‘Arlesey through and through, and one of Letchworth’s greatest advocates’ – Tributes paid after community stalwart and former mayor Hugh Harper dies

Former Arlesey mayor Hugh Harper, who has died aged 85.

Former Arlesey mayor Hugh Harper, who has died aged 85. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a former mayor of Arlesey and prominent Letchworth figure who died on Sunday, aged 85.

Hugh Harper.

Hugh Harper. - Credit: Archant

Hugh Harper, who lived in the Bedfordshire town all his life and chaired Arlesey Town Council from 2006 to 2011, died at the Garden House Hospice in Letchworth following a battle with leukaemia.

He spent his professional life as a builder and later a florist in Letchworth, where he ran Lanes Flowers in Arena Parade, sat on the town centre board and chaired the chamber of commerce and town centre partnership.

He also co-founded and chaired the Arlesey Residents’ Association from 2011.

Hugh’s daughter Trish Harman told the Comet: “He was a champion of the small people, the little voices. He was always a man of the community, and he worked closely with the Heritage Foundation to stick up for smaller businesses.

Hugh Harper volunteering with Speed Watch in 2012, when he was chairman of the Arlesey Residents' As

Hugh Harper volunteering with Speed Watch in 2012, when he was chairman of the Arlesey Residents' Association. Picture: Alan Millard - Credit: Archant


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“He became a great-grandfather in January, so he got to see his grand-grandchild before he passed.

“He was just an Arlesey man through and through. From the small things like the annual duck race at the Glebe Meadows up to the big developments, whatever he thought was wrong or right, he was always there.”

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Long-serving former Letchworth Garden City Corporation and Heritage Foundation director general Stuart Kenny this week described Hugh as ‘one of Letchworth’s greatest advocates’.

He said: “In addition to his formal duties, Hugh will be remembered by many as being truly hands on in terms of his support for town centre retailing.

“I well recall him spending hours blowing up balloons to give out, and manning stalls at the town centre events that he was instrumental in organising and promoting.

“It was Hugh’s vision and determination that led to the Farmers’ Market becoming such a welcome addition to Letchworth’s retail offer. Again, he was just as happy setting up the stalls in Leys Square at the crack of dawn on a Saturday as he was recruiting stallholders and generally promoting the market.

“I leave it to others to record Hugh’s selfless commitment and dedication to Arlesey over the years – he was a proud Arlesey man.

“Over the years, Hugh became a great friend of mine and that endured long after he and I retired. I was proud to call him a friend and I will miss him hugely.”

Geoff Page, who worked alongside Hugh at Arlesey Town Council and with Arlesey Conservation for Nature, also paid tribute to his friend.

He wrote: “Hugh was involved in many facets of Arlesey life but his involvement with ACORN saw many landmark attainments for the group.

“His last major achievement was seeing the Hicca Way footpath in place after many years of efforts by the group. The Hicca Way follows the River Hiz from its source in Charlton to where it joins the River Ivel in Henlow.

“He also helped in setting up the annual duck race, and planted daffodils and wildflowers along the road by Woodland Chase, among many projects.

“He will be missed by many, but his planting lives on.”

Born in a cottage near the old Lewis Dairy in 1931, Hugh grew up in Church Lane from the age of five and left school at 14 to become an apprentice bricklayer with Baxter’s of Stotfold.

At the age of 20 he went into the army for national service and spent time in Egypt in a clerical role. He then returned to Arlesey and the building trade, where he rose into management.

Hugh moved to The Rally after getting married to Anne, and at the age of 35 took up residence in a newly-built house in Church Lane, on the site of what had been his garden as a child – where he lived for the rest of his life.

He had a spell working for Howes and Boughton builders in Letchworth, and from 1966 was one of the partners in Harper and Savory – based in Arlesey’s High Street – which helped to modernise council houses in Church Lane and St Peter’s Avenue.

He subsequently changed careers and was a florist in Letchworth until he retired from the business and sold it around 2002, after which he devoted his time to the community and Letchworth town centre.

Hugh leaves two daughters – Trish and Heather – and a son, David, as well as six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Sadly, his wife Anne died about 18 months ago.

His funeral will be at 5pm on Monday, May 8, at Harwood Park Crematorium near Stevenage, with all welcome to join the family afterwards at the Vicar’s Inn in Arlesey.

Trish said it would be family flowers only, but that donations to Marie Curie and Garden House Hospice Care in Hugh’s memory would be welcome.

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