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Law whiz who helped save family's Shropshire home dies

By Rob Smith | Market Drayton | News | Published:

A ground-breaking lawyer who helped save her family's Shropshire home from collapse and was honoured by the Queen has died.

Rosalind Mackworth CBE

Rosalind Mackworth CBE had a pioneering partner role in a law firm in her youth. Later in life her legal knowledge and her grit helped her save Buntingsdale Hall, near Market Drayton, from falling into disrepair.

It had been in the Mackworth family for centuries, having been built in the early 1700s. After it was restored with Rosalind's help in the early 2000s, her family spent many happy years there.

She was born in Surrey in 1928 to Bobby and Alma Walters when her father, a meteorologist, was stationed at Croydon Airport.

She went on to attend 12 schools before taking up Geology at Queens University Belfast.

Mrs Mackworth's daughter Julia wrote: "She became a star of the University’s dramatic society, attracting the attention of Franco Zeferelli who asked her to audition for a Shakespearean role in one of his films. Her father was not keen.

"Going up to Girton College, Cambridge she read Law and in her spare time was a sensation at acting, performing for Julian Slade in university productions alongside many now-famous names.

"Coming down to London, she took Law Society finals, one of only five women to do so.

"Snapped up by Gregory Rowcliffe (what would now be termed a Magic Circle firm) she became their first female employee and then their first female partner.

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'Beautiful and glamorous'

"She met and married Richard Mackworth in 1960 (the firm had to change one of their partners' surnames on their writing paper from Rosalind Walters to Rosalind Mackworth much to their fury) and they went to live in a Georgian cottage in Westminster.

"Beautiful and glamorous, they loved London life in the 1960s.

"Two daughters were born, and they moved to Wellington Square, just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, where at home her business Mackworth Rowland – the first all-female law practice in the UK – was established at first on the dining room table.

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"It went on to be the principal conveyancing practice in west London and lives on today in Ashley Wilson and Co. of Knightsbridge.

"Dick, her husband, a mechanical engineer, was sent to the Middle East, and after Rosalind received a telegram saying 'New Years 1980 Party – send dinner jacket' – she sent it – signed it 'Cinderella' and followed him along with their two little girls.

"Conservative cabinet minister Peter Lilley, who later entered the House of Lords as Lord Lilley, took her into Government and made her the first Commissioner for the Social Fund, an important provision for people in severe financial trouble, her remit extended throughout the country from London to Birmingham and back to Belfast.

"She pioneered the application of judicial review in that branch of government, recalling fondly that she gave David Pannick (now Lord Pannick) his first brief.

"The Queen honoured her in 1994 by making her a Commander of the British Empire.

Legal tangles

"In 1985 Marcus Binney, architectural editor for The Times, wrote to Dick and Rosalind to inform them that one of the Mackworth houses (Mackworths were great builders), Buntingsdale Hall, was falling into disrepair and in danger of complete collapse.

"The Sainsbury foundation had tried and failed to reunite the house – which had been in the process of being turned into flats following a developer scam.

"International bankruptcy proceedings needed to be negotiated and it was Rosalind with her specialist conveyancing skills and determination that managed to piece together the legal tangles that had defeated wealthier and more powerful agencies.

"They made many friends in Market Drayton, which was helped with Dick being a keen tennis player.

"Brick by brick with George Rochelle, other local craftsmen and many other experts – all from the Shropshire area because he was determined to keep labour local despite great temptation from North Shropshire and English Heritage as well as other well-meaning but centrist agencies – Buntingsdale rose from the ashes.

"After Dick died she was lovingly supported by her Market Drayton friends and neighbours; last summer a team of local young people volunteered to do tough work on the part of the house’s grounds that had been spoilt by the developers' dumping of rubble in the 1970s as part of a community project for the elderly.

"Buntingsdale is very much a family house, with parties of friends and neighbours cooking, singing and celebrating whenever an excuse can be found."

Dick died in 2014 and Rosalind died earlier this month.

Julia Mackworth wrote: "They were both committed Christians and they knew that life is the gift of God and rejoiced in all the opportunities he gave them here, trusting in his promise of an eternal mansion (John 14.2, although she was fascinated by NT Wright’s suggestion that the correct translation is in fact 'Inns').

"Along with Dick, she will be very greatly missed.

"The funeral date will be announced shortly."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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