Bill Hugonin, 95, was known to many people across Alnwick and District through his work with Northumberland Estates, as a loyal friend to all of the Percy family and through his varied interests within the wider community.
He retired as head agent with Northumberland Estates in 1990 following a career that started there in 1959 and during which he served the 10th Duke, Hugh and the 11th Duke, Harry.
He was also involved with many organisations within the town and a driving force behind the renovation of Alnwick Playhouse.
Mayor Lynda Wearn said: “On Friday on behalf of Alnwick Town Council, I had the immense pleasure and honour of presenting Bill Hugonin with an honorary freeman of Alnwick award. This is the highest honour Alnwick Town Council can bestow.”
She added: “The event was private because of Bill’s illness and on Sunday Bill very sadly passed away.
“He was probably best known for his ‘crazy idea’ of converting the then derelict cinema into The Playhouse, which became such a successful focus for arts within the town. He worked tirelessly to achieve his goal.
“He was also very involved in St. Michael’s Church and Alnwick Music Society giving the same tireless energy to both organisations.”
“Bill was a modest man who told me that it wasn’t about awards but that of communities working with each other and together for the benefit of the town.”
“Our thoughts and condolences are with his family at this very sad time.”
His Grace The Duke of Northumberland said: “Many years ago, my father recognised Bill Hugonin as an outstanding estate manager and persuaded him to take on and modernise Northumberland Estates after the ravages of the Second World War and the difficult management and fiscal problems thereafter.
“Bill built the foundations of the modern estate and dedicated himself to it, to Alnwick and to Northumberland, immersing himself in things that gave so much benefit to the community, particularly the church and the Playhouse.
“Bill was highly respected by all who knew him but he holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of all my siblings who knew him since childhood. He will be greatly missed.”
Family friend John Field nominated Bill for the honorary freeman award.
He said: “Bill Hugonin’s devotion to Alnwick was lifelong and heartfelt. With characteristic self-effacing modesty he gave his full and generous support to many causes dear to him, including St Michael’s Church, Alnwick Music Society, Music at Alwinton and at Paxton.
“But his greatest gift to the community was his determination to see The Playhouse become a thriving cultural centre appealing to all sections and ages of local society.
“Without his resolve this hub of the town would not exist. The Honorary Freeman of Alnwick Award, presented to him only two days before his death, was the perfect and appropriate recognition of his legacy.”
Bill was married to Daphne who died in 2010 and is survived by children James, Serena and Camilla.and grandchildren Tom, Rosanna and Amelia.
Funeral: St Michael’s Church, April 12, 2pm.