Bill Bryder – May 2014


bryder_story_001.02bryder_story_004.01Thanks to Norman Burchfell for putting together this ‘life story’. Our subject this time is our Immediate Past President: Bill Bryder


Not many people today can say that they have lived in the same location all of their lives. Bill Bryder can – having lived a lifetime in the picturesque village of Tillington situated just outside the boundary walls of the Petworth House Estate. Born in August 1937 he was like his forefathers christened ‘William’.

Bill was one of three children having both a younger brother and sister.

His early schooling days were with the local village schools in Tillington where from four years of age he attended both the infant and junior schools. At eleven Bill progressed to the Petworth Boys school and lastly to the Secondary Modern school at Midhurst (now Midhurst Grammar school).

The family business was formed by Bill’s great uncle in 1863 as the village carpenter and builder. In those days it was the responsibility of the village carpenter’s shop to construct the coffins for the village as required. This was the commencement of the undertakers now running today – W. Bryder & Sons. With his grandfather and father following in the family business Bill always assisted from an early age in the carpenter’s shop. He enjoyed simple jobs like sandpapering down coffins from as young as ten years of age.

Whilst at the Midhurst school and approaching fifteen years old Bill went down with a bout of chickenpox. His father considered it not worthwhile his returning to school so Bill was taken into the family business as an apprentice bricklayer. Although apprenticed as a bricklayer he did assist as required at Funerals. At the age of fifteen he acted as a bearer for the first time and recalls not initially releasing the web when lowering the coffin which could have easily caused a disaster. Luckily Bill corrected himself at the very last minute. The undertaking side of the business was expanding at this time resulting in the company’s purchase of its’ first hearse – previously any hearse required had to be hired.

His indentured apprenticeship enabled Bill to be deferred from call-up for national service until the age of 21. National service commenced in North Wales but was shortly transferred to the Royal Horse Artillery based as a signaller on Salisbury Plain. Spending two years there Bill was not called upon for overseas duties and completed his last six months of duty at Tenby North Wales.

Tennis was Bill’s No1 Sport and he willingly took on the responsibility of grass cutting and putting up the nets at the local club. Bill also enjoyed playing Stoolball for a mixed local team. For the benefit for those not from these parts this is a game which is a cross between rounders and cricket that was played almost exclusively within the Sussex County boundary. There were mixed and all ladies leagues but probably due to ladies now playing more cricket interest in Stoolball has waned over the last 30 or so years. Like most of us Bill enjoyed playing local football – turning out for both Petworth and Tillington in the West Sussex league showing his prowess on either the wing or within the half back line.

Bill married firstly in 1968 which regretfully ended in divorce some nine years later. However he produced a son Ben who again grew up in the family business. Bill happily remarried in 2008 to Carol who had been a firm friend for many years.

In 1971 his father retired and then Bill headed up the business. His father’s team had gained notoriety by being used for the burial scene in the film ‘Darling’ which was filmed at Wisborough Green. Bill himself then headed up some notable burials including the husband of June Whitfield the actress whose weekend cottage was next door to Bill’s residence. He was also involved in some burials at Petworth House. In 1975 Fred Streeter – the famous radio gardener and head gardener at Petworth House died and Bill’s team officiated. Likewise his team was called upon for the burials of Lord Egremont and as recently as 2013 at 88 years of age the Dowager Lady Egremont. Both were buried in vaults in Bartons Lane Petworth.

Most of us discovered lawn bowls in our latter years. Bill had his first experience of bowls in Spain as far back as 1998 whilst on holiday with Roger Lucking. At the earliest opportunity he signed up for Petworth. As a relatively new member of the West Sussex Bowls Touring Club it is humbling to list the many achievements and dedication that Bill has given to the Tourists. Joining in 1999 his first tour was as a non-bowler – no doubt it was the drinking with friends that was the attraction. He has now completed 15 tours and captained the club for four years from 2007. There has not been a more deserving President carrying out the duties for two years from November 2011 and still willingly serves on the committee.

Thank you Bill for this interview and of course your hospitality (your whisky is excellent). I can only wish that I and fellow members can show the same dedication to this unique bowling club. May we enjoy many more tours together.