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Legacy of Sudbury’s ‘greatest champion’ Lord Andrew Phillips honoured at memorial service

A wonderful, boisterous, loving, energetic whirlwind of a dad, whose charisma, talents, charm and all of his attributes were only ever used for the local good.

These are some of the tributes paid during a memorial service at the weekend to honour the legacy of one of Sudbury’s most prominent advocates and public servants.

St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Lavenham was at full capacity on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the life of Lord Andrew Phillips, who died on Easter Sunday at the age of 84.

Tributes have been paid to the late Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury. Picture: Mecha Morton
Tributes have been paid to the late Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury. Picture: Mecha Morton

Family, friends and colleagues shared their memories and reflections of Mr Phillips, from his early upbringing and his distinguished legal and political career, to his decades of contributions to all areas of life in Sudbury.

His daughter, Alice – speaking on behalf of the family, including mother Penelope and siblings Caitlin and Oliver – said it was heartwarming to see so many people in attendance at the service, stating it was a “powerful testimony to the sheer vitality and friendliness” of her father.

Alice paid tribute to the union between her mum and dad, who were married for almost 55 years, adding: “It was, in so many ways, incredibly strong, with love and mutual admiration at its core.

“Just the other day, Penelope remarked to me, ‘I do think we balanced each other well’.

“It is without a doubt that my father was only able to accomplish the things he did in life and have a family because my mother supported him every step of the way.

“Andrew was not really a materialist. What he got his real pleasure from was people and what they were capable of – be it art, music, carpentry, positive social change, you name it.

“This enthusiasm for what the world offered built an incredible bridge for us children to cross.

“Of course, there were pitfalls, but to trust in the goodness of this world and to choose to find the beauty in life, the rewards were self-evident.

“One of the life-changing pieces of advice dad gave us was, if in doubt, say yes – take the bolder step.”

Born in Long Melford, Mr Phillips grew up in several different homes, all in close proximity to Sudbury’s Market Hill, establishing an early connection with the heart of the town.

After attending Cambridge University, he trained and qualified as a solicitor, working as a partner at various firms, before establishing his own legal practice in London in the 1970s, with a specialism in charity law.

He was also active in politics for many years, and was made a Liberal Democrat life peer in 1998, serving for 17 years in the House of Lords.

Yet, according to his long-time friend Ashley Cooper, an early-life experience for Mr Phillips working at a Great Cornard farm during harvest had “fostered a love for Suffolk and Suffolk people he was never to lose.”

This meant he maintained a deep involvement across Sudbury throughout his life, with contributions to various community groups, societies and clubs which, in 2022, earned him the title of honorary freeman of the town.

These included president of the Sudbury Society, vice-president of Gainsborough’s House, chairman of the Ephemera Archive, president of AFC Sudbury, and a founding role in Sudbury on Show.

Mr Cooper, a farmer and historian, recalled one of Mr Phillips’ greatest legacies was, back in the 1960s, rallying the community against controversial plans to demolish the old Corn Exchange on Market Hill, which he called the “jewel in Sudbury’s crown”.

This eventually led to the building being preserved, and it remains in use to the present day as the town library.

Describing this feat as the “epitome and symbol of everything he did for Sudbury”, Mr Cooper said: “Had Andrew done nothing else, he would have warranted this celebration tenfold over.

“He loved the notion of a small town community, where everyone knew each other.

“Had he not been known as Lord Phillips of Sudbury, he might have been known as Lord Localism or, maybe more appropriately, Lord Phillips of Community, because community meant so much to him.

“Lest anybody who only knew Andrew in London ever doubted it, this was no distinguished person condescendingly allowing his name to be used for a few good causes.

“He was absolutely right there at the cutting edge, supporting, encouraging and always being present at so many events and societies in the town.

“His presence always had the effect of lifting the atmosphere and, more importantly, the morale of those organising the events.

“His fascination with Sudbury, with its history, silk-weaving, brick-making and beautiful stretching common lands was limitless, and it was often expressed in an almost childlike wonderment.

“In all of this, he managed to do what Einstein, the Hubble telescope and Professor Brian Cox have failed to do – he pinpointed the centre of the universe, which is Sudbury.

“No town could ever have had a better champion, a more enthusiastic advocate, a more helpful figurehead or example than Sudbury had in Andrew.”