abbreviated and adjusted for convenient pronunciation by their owners!

Along with the family there was a host of servants – Lockinge House in its heyday required a small army to run and so for the young Christopher there was always company in the form of his siblings or friends around the house;  people such as old Mr Camden the deaf carpenter who would obligingly mend anything the small boy brought to him in need of repair. It was he too who drew for Christopher the outlines of animals on pieces of three-ply wood for him to cut out with a fret-saw. Such activities, combined with spending happy afternoons with family and the many house-guests, made for an idyllic early childhood.

The idyll was shadowed in 1926 by the death of his brother Martin, aged only nine, from polio. Christopher never forgot the aura of sadness that descended on the house and he kept the Bible that his mother had given Martin in 1925, right to the end of his life.  But life went on and soon prep school at Stone House was calling followed by Eton.

Wartime years & an ‘immediate’ Military Cross

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Christopher was 16. By now his elder brother, John, heir to the Lockinge Estate, had gone into the Coldstream Guards and was serving in Egypt. It was an anxious time in Lockinge House. There were fewer servants available to do the necessary work; there was an influx of exhausted evacuees to care for and in the background a very real concern for John’s safety abroad.

By the time Christopher came to leave school however, he was full of enthusiasm for joining the war as a fighter pilot. His father, with hindsight very wisely, in view of the numbers of casualties who never returned, did not think much of this idea and made it clear that Christopher was to forget the RAF and follow his brother into the Coldstream Guards. It was an age when parental wishes in families such as Christopher’s were unquestioned and Christopher accepted the change of plan without repining. While Christopher was still in training, John had been wounded at Tobruk and invalided home. Tragically John died from complications from his wounds in October 1943 by which time Christopher had been posted to Italy. John’s death was a bitter blow for the Loyd family, doubly so with Christopher away fighting in Italy. Anxiety and failing health were beginning to take their toll on Christopher’s father now in his early sixties and he too died unexpectedly in November 1944. Christopher was now the family’s hope for the future.

But there was still work to be done in Italy and Christopher with customary doggedness was not to be deflected from his task. He carried it out with unwavering bravery that was to earn him an MC in a daring manoeuvre of extraordinary deftness, courage and paramount care for the men in his charge, under serious enemy fire. On the citation, General Alexander’s annotation reads tellingly, “immediate MC.” And an extraordinary postscript records the additional tribute to Christopher’s bravery of the German officer who had subjected Christopher and his men to such intense fire.

An unexpected inheritance

When Christopher came home after the War, it was a different place. The world was a different place, and he now took on another mantle he had never expected to wear – that of running the Lockinge Estate. He knew that he had to tackle some major problems and, like all landowners at that time, faced some very considerable post-war challenges.

First there was the house, requiring fifty servants to keep it running at vast expense. Christopher took the bold step of deciding to pull it down. It must have cost him to see his childhood home razed to the ground and someone less visionary and courageous might have been stayed by sentiment but Christopher knew that there was more at stake. The survival of the land and the community that lived there were far more important than the bricks and mortar, panelling and pillars of where he’d been born. Demolition work began in 1947 and the family removed to Betterton.

A new chapter opened in Christopher’s life – one of landowner, with the associated work of farming, forestry and estate management along with his lifelong passions for art and books, horses, both racing and riding, and dogs. He took on a vast array of civic responsibilities and gave generously of his time and energy to all manner of charitable enterprises.

Things began to settle at Lockinge and life moved on. He met his future wife, Joanna Smith Bingham, at a racecourse, and they were married on 17th December 1957. Thomas was born in 1959, Harriet in 1962 and James in 1966 and a new era of happy family life began in Lockinge.

Along with the house and estate, Christopher had inherited the important art collection started by Lord Wantage. A passion of his own, Christopher added to it and when there was no further room on the walls for paintings he moved on to sculpture.

Visionary change

Visionary change continued at Lockinge that was to ensure the survival of the estate into the next century. Christopher pioneered the conversion of disused farm buildings for alternative purposes a decade ahead of his time. Determined to keep the villages alive and working, he welcomed in new commercial enterprises and innovative farming techniques from the 1970s onwards. The fact that when today you walk around the villages of Ardington and Lockinge, they feel alive and active instead of dead and dormant is very much down to Christopher’s vision. The epithet on Christopher’ Wren’s memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral, applies equally to Christopher Loyd – “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice!” – “If you need a memorial, look around you!”

In 1985 Christopher handed over the running of the estate into Thomas’ capable hands, but he maintained a hands­‐on approach right up to the last years of his life and when he voiced an opinion prefaced by the words, “I strongly advise…” it was usually best to go with what followed!

Christopher’s vision embraced people as much as place – he was devoted to his family, proud of his children and grandchildren and unswervingly loyal to his friends and those who worked with him and for him. We who are left behind will miss him hugely but it is right that we remember the vision that coloured his entire life was one that embraced necessary change as well as cherished tradition.

Christopher is survived by his children, Thomas, Harriet and James, and his grandchildren Camilla, Sophie, Kit, Emily, Charlie, William and Eliza.

Funeral Address
Funeral Address