Tributes to ‘a great inspiration’ who helped raise more than £10million for Chichester Cathedral

C131766-1 Chi Cath MBE  phot kate''William Webber MBE.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C131766-1 ENGSUS00120131231120932
C131766-1 Chi Cath MBE phot kate''William Webber MBE.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C131766-1 ENGSUS00120131231120932

Tributes have poured in for a West Grinstead man who was awarded an MBE for fundraising work to restore Chichester Cathedral.

Leslie Weller, of Rookcross Lane, passed away Sunday night (March 16). He was in his late 70s.

He has been described as ‘a great inspiration’.

Over the past 30 years he has played a major part in raising more than £10million for Chichester Cathedral.

Mr Weller, a former student at the College of Richard Collyer in Horsham and partner at King and Chasemore estate agents in 1962, was the first chairman of the cathedral’s restoration trust.

He was involved in the restoration of the cathedral’s panel paintings by 16th century artist Lambert Bernard.

Earlier this year he was awarded an MBE for his fundraising work and contributions to the arts.

In January Mr Weller told the County Times he was ‘very humbled and very surprised’ to be honoured.

Recalling how he became involved with fundraising, he said: “It all started in a strange way.

“We were playing cricket against the Chichester Law Society and the members came up to me and said ‘we’ve got a job for you’.”

What followed over the next three decades was a string of fundraising event which raked in multi-millions for works on the cathedral.

He added: “It is in as good an order as any other in the country right now.”

This week friends and colleagues have paid tribute.

Revd. Rupert Toovey, director of Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers in Washington, said: “Leslie was a generous friend and a great inspiration to me.

“He supported me in becoming a chartered surveyor in the specialist fields of fine art valuation and auctioneering and was delighted when I followed in his footsteps to become chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Art and Antiques faculty.”

He continued: “It was Leslie’s inspiration and dedication that created the first regional centre of expertise for fine art auctioneering outside London for Sotheby’s at Billingshurst, a model which I am proud to continue.

“Leslie’s Christian faith was at the heart of a generous life where he worked tirelessly for the arts, Chichester Cathedral and numerous charities and I was delighted when he received his MBE.”

He added: “My thoughts and prayers are with Brenda, Adrian and his whole family as I give thanks for his life and friendship.”

Jeremy Knight, curator at Horsham Museum, said: “I met Leslie at a number of cultural events; he had a number of connections, being one of those people who, with tact and guile, could get people to do things, rather than actually be hands on, but without such people blockages so often occur. As Leslie was strongly interested in Christ’s Hospital on so many levels, our paths crossed at the Heritage Committee and he drew on his vast experience to know the right people to help the much loved institution out. He was a keen horseman and member of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt until his major riding accident, which may have curtailed some his riding but not his enthusiasm for horses. Chichester Cathedral, West Grinstead Local History Society, Sussex historic houses, furniture and antiques were just some of his many interests.”

Jonathan Chowen, cabinet member for heritage, arts and leisure at Horsham District Council, said he was saddened to hear the news.

He said: “Leslie had that rare ability to hold a rooms attention as he told with a passion and enthusiasm about local history, collecting, art, furniture.

“Leslie also had the rare skill of being able to work the room, thus becoming an amazing fund raiser and champion of causes.

“He will be greatly missed by the local community of West Grinstead his church and the wider cultural community of Sussex and beyond, he was a major figure whose legacy is a stronger more vibrant arts and heritage scene.”