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Respected Elder Citizen Bill Bellerby Dies, Aged 100, Beside A Photo Of His Wife

Published on: 19 Sep, 2017
Updated on: 21 Sep, 2017

Honorary Freeman of the borough of Guildford Bill Bellerby MBE at the party in March to celebrate his 100th birthday. He is pictured with Anne Milton MP and former Guildford Borough Council chief executive David Watts.

Bill Bellerby MBE, Guildford’s most respected elder citizen, Honorary Freeman and a former Mayor of Guildford died this evening (September 19) close to a photograph of his wife Doreen.

He served for many years as a Labour councillor, as did his wife, in Guildford Borough (Stoke ward) and Surrey County Councils and was very well regarded by all who knew him.

He celebrated his 100th birthday in March this year in the company of many friends, including Guildford MP Anne Milton.

Born into humble surrounds in South Wales, it was during the Second World War, after joining the Queen’s Regiment, he came to its depot, Stoughton Barracks, in Guildford.

At one point he wrote to Doreen, back home in South Wales, requesting his dancing shoes to be sent up to him. Doreen came and delivered them personally and they stayed in Guildford together thereafter.

They were married for 74 years and Doreen passed away in 2015 aged 95.

Bill Bellerby pictured in 1959.

He stood as the Labour Party candidate for Guildford at the 1959 general election. It is still regarded by many that he was “the best MP Guildford never had!”

In 1995, Guildford Borough Council conferred the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Guildford on Doreen and Bill in recognition of their long and distinguished public service as councillors.

Bill and Doreen Bellerby in 1995 when they were jointly made Honorary Freemen of the Borough of Guildford.

The former Bellerby Theatre was named after them; and in 2014, as recognition of their support to the local arts scene for over 50 years, G Live renamed its studio space The Bellerby Studio.

Hon Alderman Bernard Parke, one of those who visited him regularly, said: “It is a great loss. He was a good man who spent his life caring for others. He and his wife Doreen both did.”

“We visited him this evening at around 5pm but he seemed to be fading fast.”

Guildford’s MP Anne Milton contacted The Dragon in the early hours following the announcement to say: “A very sad day for us all in Guildford. Bill was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life. He was loved by all and everyone – you could not meet a man with a larger heart or more generous soul.

“There are no words that can adequately describe how much we will all miss him. I feel extremely privileged to have known Bill but thankful he died as he lived – at peace in his home.”

Council Leader Paul Spooner added, “Everyone in Guildford will be deeply saddened by the loss of the great man. Bill was respected by everyone across the political sphere and our great town mourns the loss of Mr Guildford.

Bill did so much for the arts and our community owes so much to both Bill and Doreen. Bill’s words of advice to me when I became leader were simply ‘do your best and good luck’ and he certainly did a lot in his 100 years.

“We will all miss the remarkable man. RIP Bill.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The sad news of Bill Bellerby’s death at the grand age of 100 reminds us of what an amazing man he was, a real man of the people of Guildford and a great example of service in public office.

“He and his wife Doreen both worked tirelessly for the best for their residents, always with plenty of humour and grace. Bill will be long remembered with much affection by all”.

The leader of the Labour group, Cllr Angela Gunning added: “Bill’s selfless commitment to achieve the best for his fellow residents in Guildford was an example to us all. The Labour Party is honoured to have had Bill as a colleague. We will miss his delightful wit and skill as a raconteur – as well as his achievements in a very long political life in Guildford.”

One of the first people to pay tribute to Mr Bellerby was Shirley West. In an email she sent this evening to close friends and The Guildford Dragon NEWS, she wrote: “It’s with great sadness to tell you that my dear friend Bill and supporter to everything I have done passed away this evening and I am honoured to have been with him at the end.”

And she has since added: “I feel heart broken of the passing of my dearest friend Bill Bellerby I have known Bill for 40 years and he has always supported me with all my charity work. We had a very special bond between us and his beloved Doreen. I feel Guildford will never see the likes of these two very special people again.”

Bill and Doreen Bellerby – they loved dancing!

It is understood that Mr Bellerby was allowed home from the Royal Surrey County Hospital earlier in the day having expressed a wish to die at home.

Guildford Borough Council has supplied further details about Mr Bellerby’s life and work:

He was a teacher in Guildford, Worplesdon, Farncombe, Woking and Albury until 1960 when he was appointed headmaster of Knollmead Primary School, Tolworth, a post that he held until his retirement in 1979.

He was first elected to Guildford Borough Council in 1953 and he retired, after 42 years’ continuous service, in 1995.

He also served as a Surrey County Councillor from 1965 to 1967 and again from 1981 to 1989. He twice contested the Guildford parliamentary seat and was Mayor of Guildford, in 1972-73 and 1973-74.

During his time as a councillor, Mr Bellerby served on almost every council committee, but took a particularly keen and active interest in the arts, activities for young people and disabled groups.

He was closely associated with numerous arts organisations including the South East Arts Executive, the Guildford Amateur Theatre Association, the Herald Players, Guildford Symphony Orchestra, Guildford Choral Society, Guildford Opera Company, the Nomads Theatre Group, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford Arts Council, the Guildford Book Festival, the South East Music Trust and the Guildford Philharmonic Society.

He worked tirelessly for the young people of the borough. He was actively involved over many years with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Guildford Children’s Holiday Play Scheme Association, Henley Fort Outdoor Centre for Young People and Guildford Sports Council.

He also served as president of the Guildford & District Mentally Handicapped Association, the Lockwood Association and the Surrey branch of the British Sports for Disabled Association. He was also patron of Guildford Sport for All and Disability Challengers and a governor of Pond Meadow School for Children with Severe Learning Difficulties.

Together with his wife Doreen he was awarded the MBE in 1991 in recognition of his services to the community. In the same year, they were both awarded honorary degrees by the University of Surrey.

At a meeting on March 25, 1995, the council conferred the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Guildford on Bill and Doreen in recognition of their long and distinguished public service as councillors. The honour also recognised their massive contribution to the work of local voluntary organisations, the arts, sports and recreation and, above all, their steadfast commitment to the welfare of Guildford and its citizens.

Please use the ‘Leave a reply’ feature below to leave your tributes or record your memories of Freeman Bellerby.


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Responses to Respected Elder Citizen Bill Bellerby Dies, Aged 100, Beside A Photo Of His Wife

  1. Andy Budd Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    What a wonderful man, always smiling. He will be missed in Onslow Village and Guildford.

  2. Andy Haslett Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    RIP Bill – a true gentleman.

  3. Iain Elsey Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Honorary Freeman Bill Bellerby MBE deserves a state funeral.

    He is reunited with his soul mate and fellow Labour supporter Honorary Freeman Doreen Bellerby MBE.

    What a couple and sadly we are unlikely to see their like again.

    Let’s hope Bill is remembered at a civil ceremony at Holy Trinity.

    We must thank Shirley West for supporting both Doreen and Bill. I am crying and must go…. so sad!

  4. Iain Elsey Reply

    September 19, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    There seems to be nothing on the Surrey Advertiser website…. shocking! Well done to The Guildford Dragon NEWS who have something posted.

  5. Heather Tipton Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 12:11 am

    RIP Dear Bill. I will always remember the good times and laughs and struggles we had when I was your Labour colleague for Stoke ward. Wonderful orator, a good man who with Doreen dedicated his life to the people of Guildford.

  6. Philip Hutchinson Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 12:12 am

    The most loved and respected man in Guildford. Of almost legendary status in the locale and one who genuinely supported the arts as opposed to those who pay lip service.

    RIP. You lived a full and good life.

  7. Graham Clarke Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Wholeheartedly endorsing Philip Hutchinson’s comments, perfectly put. Bill Bellerby: that rarity, a genuinely first-class man.

  8. Eileen West Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 3:36 am peace
    Dear Bill
    Gone but will.never be forgotten

    In heaven now
    With Jesus


  9. Mair Heighes Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 6:38 am

    RIP You will be missed.

  10. Pamela Patten Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Rest in peace Bill, you and Doreen were very special people, much missed.

  11. Derek Tucker Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Mr Bellerby really cared passionately about this town.
    God bless you sir.

  12. Fiona White Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

    I have a great many memories of Bill Bellerby that still bring a smile when I think of him. He and Doreen worked incredibly hard for Guildford while still retaining their distinctive accents which showed their Welsh heritage.

    They were respected by everyone who served with them on the council. RIP Bill.

    Fiona White is the county councillor for Guildford West.

  13. Gordon Jackson Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:56 am

    So sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. It has been an honour to know such a special man and I will always remember his 100th Birthday Celebration at the Yvonne Arnaud last March, when he held a packed audience in his spell as he regaled everyone with his wonderful stories.

    Gordon Jackson is a former Mayor of Guildford and serving borough councillor for Pirbright.

  14. Andrew Glen Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I have known Bill Bellerby and his wife Doreen for many years since childhood and remember Bill cycling around visiting people. Also when I worked on the buses, he would often travel to Tolworth to his school on the first 715 coach leaving Guildford at 05.37 in the morning. In good weather, he has cycled on that journey.

    Bill always had time for a chat even on his official duties when he was Mayor of Guildford and would break away from the group of people escorting him around. He will always be remembered with great fondness as a man of the people that he cared so much about.

  15. Tim Jaye Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

    He was my headmaster at Knollmead Primary School Tolworth in the early 1960s. He used to cycle into school down the A3 from Guildford!

    A remarkable man who did a lot to help others.

  16. Rita Derriman Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 10:26 am

    A lovely man and a true gentleman. Bill was a great supporter of the arts, he’ll be sadly missed. Rest in peace united with Doreen.

  17. Tony and Helen Gorham Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

    If you are really lucky in life you meet that special person.

    With their guidance, their knowledge, good counsel and shere enthusiasm for your success, will help you achieve great things.

    For us, that was Bill. Both Bill and Doreen can rest in the knowledge they made a difference to people’s lives over many generations.

    Dear Bill and Doreen, you are truly two people who deserve to be together again now, at peace.

  18. J Newnham Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

    RIP Mr Bill Bellerby A true gentleman and a rarity.

    He took the time to help me as a teen when I asked him.

    A genuine soul.

  19. Jen Whitewater Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:23 am

    A fantastic man, I remember Bill and Doreen from being part of the Labour Party in the 1970s and 80s.

    A solid, dependable man who worked hard for Guildford. A grand age of 100, together again with his beloved Doreen. RIP Bill.

  20. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:26 am

    He was my dad’s teacher at Northmead School in the late 1940s and early 50s.

  21. Roger Edwards Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:55 am

    RIP Bill and Doreen. What a difference you both made.

  22. Elizabeth Gowing Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I can remember delivering leaflets at election times for Doreen and Bill and have some lovely memories. Two of the nicest people you could meet. RIP Bill you are reunited with your beloved Doreen but you leave a sadder Guildford, you will never be forgotten ??

  23. Ray Langrish Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    A wonderful man who did so much for the people of Guildford

  24. Godfrey Spanner Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Bill will remain in the annals of history till time is gone. From picking for food in Wales in his early days to Headmaster in Surrey and his many political and humantarin good works in Guildford was a great journey. RIP Bill.

  25. Bob McShee Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Bill Bellerby “Mr Guildford” will be sadly missed by all. RIP Bill.

  26. Shelley Grainger Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    A wonderful man, I was honoured to meet him at his 100th birthday party. A long life, well lived and dedicated in service to the people of Guildford.

    Despite being shown here with a blue rosette, Bill remained true to his red political roots and joined in with a resounding rendition of The Red Flag at the party thrown for him by Guildford Labour.

    “Then raise the scarlet standard high
    Beneath it’s folds we’ll live and die
    Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
    We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

    Which he did. RIP Bill.

  27. Keith Childs Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    What a wonderful man! A roll model to all of us particularly those in public life.

  28. Iain Elsey Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Seeing the picture of Bill and Anne Milton. For many years Bill read a lesson at Radio Lion’s annual carol service, which was held in the foyer of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. In the years leading up to both Bill and Doreen retiring from public engagements Anne used to drive to Doreen and Bill’s home and collect them and then at the end of the service made sure they got home OK.

    Politically they were poles apart – but both Bill and Doreen straddled the political divide and were loved by everyone!

    Finally, I am no good with flags – was the flag flying over the Guildhall at half mast today. It looked as if it had been lowered.

  29. Anne Rouse Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    I only met Bill once at the Labour party celebration of his hundredth birthday. A wonderfully witty and charming man.

    Not sure what he would make of the blue rosette though!

  30. Brian Holt Reply

    September 20, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Guildford City Football Club are sorry to hear of the death of our long-time supporter and club patron.

    Our thoughts are with his family.

    Mr Bellerby was a remarkable man and with Doreen did so much for Guildford, loved by everyone. Rest in peace.

  31. Carol Brown Reply

    September 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Yes, flags were flying at half-mast both at the Castle and Guildford out of respect for Bill.

    He was such a gentle person who gave freely of his time and worked hard for the people of Guildford. Always there when he was needed, he was there when I needed housing help for my dear old dad. And I still have the lovely letter he sent me after my husband died.

    A real loss. RIP Bill, you are reunited with your wonderful Doreen.

  32. Pauline Searle Reply

    September 21, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I agree with all that has been said a truly wonderful man, with always a smile and a helping hand to everyone.
    Bill and Doreen were a great partnership, selflessly committed to Guildford and its residents.

    I will always remember him riding his bike everywhere and seeing him most weekends on Bellfields, where my Parents lived, meeting and talking to his residents.

    His good humour and smiling face will be sadly missed by all, and he will leave a very big gap that can not be filled. Guildford has lost a true gem.

    Pauline Searle is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Stoughton.

  33. Stephen Habgood Reply

    September 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    He was a really amazing man. I met him on many occasions and he was always courteous and always have a smile. I real gentleman.

  34. Ray Mitchell Reply

    September 21, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Bill was a lovely man and a great friend to the town of Guildford. I met him a few times when he visited the Guildford Sea Cadets at Dapdune Wharf when he was Mayor. Also regularly saw him riding his bike around Town. Another great man has left us.

    RIP Bill Bellerby – “Mr Guildford”.

  35. David and Ann Bailey Reply

    September 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Bill – from my school teacher to a dear friend.

    We are privileged to have been a small part of this wonderful man’s life.

    Rest peacefully Bill, you will be missed more than you could ever know.

  36. Iain Elsey Reply

    September 22, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Just thought of another memory of Bill and Doreen. Several years ago, when working for Radio Lion one of our presenters invited George Thomas (Lord Tonypandy) to be interviewed.

    A small gathering was organised by the hospital and their general manager hosted it. Bill and Doreen, who were personal friends, were invited along and therefore both the small gathering and later interview was so much easier with Bill and Doreen.

    Lord Tonypandy also said “Lovely Boy” when I was introduced to him…

  37. Lezley Picton Reply

    September 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    When I was appointed by Guildford Borough Council to work on the Electric Theatre project Bill was one of the first visitors to my office and we became good friends, still in contact many years after I had left the area.

    He and Doreen were two of the nicest people I have had the fortune to meet.

    RIP Bill, a truly inspirational man.

  38. Mary Bedforth Reply

    September 22, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    ‘Phillip Larkin: Their final blazon… What will survive of us is love…’

    That current quote at the top left of the page is well chosen.

    Certainly true of this lovely couple. We thank them for their public service. From another age in another time.

    • Douglas Salmon Reply

      March 18, 2022 at 2:39 pm

      He was the head teacher at Knollmead Primary School when I was a pupil. I will not be the only ex-pupil to have good memories of Mr Bellerby.

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