Ex-council chairman who prided himself on being “a general nuisance”

Date: Tuesday 3rd April 2018
Michael Sewell
Michael Sewell

FORMER Eden Council chairman Michael William Sewell has died at Stobars Hall residential care home, Kirkby Stephen, at the age of 96.

Born in Whitburn, Sunderland, he was educated in the city and later attended boarding school in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

After finishing school, he went to St John’s College, Cambridge, to study natural sciences, where he joined the rowing club and, being short and slim, became cox.

Michael had to leave university when he was called up for national service and spent five years in the Royal Artillery.

His unit was involved in the Normandy landings and after World War II he served as a sergeant in Germany and the Middle East. On leaving the Army he opted not to return to university and joined his father in the employment of Sir Hedworth Williamson’s Limeworks, which operated quarries at Fulwell, Sunderland, and Hartley, Kirkby Stephen.

On 18th April, 1953, he married Patricia (Trish) Haithwaite, his sister’s best friend. They were married for 60 happy years before Patricia’s death on 9th March, 2014.

In 1959, Michael and Trish moved to Hartley, Kirkby Stephen, where he took up the post of managing director at Hartley Quarry. He lived for many happy years at Hartley House where they brought up four children, Richard, Jane, Jonathan and Patrick.

Michael was actively involved in local government for 30 years, until he finally gave it up in 2003, aged 81. He served as chairman of Eden District Council, a role that took him, Trish and daughter Jane to two Buckingham Palace garden parties.

He was particularly interested in finance and planning, leading to him being an Eden District Council member of the Lake District National Park Authority and chairman of the Lake District Planning Board. During his council service, he prided himself on being something of “a general nuisance”.

Away from local politics Michael was a churchwarden and treasurer at Kirkby Stephen Parish Church. He also served as chairman of Kirkby Stephen and District Angling Association, and as chairman of the Northern Viaduct Trust, helping it to achieve the National Railway Heritage Award for the now well used Stenkrith to Hartley footpath and cycleway.

Michael was a keen gardener, enjoyed a summer evening’s fishing on the River Eden and was, for many years, a member of a shooting syndicate.

He spent the last four years of his life at Stobars Hall, suffering from progressive Alzheimer’s disease, and his family thanked the staff for their care and kindness during his time there.

Michael is survived by his four children and six grandchildren.