Lady Juliet Townsend DCVO, President of CPRE Northamptonshire, died on 29 November 2014 aged 73. During nearly 40 years of membership of the branch she gave it great support and encouragement. Her death is a great loss. She was chairman for 10 years until 1998 when she became Lord-Lieutenant of the county. After that she presided almost every year at the AGM. Her mother, Sheila Countess of Birkenhead, had been chairman of the branch before her, so support for CPRE was in her blood.
Her last participation was involvement in the production of “Icons of Northamptonshire”. The Icon she chose to write about, with her typically quirky sense of humour, was Hunting Country – The Finest View in Europe, illustrated by a famous Snaffles cartoon. As she said, his picture “sums up the Northamptonshire landscape – open, rolling and quintessentially English”. It was a landscape which she loved passionately. She was also very knowledgeable about the county. In her youth she wrote The Shell Guide to Northamptonshire at the invitation of John Betjeman (a family friend) and David Piper.
Her obituary in The Times aptly described her as “a gregarious woman with a pronounced sense of fun”, qualities which I suspect she inherited from her grandfather F E Smith, the first Earl of Birkenhead. She was always diplomatic, as one would expect from someone who for many years was Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret, but not short of opinions. She loved books and, with her husband John, was responsible for opening the Brackley Bookshop. They also opened Brackley Butchers, which sells locally-produced meat, including beef from the Townsends’ Newbottle estate: an excellent example of a “local food network”. She also became the owner of a blacksmith’s forge in Charlton; she rescued it when it came up for sale, to perpetuate this village amenity and to support a local farrier. She was an active Governor of Charlton & Newbottle Church of England Primary School and a leading member of the congregation of Newbottle Church.
Amongst her many contributions to CPRE was the fact that she was directly to blame for my becoming Chairman!
Sir Paul Hayter