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Professor Anthony Mellows

05 February 2016


Prior of St John: Professor Mellows with the Queen in 2013

Prior of St John: Professor Mellows with the Queen in 2013

Peter Parker writes:

PROFESSOR Anthony Mellows, who died on 10 January, aged 79, in hospital after a heart operation, gave generously of his skills and time in support of church and other charitable activities.

He was educated at King’s College, London, where he took degrees in law, philosophy and divinity, and was a Fellow from 1980. Admitted a solicitor in 1960, he was from 1962 sole partner in Alexander Pollak & Co., which a few years later became Alexanders, with him as senior partner until 1996. From 2001 to 2004, he was a consultant to Hunters.

In the University of London, he was Professor of the Law of Property from 1974 to 1990, and the author of standard works on property and trusts.

He served in the Intelligence Corps (Territorial Army) from 1959 to 1971, reaching Captain’s rank, and was a holder of the Territorial Efficiency Decoration. He was a director of companies connected with East Anglian farming interests, and was chairman of the London Law Trust from 1968 until his death.

He was a trustee of the Lambeth Fund from 1995 to 2011, and of the Lambeth Trust from then till 2014, and had been a member of the Archbishops’ Millennium Advisory Group from 1995 to 2000.

In the Order of St John, he was a member of Council (1981-88) and Registrar (1988-91). He served as Lord Prior from 2008 to 2014, the most senior non-royal member of the order. In this capacity, he travelled widely overseas, visiting priories and branches of the order. He presided over the modernisation of much of the structure and financial organisation of the order, which encompasses the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem and the St John Ambulance Brigade.

In all this work he was greatly supported by his wife, Elizabeth, whom he married in 1973, and who survives him; she was the daughter of the Ven. B. G. B. Fox.

In 1999, Mellows chaired a committee to review the needs and resources of bishops. This was in two phases; the first related to diocesan and suffragan bishops, the second to the archbishops. The committee held many sessions and interviews. Their first report (Resourcing Bishops) was published in 2001, and the second in 2002; nearly 250 recommendations were made. Over the next decade, these were widely discussed and many adopted; the reports remain a valuable source of reference. For his work, Mellows was appointed OBE in 2003.

In the past year, he had masterminded a scheme of amalgamation of four charities at the Tower of London, where he and Elizabeth were regular worshippers at the Chapels Royal. Only two days before going into hospital, he had, with his customary efficiency, circulated documents that would bring the amalgamation to a successful conclusion.

David Baldwin adds: A long-standing supporter of the ministry offered by the ancient Chapels Royal, Tony Mellows found his mind, with its legal bent, drifting towards curiosity about the history, ecclesiology, and application of canon law, and certain medieval practices and instruments of governance, which continue to characterise its workings today, both as persons and buildings within palaces.

This culminated in a research interest inspired by a conversation in 2008, during which he recalled that he had been cheerfully told that the last time anyone had looked at the overall position was in 1483 — and things had changed since then. But even that was an understatement. Such documents as existed stemmed mainly from the 15th century, if not earlier.

Thus began an abiding interest and affection for that ancient establishment, and a wide respect among the legal fraternity for the surprisingly broad range of Tony’s research, earned by the accumulation of knowledge, sought from Latin medievalists and modern statute lawyers alike. He revelled in documents of King Henry II relating to the serjeanty of the Chapel Royal in 1154, as much as in the continuing application of early modern treaty law to the workings of Church and state in other quarters.

In suggesting how to modernise, Tony was a good friend of history; but at the same time, in discovering some of its inconsistencies, was not shackled by it. He was, perhaps, that unusual combination of a learned, benign pragmatist with a good heart.

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