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The Ven. Leslie Cyril Stanbridge

29 May 2015

Tour de force: the Ven. Leslie Stanbridge, former Archdeacon of York

Tour de force: the Ven. Leslie Stanbridge, former Archdeacon of York

A correspondent writes:

THE Ven. Leslie Stanbridge, who died peacefully at home on 19 March, aged 94, had been a tour de force in the diocese of York. He had many ministries, but is best remembered as Archdeacon of York from 1972 to 1988.

He was born in Bromley, in south-east London. His mother died when he was only five, and he was brought up by his eldest sister, Clara. To escape the house, Leslie would cycle to town to explore the dockyards: his sister and father thought he had gone cycling in the country. This love of cycling remained with him.

His poor eyesight meant that his war service was in the Pay Corps, stationed in Leicester. It was here that his vicar, Cyril Whipp, set him on the path to ordination. Leslie trained at St John's College, Durham, and was ordained priest in 1950. After serving his title in the diocese of Rochester, he returned to the north-east and to St John's College, in 1951, where he served both as Tutor and (from 1952) as Chaplain until, in 1955, he was appointed as Vicar of St Martin's, Kingston-upon-Hull. In that parish, in one year, he prepared 102 people for confirmation. Leslie left in 1964, moving to Cottingham, where he served as Rector until 1972.

In 1972, he was, in his own words, plucked from ministry by Archbishop Donald Coggan to become Archdeacon of York; but in fact the whole diocese became his parish. Although rooted in the archdeaconry of York, his influence was over the whole. He was pastoral and available, meticulous and organised, public and yet private, unwavering and never courting popularity.

With no secretary, Leslie's administration was carried out immaculately on his typewriter and a Gestetner. Friends remember the sounds of staying with him: the filing cabinet banging shut, the front door opening and shutting, and then Leslie on his bicycle flying past the front window to get to another meeting.

He was Secretary for Mission and Ministry, Warden of Readers, responsible for clergy conferences, Bishop's Adviser at selection conferences, member of the College of Preachers, co-ordinator of the Diocesan Healing Fellowship, and founder of Yorkshire Historic Churches, and of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's "Living Churchyards" project.

George Bennett, his vicar at Erith, opened his eyes to the healing ministry. Leslie's close association with Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre in Sussex was life-long, and led to the founding of the Diocese of York Healing Fellowship, and a long-term involvement with St Leonard's Hospice.

Archbishop Stuart Blanch once suggested to a very reluctant Leslie that he should have a sabbatical in Jerusalem. That began his love of the Holy Land, and his long interest in the politics and people there. In retirement, Leslie continued to lead pilgrimages abroad, especially to the Holy Land. He also led parish pilgrimages to York Minster, and became a Minster guide.

Leslie's was, by any assessment, a notably active "retirement". He became Succentor Canonicorum, and served as a Canon of York Minster - for a grand total of 32 years, before he stood down in 2000, aged 80. He was made Archdeacon Emeritus. He remained actively involved in the life of the Minster, in particular as an enthusiastic member (and organiser) of the Minster Community Walking Group, and in the life of the city, including serving as a Director of St Leonard's Hospice in the 1990s. On Sundays, he presided and preached in country churches, filling in during interregnums, and covering sickness.

Leslie always tried to see the best in people, welcomed news from friends, and made every effort to keep in touch. He sent 200 cards and letters each Christmas, until recently still produced by turning the handle on the old Gestetner. He ran Bible-study groups for the University of the Third Age, and Hartrigg Oaks, his home in later years. He maintained a huge library, both theological and secular, and had a wide-ranging collection of classical music, including his beloved Bach and Haydn.

A requiem mass in thanksgiving for his life was celebrated in York Minster on 30 March, attended by many robed clergy and Readers, and friends and family from the diocese and elsewhere. His ashes have been interred at Cottingham.

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