Tributes to colourful character and eccentric landowner

The late John Aspinall.
The late John Aspinall.
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Tributes have been paid to John Edward Ralph Aspinall who died peacefully aged 90 at the Manor House Nursing Home at Chatburn earlier this month.

A Ribble Valley landowner, John lived at his 500-year-old family home Standen Hall, Pendleton, for most of his long life.

A descendant of a couple of notable inventors, John’s mother’s family, the Lawson Johnston’s invented and marketed Bovril. Meat off cuts were used to make “fluid beef”, later renamed Bovril from the “bos” the Latin for ox and “vril” – an obscure word meaning “life force”.

Another relation on John’s mother’s side, Sir Isaac Pitman, invented shorthand which John learned and thereafter confounded the mere mortals who could never read his writing.

An ancestor John Aspinall (1716-1784) was a very successful lawyer and Sergeant at Law and assisted with the drafting of the constitution of two North American states.

John himself was educated at Ludgrove, Eton College, and for a short time at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School during the war, John went on to play a full, if eccentric, part in Ribble Valley life.

He owned the ground at Clitheroe Football Club and was a passionate supporter for many years, attending most of their games and enjoying his official title of Lifetime President of the club.

When it came to the Premier League, Manchester United was the focus of John’s affection and loyalty and, in the early days of his support for the club, he used to regularly meet and correspond with legendary manager Sir Matt Busby.

Politics was another great interest and attendance at the Conservative Party conference was a priority entry in his diary for 25 years or so.

He took a keen interest in local politics too and hosted many events at his home over the years in support of the local candidate.

John was particularly fond of the village of Pendleton and especially All Saints Church which was built by one of the Aspinall family several generations ago.

He was a patron of All Saints and actively supported many fundraising events in aid of the upkeep of the building and its grounds.

Hampered by a brain injury inflicted in his early 20s, John Aspinall was a colourful character, a proud Lancastrian, most definitely eccentric and will be much missed by his immediate family and those who knew him well.