Canon Bill Ritson writes:
THE Rt Revd David John Farmbrough, who died on 9 March, aged 83,
served for the whole of his ministry in the diocese of St Albans,
as Archdeacon of St Albans from 1974 to 1981, and Bishop of Bedford
from 1981 to 1993. He was a very gracious man, whose ministry was
greatly appreciated by both clergy and laity.
Born in the diocese, at Luton in 1929, he was educated at
Bedford School and Lincoln College, Oxford, and trained at Westcott
House. He was ordained in 1953, and served as assistant curate in
the parish of Bishop's Hatfield until 1957, when he became
Priest-in-Charge of the daughter church, St John's. In 1963, he was
appointed Vicar of St Michael's, Bishop's Stortford.
Then, in 1974, Bishop Robert Runcie invited him to become
Archdeacon of St Albans. This was an admirable appointment, for
which he was ideally suited. He was always well-organised, and
managed his enormous workload with great efficiency. Despite the
vast amount of work, his desk was always tidy. He never appeared
rushed, and had time for everyone. He was ever available,
courteous, thoughtful, and wise.
This was the time of the Sheffield report on the future
deployment of the clergy, when parishes were being asked to
amalgamate. As Archdeacon and chairman of the diocesan pastoral
committee, David used to travel up and down the diocese to meet
deanery synods and pastoral committees, to listen to the views of
the people. He was a great listener, but also a judicious and sound
decision-maker, who won the trust and respect of people throughout
the diocese. And he was always calm.
On one occasion on his travels to an evening meeting, he was
being driven by the secretary of the diocesan pastoral committee (a
fellow priest), who, as they were leaving St Albans, failed to
notice, at a cross-roads in a built-up area, white lines painted on
the road in the form of a large circle. The secretary drove
straight across to the accompaniment of hooting horns. The
Archdeacon's only response was a quiet "I think that was a
roundabout." He was totally unflappable, never ruffled, but after
that incident, to the relief of both, on subsequent journeys he was
always the driver.
As Archdeacon, his pastoral care of the clergy was a special
priority, but he also acted as unofficial chaplain to the staff at
the diocesan office, which was next door to his house. Clergy and
laity were grateful for his wisdom and counsel, and he used to give
a most helpful and encouraging lecture on "The Prayer-Life of the
Bishop Runcie's successor, Bishop John Taylor, greatly valued
his guidance and support, and, in 1981, invited him to become
Bishop of Bedford. Here, he was held in high regard, and again
loved by the people. Always kind and considerate, for the next 12
years he and his wife, Angela (Profile, 7 December 1990), who
shared his ministry, served the Church and people of the county
with distinction, and with warmth and hospitality. He was delighted
when Angela was appointed High Sheriff, and also a Deputy
Lieutenant of the county.
David retired in 1993, but continued to serve as Honorary
Assistant Bishop in the diocese. He wrote two books, In Wonder,
Love and Praise in 1966, and Believing, Belonging and
Doing in 1971. He was also a keen and methodical gardener.
He was diagnosed with cancer three months before Christmas last
year, and lovingly cared for at home, where he died peacefully,
surrounded by his family: Angela, their three daughters, Sarah,
Hilly, and Alison, and their son, Richard.