Tributes have been paid to the Squire of Lytham James Hilton, who has died aged 90.
A procession through the streets of the town will precede his funeral at St Cuthbert’s Parish Church on Saturday at noon and his title, which also billed him as Lord of the Ancient Manor of Lytham, now passes to his 26-year-old grandson Hugo Bryan.
Mr Hilton, who was renowned for his deep affection for Lytham and backing for many good causes, bought the title more than 40 years ago from Harry Clifton, the last of the family who occupied Lytham Hall up to the 1960s and long owned much of the south Fylde land stretching north to Squires Gate.
Peter Anthony, general manager of Lytham Hall, which is now managed by the Heritage Trust North West, said: “James Hilton was very proud of his precious Lytham and was always keen to ensure it kept its traditional charm.
“He ensured the ancient title ‘Squire of Lytham’ continued to live on by purchasing it from Henry Talbot de Vere Clifton in the 1970’s.
“By him doing this, it meant the tradition of this title is not lost and can live on through future generations.
“He was a great conservationist and had a deep affection for Lytham Hall, for which he was a great ambassador.
“He was an active member of the Lytham St Annes Civic Society and regularly attended their monthly coffee mornings here at the Hall.
“He will be sadly missed by so many people in the area and especially by all of us here at Lytham Hall.”
Marion Coupe, chairman of Lytham St Annes Civic Society said: "Mr Hilton was a great supporter, life member and patron of the Civic Society.
"He took his responsibilities as Lord of the Manor seriously and did his best to support initiatives which helped to care for our town. He funded the Town Criers and was always keen on heritage and tradition .
"His ownership of the Clifton archives which are lodged in Preston has been very important as so often such papers are sold off to outsiders and not available for research."
Mr Hilton’s funeral will be attended by Fylde mayor Coun Angela Jacques and the eulogy read by former Lytham and St Annes town crier Colin Ballard, now chairman of the St Annes Enterprise Partnership.
He said: “Having been appointed a trustee for the liquidation of the Clifton Estate he was made aware that the title would be sold to maximise funds.
“It was suggested to him to buy the title, and he did. That title could have been sold to anywhere around the world but at least it stayed in Lytham, and he was humbled to be mentioned in the Clifton family hierarchy.
“Lytham was his home, Lytham Hall was of concern for restoration, Club Day is historic and he saw his patronage for all these things as his duty.
“I am glad, proud and grateful to have known him.”
Mr Hilton was married to his wife Penelope for 63 years. Their daughter Katherine, mother of new Squire Hugo, is now Lady Bryan, wife of High Court judge Sir Simon Bryan, who grew up in Blackpool.
The original intention was for the Lytham title to pass to Mr Hilton’s son Marcus, but he died in his 40s in 2008 and the inheritance passed to Marcus’ nephew Hugo, a land and planning manager currently based in the Home Counties.
Hugo said: “I was so saddened to hear of the sudden death of my grandfather, who has been so supportive of charitable causes in Lytham over the years.
“I have many happy memories of visits to Lytham to see family and very much look forward to carrying on his charitable work in the Fylde as Lord of the Manor, and taking a keen interest in local projects.”
The horse-drawn funeral cortege will set off from Hastings Place around 11.30am on Saturday and head along Clifton Street, into St John Street, where a bell will be tolled, then along Central and West Beach to Woodville
Terrace and to St Cuthbert’s Church for the noon service.
Funeral details from Mark Rae (01253) 789000.