Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Robin Braybrooke (1932-2017)

Lord Braybrooke

Areas of Interest

Politics and Government, Environment and Agriculture, Engineering

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 2004


Former Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Braybrooke was a farmer and landowner. Married with seven daughters, he lived at Abbey House, Audley End, near Audley End House, his former family home. Educated at Eton, Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade in 1951, and served with the King's African Rifles in Kenya and Malaya in 1951 and 1952. He had a lifelong love of steam locomotives and at Audley End operated a small gauge railway carrying about 41,000 passengers a year. A former pilot, Lord Braybrooke operated a small airfield known as Audley End International Aerodrome. His other interests included photography and English motorcycles and he could occasionally be spotted astride a 1965 Velocette.

In 2004 Lord Braybrooke was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of the University.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in conferring the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University on Lord Braybrooke, for his distinguished services to the County of Essex, rural life and development, and the public good in general.

The ways in which Lord Braybrooke's career and interests have developed have not been entirely unexpected for one with his background and antecedents. He is the tenth Baron (the first being ennobled in 1788). The family ancestral home is Audley End, near Saffron Walden, one of England's finest country houses, which is now under the care of English Heritage, and he lives close by in the Abbey Farm House. With such a background, therefore, Lord Braybrooke not unexpectedly was educated at Eton, Magdalene College, Cambridge (for which the family has certain obligations to which we shall later return) and the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. Interestingly, his academic ambitions originally lay in the engineering domain (given his intense pre-occupation with motorcycles, railway engines and aircraft. However, it was indicated fairly forcefully to him by his ancestors that his obligations to the family interests necessitated his reading history at Cambridge, and, of course, agriculture at Cirencester ... and so it transpired. This, he concedes, was understandable, given that the family, apart from the Audley End heritage, holds the patronage of Magdalene College (it appoints the Master) and is custodian of a huge farming/land-owning enterprise (seven thousand acres) at Audley End (half of them farmed). So, engineering was put on the back burner for a while - but only for a while!

Military careers are also closely associated with families such as Lord Braybrooke's, and so it was that he with distinction served the King's African Rifles in Kenya and Malaya (1951-52) at the age of 19, as the liberation movements in both countries were getting underway in an extremely turbulent and violent manner. As he says, he grew up overnight (he had to!), and began to develop and refine his own personal leadership style in different settings, and to appreciate the significance of collective responsibility.

After his formative military experience, he resumed life at Audley End, and his subsequent career unfolded along several strands. The first strand is clearly that of a hands on, practising farmer landowner, where one of his principal preoccupations has been sustaining and diversifying the activities of the estate in the light of changing EU policy; coping with the transition from labour-intensive to capital-intensive farming; and, of course, countryside protection. He has been a member of the Agricultural Land Tribunal since 1975, Chairman of the Rural Development Commission for Essex (1984-1990) and President of the Essex Show (1990).

The estate diversification imperative has also enabled him to realise some of his other interests, in that he established an airfield, golf course, and his great passion, the Audley End Railway established in 1963-64. It now boasts ten locomotives and 42,000 passengers per annum, and is one of the great success stories of the British miniature railway movement. His Lordship is frequently to be found appropriately be-capped and be-dungareed on one of his footplates steaming through the Audley End countryside!

A third strand of his post-military career lies in local government where he was a member of Saffron Walden RDC (1959-69) and Essex County Council (1969-72), and also in business where was a Director of the Essex and Suffolk Insurance Company until it merged with the Guardian Royal Exchange.

However, he is probably best known for his most distinguished tenure of the post of Lord Lieutenant of Essex since 1992, and in many ways this offered him the opportunity of utilising his many gifts and competencies to the full. Lord Lieutenancies were first established by Henry VIII initially to keep law and order within the various counties. Over time, the position has evolved to embrace strong ceremonial links with the Monarchy and Royal Family; with the Territorial Army and Magistracy; and myriad activities in the civic and social domains, which include fund-raising activities for charities; encouraging voluntary bodies to sustain and develop their essential contributions to civic science, social life and the especially needy. In all these domains, Lord Braybrooke comes over to those who meet him both as an initiator, and facilitator; a man of great genuine warmth and compassion; and one who is nonetheless still faithful to the dignity of his office.

For all these reasons, Vice Chancellor, we are grateful to Lord Braybrooke for his many distinguished contributions to the life of Essex, and I therefore invite you to confer the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University on Lord Braybrooke."