Obituary: Sir Edward Nichols

Edward Henry Nichols, town clerk, born 27 September 1911, articled Town Clerk Mansfield 1933, Assistant Solicitor Derby 1936-40, Deputy Town Clerk Derby 1940-48, Leicester 1948-49, Town Clerk and Clerk of the Peace Derby 1949-53, Town Clerk of City of London 1954-74, Kt 1972, married 1941 Gwendoline Elgar (one son), died Esher Surrey 19 September 1992.

The passing of Edward Nichols signals the end of an era in the City of London as he was the last of the 'old' town clerks; the primus inter pares of the past before local government changes led to the town clerk's being designated as the head of the paid service or as chief executive.

Born in 1911, Edward Nichols grew up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. He was educated there, at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, and read law at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He chose local government for his career and was articled to the Town Clerk of Mansfield in 1933. He was appointed a solicitor of the Supreme Court and moved to Derby as Assistant Town Clerk, becoming Deputy Town Clerk in 1940.

He served with distinction in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and continued his service after the war in the Territorial Army, being awarded the Territorial Decoration. He resumed his career serving as Deputy Town Clerk of Leicester until 1949 and then as Town Clerk of Derby until the end of 1953.

When the office of Town Clerk of the City of London fell vacant it attracted many outstanding candidates and Nichols was appointed at what, in those days, was the relatively young age of 42. He was immediately faced with the huge task of co-ordinating the authority's rebuilding of the war-ravaged Square Mile. Whilst some of the architecture of that time is the present subject of criticism, this was outside the City's power to control. What is not criticised is the drive and pace of redevelopment which enabled the City's businesses to be housed and thus to achieve the dominant position they attained in financial services in Europe.

Perhaps Nichols's greatest single service to the Corporation of London came when the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London (the Herbert Commission) was set up to consider and recommend changes to the structure of local government in the metropolis. Immediately the old cry of 'abolish the City' went up and the continuance of a thousand years of service and history came under threat. Nichols prepared a memorandum of evidence to the commission on the origins, constitution and functions of the Corporation which was both historically erudite and persuasive of the current importance of the role of that body to London and to the nation. The commission recommended that the City should be retained as a local authority with widened powers.

Nichols's meticulous attention to detail of corporation hospitality, to visiting monarchs and heads of state, led to his being honoured by many of them. Being a convivial person with a questing interest in many subjects, not least philately, he enjoyed the opportunity that this aspect of his duties gave for meeting and talking with so many important international figures.

He was knighted in 1972 and the City University awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 1974.

Edward Nichols served as Town Clerk of the City of London for 20 years but decided to retire when, in his own words, 'Problems now being raised are those that I have advised upon and we have dealt with twice before. It is time for fresh thinking.' His unfailing courtesy and quiet dignity will be missed by many 'old hands' of the civic and financial City and among past senior figures in departments of state and local government. That the latter years of his retirement were marred by ever worsening ill-health was a sadness to his friends as well as to his devoted family.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor