Fringe Box



Parke’s People No.9. Lord Richard Nugent

Published on: 19 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2012

In the latest of an occasional series about people who have a connection with Guildford in one way or another, Bernard Parke recalls Lord Richard Nugent, a former Member of Parliament for Guildford.

Richard Nugent MP and his wife Ruth, out campaigning.

It was once said that Richard Nugent looked after his friends as a good gardener looks after his flowers.

I would add to that by saying that Dick, as we knew him, was a true constituency MP, who, with the aid of his wife Ruth, kept an up-to date record of all those whom he met in his Guildford constituency.

Dick was born in 1907, and entered The Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1926. But he left after just three years as his true love was for the countryside and farming.

He married Ruth Stafford in 1937, and together they formed a strong partnership, dedicating their life’s work to others.

Dick was elected on to Surrey County Council in 1944; and with his interests in farming, did much in the foundation of the then fledgling Merrist Wood Agricultural College at Worplesdon. That year the wartime coalition government decreed that every county should have such a place of education.

In the late 1940s, a small group met in the former Guildford House in the Upper High Street and enacted a Guildford Parliament, to debate the national issues of the day.

This was run on true parliamentary lines. The group had a speaker, and each year members alternated their government between the political parties.

Dick was the Conservative leader, with Bill Bellerby from the Labour party. Another member was Dick Hardy, who had a school outfitters shop in Friary Street, and who, like Bill, later become Mayor of Guildford.

But it was not until 1959 that Dick Nugent and Bill Bellerby truely locked horns as contestants for Guildford parliamentary seat in that year’s general election. Dick polled more than 27,000 votes, more than double that of Bill. The liberal candidate only managed just over 6,000 votes.

However, Dick had been elected as Guildford’s MP the 1950 general election following the death of Sir John Jarvis that year. As a farmer he was used to early nights and early mornings, and at first found the late sitting in Westminster extremely trying.

He was a very much respected backbencher. He  served as parliamentary secretary in both the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and later in Transport, under Harold Watkinson, the then MP for Woking.

Dick chaired the Thames Conservatory Board and the Animal Research Virus Research Institute. He stepped down as Guildford’s MP in 1966.

Later, in the House of Lords, he became president of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and as such, in 1981, played his part in the introduction of the compulsory use of seat belts in cars.

He died in 1994 at his home, Blacknest Farm in Dunsfold, after a long and painful illness.

Lord Nugent was, without doubt  in every way the epitome of a true English gentleman. A very rare breed in today’s world.

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