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John Handcock, Windsor ‘institution’ with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Royal Borough – obituary

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 31/01/2021 Telegraph Obituaries
Sid Luckman wearing a hat: John Handcock arriving for the annual Garter ceremony at Windsor Castle, circa 2000 © Provided by The Telegraph John Handcock arriving for the annual Garter ceremony at Windsor Castle, circa 2000

John Handcock, who has died aged 90, was one of Windsor’s most prominent citizens, the long time Secretary of the Prince Philip Trust Fund for the Royal Borough, Captain of the Lay Stewards at St George’s Chapel, and hailed as “an institution [who] probably knows more about Windsor than anyone”.

Born in Reading on October 7 1930, his father was an optician, while his mother, Gladys was a co-founder of Upton House School in 1936, John being one of their first 10 pupils. He went on to Haileybury and Imperial College Junior School, Aldenham, gaining an LLB at King’s College, London.

Handcock became a solicitor, and rose to be the Senior Partner at Lovegrove & Eliot (later Lovegrove & Durant). He was President of the Berks & Oxon Incorporated Law Society, Chairman of the Bucks, Berks & Oxon Professional Council from 1981 to 1982, and a director of the Solicitors’ Benevolent Association.

There were few organisations in Windsor with which John Handcock was not involved – including the Rotary Club, the Windsor & Eton Sea Cadets, and the Windsor & Eton Choral Society. As Clerk to the Royal Albert Institute, he distributed funds to local organisations involved in the arts and education.

He was instrumental in the planting of an oak tree in Windsor Great Park for the diamond wedding of the Queen and Prince Philip, and the commissioning of two stained glass windows in Windsor Guildhall to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

a man wearing a suit and tie: John Handcock © Provided by The Telegraph John Handcock

He helped Sir Kit Aston, Mayor of Windsor, with the town’s 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, one event of which was a rally of 600 Rolls-Royce motor cars, representing every model made. From an unexpected profit of £35,000, the Prince Philip Trust was established, Handcock drawing up its constitution.

This was launched with a banquet at the Windsor Guildhall, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Handcock was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the Royal County in 1986. He retired with a CVO in 2002.

His association with St George’s Chapel went back to 1957, and when Dean Robin Woods created the Lay Stewards in 1966, Handcock was a founding member; he was later Captain, between 1992 and 2010. and played a prominent part in many services.

Handcock enjoyed historical quotations. After the service of blessing for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, he wrote to thank them for wedding cake tins sent to those on duty: “The service was magical and memorable and the precision admirable – unlike that at the St George’s wedding of King Edward VII whereof it was said: the bride was 10 minutes late, but was seldom ever again to be so punctual.”

His knowledge of Windsor was encyclopaedic – about its history, its architecture and its residents. Seldom did an issue of Windlesora, the journal of the Windsor Local History Group (of which he was life president) go by without an informative article from him. He tackled topics as varied as the unveiling of the George V Memorial, and the life of the fiery Canon John Dalton at St George’s Chapel. He also published a history of 75 years of the Rotary in Windsor.

Despite being slightly lame due to childhood osteomyelitis, he led an immensely full life, unaided by an answering machine or email. He eschewed a television, and though he travelled widely, he only flew once – in Concorde. He always drove – to the chateaux of the Loire (he was a connoisseur of wine), and once through Poland to Russia. He was invariably good humoured and positive, and after his serious stroke, he read 150 books.

In 1956 he married Margaret (Peggy) Bigg, youngest daughter of Wilfred Bigg, CMG, head of communications at the Colonial Office. She survives him with their two sons and two daughters.

John Handcock, born October 7 1930, died January 11 2021

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