Dr Colin Shrimpton 1934-2020

We are sorry to announce that Dr Colin Shrimpton has passed away. The following obituary is courtesy of his family.

Colin , who was born in 1934, was raised on the family dairy farm in southern Northamptonshire. This settled village life gave Colin a sense of who he was, as well as a respect for others, whatever their work.  Although he loved farm life, he knew that his elder brother John was destined to run the business in future.   However, Colin’s academic bent took him  to Magdalene College School in Brackley, from where he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford.   He completed his National Service in the Intelligence Corps, mainly in Egypt, before going up to the college to read Medieval History.

After Oxford, Colin tried various lines of work including research with the Victoria County History and some school teaching.  Later, he won a competition providing funding for research leading to a PhD at the Department of Land Economy at Cambridge, where he enjoyed his base at Trinity Hall as well as time spent  researching in Essex.  His work, ‘Land Ownership and Usage in 18th Century Essex’, was published in America.

Colin then took up a post teaching at Northumberland College of Higher Education where he spent fifteen happy and fulfilling years.  It was there that he met his wife, Nellie.  His time as a senior lecturer included field trips with student teachers, exploring historical sites and centres in the north and in the borders. This all came to a disappointing end with the demise of the teacher training colleges.  However, Colin’s own research at Alnwick Castle led to his being offered the post of archivist to the Duke of Northumberland, whose vast collection of documents – letters, accounts, diaries – was then held at the castle and at Syon House in Middlesex.  His previous studies and research proved the perfect preparation for this post, which he found so fascinating and absorbing.  His book on Hulne Park, touching on so much of the ducal family history, has been widely appreciated.

Not until the age of 74 did Colin finally retire from the job he had so loved, but he still had work to do!  In 2012 he began at last to write the biography of the 2nd Duke of Northumberland (18th century) details of whose life he had been garnering for decades. He and Nellie enjoyed visiting Ireland, Warburg in Germany, and the United States, following in that duke’s military footsteps.  Shortly before he died, Colin announced with great satisfaction that he had finished writing the biography of ‘my duke’.  He asked an ex-colleague to type it up, and encouraged Nellie to undertake initial proofreading, which is proving an absorbing task.   The work, illuminating so many aspects of 18th century life, is one which Colin’s family hope very much to have published.

As for Colin himself, he was a loving and devoted family man, proud of his son, Daniel (Trinity Hall Vet Med from 1990), relishing time spent with him, his wife  Anna (also Trinity Hall) and their three children and delighting in his role as ‘Grampy’.  He and Nellie enjoyed theatre-going, music and languages.  Ex-colleagues remember ‘a most intellectually impressive person’, ‘a great scholar and teacher’ and a ‘wise, warm and kindly presence’.  Friends from his involvement in the community in Alnwick have written of ‘a man interesting and interested’ and of ‘a true gentleman with a twinkle in his eye.’