LORD Middleton, one of Ryedale’s best known personalities, has died at the age of 90.

A prominent campaigner for rural life, Lord Middleton of Birdsall House, Birdsall, near Malton, was a director of the Birdsall Estate Company, and succeeded to the title as the 12th Lord Middleton in 1970.

He studied land management at Trinity College, Cambridge, before returning to run the family’s 12,000-acre estate at Birdsall, which has been in the family since 1723.

As well as being a key figure in the farming and woodland world on the Yorkshire Wolds, Lord Middleton became a member of East Riding County Council and later North Yorkshire County Council, and served on the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council.

An impressive career in the Second World War saw him awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre for bravery in the North West Europe Campaign when he served in the Coldstream Guards in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany.

He later became a magistrate, Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Honorary Colonel in the 2nd Battallion, the Yorkshire Volunteers, and was president of the Country Landowners’ Association in the 1970s.

As a working peer in the House of Lords, he chaired a committee on agriculture, which focused on rural issues and the Common Agricultural Policy.

His eldest son, Michael Willoughby, who succeeds to the title, said: “He had a great knowledge and interest in rural life.”

Lord Middleton won the Royal Agricultural Society’s Bledislow Award for estate management, and was a past president of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and a steward for many years of the Great Yorkshire Show.

He was also a popular figure in the Middleton Hunt, being field master, chairman and a trustee.

But, said Mr Willoughby, his father was aggrieved that he had to leave the Lords in the shake-up of its membership under Tony Blair’s Government.

“He felt the system did work and it was wrong to throw it out when there was no replacement put in place, which is still the case,” he said.

“My father was keen to see British agriculture and forestry thrive and that there should be a profitable rural economy freed up from the terrible bureaucracy and taxation.”

A private funeral for family, estate workers, friends and tenants, was held for Lord Middleton, who died on May 27, at Birdsall parish church and a memorial service is to be held at a later date.

He leaves his wife, to whom he was married for 63 years, Janet, three children, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.