Obituary: The Right Rev Ross Hook

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The Independent Online
In 1939, Ross Hook and Maurice Wood were the redoubtable second- row forwards in the rugger side at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. After ordination, they both went on to be RNVR chaplains, were both decorated on active service and both in due course became diocesan bishops.

Hook remained a robust and energetic figure for the whole of his active ministry. He was a "man's man" and laity warmed to him as a human being who was approachable and tremendous fun. His roots were in Kent where his family had long associations with Romney Marsh. He was an enthusiastic cricketer and was never happier than when watching Kent playing on home ground at Canterbury.

In 1980, Dr Robert Runcie became Archbishop of Canterbury. He soon saw that the rapidly increasing demands coming upon him as Primate, both internationally and nationally, made it imperative that he should not only devolve some of his responsibilities on senior members of the House of Bishops, but also that he should have at Lambeth an experienced bishop in whom those in Whitehall and Parliament would have confidence and with whom the Diocesan Bishops would be happy to consult. He invited Ross Hook, by then Bishop of Bradford, to undertake what was a pioneer appointment.

The fact that the office of Bishop at Lambeth is now an accepted post on the Archbishop's staff, is due in no small measure to Hook, who had the grace to relinquish the independence of a diocesan bishop and to serve the Archbishop as his "Chief of Staff" and as an assistant bishop of Canterbury. His soundness of judgment as well as his refusal to be fussed or to appear as over- busy, meant that when he retired from Lambeth it was to everyone's regret.

Ross Hook was the son of a postmaster. He was educated at Christ's Hospital and at Peterhouse, Cambridge. After training for the ministry he was ordained in 1941 to his only curacy at New Milton in Hampshire. In 1943 he volunteered as an RNVR chaplain and served with the Royal Marines, landing with 43 Commando at Anzio. He was the only RNVR chaplain to win an MC, which he did while serving with the Marines in Yugoslavia.

After the war, he returned to Cambridge as Chaplain at Ridley Hall, where his war experience stood him in good stead with an older generation of students who had embarked on training for ordination after being demobilised. One of his students, an ex-Royal Marine, recalls that Hook, who was responsible for teaching church history, managed to keep one lecture ahead of his lively audience. He had the reputation of being a great leg-puller, but his penetrating and always kindly humour was especially appreciated by those who found it difficult to adjust to the routine of lectures and chapel services after war service.

Three years later, he went to his first living at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester diocese, before returning south in 1952 to be Rector and Rural Dean of Chelsea and to live in a large gracious rectory with an immense garden by London standards. It was a great inheritance, and catching the spirit of the post-war world Hook established an informal and personal ministry which won him many friends.

In 1961 he left London to return to Kent as a Canon Residentiary of Rochester Cathedral and as director of post-ordination training for the diocese. He had the oversight of nearly 100 curates and he was also on the staff of Rochester Theological College which had been established for the training of older men from industry and the professions, most of whom had little academic background.

These men warmed to Hook's relaxed and friendly approach but soon learned that he had high expectations for them and little patience with indiscipline or disorder. He was an examining chaplain to the Bishop of Rochester as he was later to the Bishop of Lincoln who, in 1965, nominated him to be the Suffragan Bishop of Grantham.

After only seven years in Lincolnshire, Hook was translated to Bradford. He was quickly at home in the West Riding where his robustness and his forthright approach were much appreciated, especially by those with little interest in ecclesiastical affairs. After he had moved South again, as Runcie's "Chief of Staff", Bradford University conferred an honorary degree upon him.

In 1984, after four years at Lambeth Palace, Hook retired to his beloved Romney Marsh and began to rejoice again in the Kent countryside and in Kent cricket. Sadly, after a few years, he suffered a stroke which eventually led to his moving out of the county.

After the war, he had married Ruth Biddell, who supported him to the full in all his demanding appointments and in the more restricted years after his retirement and illness. She survives him as do his daughter and his son, known to many television viewers as an expert on pictures through the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.

Ross Sydney Hook, priest: born 19 February 1917; ordained deacon 1941, priest 1942; MC 1945; Chaplain, Ridley Hall, Cambridge 1946- 48; Rector, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester 1948-52; Rector and Rural Dean, Chelsea 1952-61; Chaplain, Chelsea Hospital for Wo-men 1954-61, St Luke's Hospital, Chelsea 1957-61; Residentiary Canon of Rochester and Precentor 1961-65; Bishop Suffragan of Grantham 1965-72; Bishop of Bradford 1972- 80; Chief of Staff to Archbishop of Canterbury 1980-84; Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Canterbury 1981-94; married 1948 Ruth Biddell (one son, one daughter); died Blandford, Dorset 26 June 1996.