Peter Denney: 43 Years of Service to the Residents
It is with the greatest sadness that I record the recent death of our long-standing Hon. Secretary, Peter Denney. As many of you know, Peter was taken ill at our Committee meeting on Friday, 9 July and went into hospital. He was sent home the following Thursday, but on the Friday morning, 16 July, he suffered a fatal heart attack at home. The large number of mourners at his funeral gave a clear indication of the esteem in which Peter was held locally and our sincere condolences go to his wife Joy, his son Martin and all his family.
Peter spent 43 years serving the SRA. He began as a Zone Representative in March 1956 and then in March 1957 The Resident reported " ... a comparative newcomer to the ranks of Zone Representatives, Mr. Peter Denney, has offered to act as Hon. Asst. Treasurer if the meeting [AGM] so desires." During 1958 he was still a Zone Rep. but from March 1959 he was Hon. Secretary, as well as still working in banking in the City.
In 1983 Peter completed 25 years as Hon. Secretary of Stoneleigh Residents' Association and to commemorate this he was presented with an illuminated address at the 50th Anniversary Dinner Dance by the then Mayor, Cllr. Ron Gee. The article in the December 1983 Resident recalled:
"This year Peter Denney completed 25 years as our Hon. Secretary. During this period he has been actively engaged in all the various committees and sub-committees of the Association and is also a Trustee of Amberley Site Trust ... As many of you must know, he is a very enthusiastic supporter of the policy of the SRA, actively representing us on other bodies in the Borough, e.g. the Nonsuch Society, Epsom & Ewell Conservative Committee, The Standing Committee of all R.A.s in the Borough and Meeting of Chairman of all Borough Council Committees with Chairmen and Secretaries of all R.A.s.
One might think that these activities would have been sufficient to keep Peter fully occupied since his retirement but, no, he has other interests outside the Stoneleigh Residents' Association. He is Chairman and leader of field outings of the Surbiton and District Bird Watching Society, Committee member of the Southern Counties Heavy Horse Association (Shire horses to you and me), writer and agent of the Heavy Horse magazine, a keen member of the Caravan Club and an active member of the Stoneleigh Dancing Club ..."
Over the last eighteen months, I found Peter to be a wise and reliable colleague, as many Chairman and officers had discovered before me. He knew a great deal about the SRA and the local area and would often discuss with us his other interests such as the countryside, shire horses , bird watching, organ music, astronomy and wild flowers, on all of which he was very knowledgeable and interesting. Until he died, he still went to the Dancing Club and put the music on for the dancers, attended the Bird Club and went to Heavy Horse shows all over the country (somewhat more easily when he replaced his van with a car recently!) He also continued to represent the Association at the meetings of other local bodies.
Assistant Secretaries have come and gone over the years - ten or more - and indeed, for seven years there was no Assistant Secretary at all, but Peter remained the steady rock of the Association, working away no matter what.
Right up to the last day, he was working for the SRA. The 65th Anniversary Dinner was extremely important to him and he was meticulous in checking every detail so that it would go according to plan. As he thought he would be unable to attend, he deputized Jill Alford and sent a raft of instructions to make sure all went well.
When he died, Mrs. Denney asked us not to cancel the Dinner as she said he would have hated that to happen. Instead we went ahead and the fact that the evening was a great success was due mainly to Peter's efforts and good choice of venue.
Our guest the Mayor, Cllr. Eber Kington, said in his speech, "Peter was a doughty fighter, a real campaigner, a man with a woodpecker-like tendency to keep hammering away at an issue until it has been resolved to his satisfaction - in fact everything that a hard done-by politician like me and a hard-pressed council officer like the Town Clerk could well do without! But Peter did not work for the council, he worked for the community - a community that he loved and a community that he treasured." He referred to Peter as 'irreplaceable' and I believe we would all agree with that sentiment.
Peter loved this area and was dedicated to serving the residents. He truly deserved the nickname Mr.Stoneleigh. He was one of a kind.
The Stoneleigh Inn in 2007 Copyright image courtesy of Peter Reed
The 29th November 2001 was a day filled with pride for Mrs. Joy Denney, the widow of Stoneleigh Residents' Association's longest serving Hon. Secretary, Peter Denney,who died in July 1999.
Mrs Denney was the guest of honour at a ceremony to mark the reopening of the Banqueting Suite at the Stoneleigh Inn, on which the owners, Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, had spent a quarter of a million pounds in a major refurbishment.
Built more than 65 years ago, The Stoneleigh Inn has always been affectionately regarded as the heart of the village community and the first floor Banqueting Suite is modelled on the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace.
Peter Denney was at the forefront of a successful campaign to persade the giant brewery chain not to close the Stoneleigh Inn, which had been earmarked for sale to property developers McCarthy & Stone who planned to demolish the Inn and build a block of retirement flats in its place.
And in tribute to Peter Denney's efforts, Scottish & Newcastle, together with the joint licensees, Kevin Newton and Gill Sheil, generously agreed to re-name the Banqueting Suite as "The Peter Denney Suite."
Mr Newton invited Mrs Denney to cut the ceremonial ribbon and formally declare the re-opening and naming of the Banqueting Suite, saying, "Joy, we are delighted to welcome you here today. As licensees of the Stoneleigh Inn, Gill and I are very happy to allow the Banqueting Suite to be renamed in honour of Peter. Scottish and Newcastle are very proud of the Stoneleigh Inn and pleased that it has proved possible to keep it open."
Watched by invited guests, who included Stoneleigh and Auriol Ward R.A. councillors, together with officers of Stoneleigh Residents' Association, Joy Denney cut the ribbon and declared the Peter Denney Suite open. Mrs. Denney spoke movingly of the pleasure the re-naming of the Suite had given her, because The Stoneleigh had meant so much both to herself and Peter, having both regularly visited it and attended functions there for more than forty years.
Mrs. Denney said, "The Stoneleigh Inn always had a special place in our hearts and Peter would have been delighted and very honoured that the Banqueting Suite has been named after him." Following the ceremony, the licensees Kevin and Gill, who hosted a buffet for the invited guests, presented Mrs. Denney with a bouquet of flowers.
Stoneleigh Residents' Association further commemorated the occasion by presenting framed photographs of Peter Denney to the Stoneleigh Inn and Mrs. Denney. The Association's Chairman, Mr. Graham Dudley, thanked the licensees for making the occasion possible and spoke of Peter's tireless work for Stoneleigh residents saying, "I still find it incredible that Peter Denney had served the Association, as Hon. Secretary, for an astonishing 41 years."
Epsom & Ewell Borough Councillor David Wood, a past President of Stoneleigh Residents Association, said, "The naming of the Suite is a nice tribute to Peter, who was affectionately known as 'Mr Stoneleigh'."