Tributes are paid to colourful character who created Shendish Manor

Shendish Manor.
Shendish Manor.

Tributes have been paid to an ambitious builder who made Shendish Manor into the hotel it is today.

Ralph Thornberry, who was living in Northchurch until his death, transformed the old manor house from a sports and social club into a hotel after it was sold by Hemel Hempstead’s famous John Dickinson Stationery firm in 1994.

Ralph Thornberry.

Ralph Thornberry.

The Apsley hotel was refurbished in 2007 when a new wing was added providing an extra 52 bedrooms, an orangery restaurant and a banqueting hall.

But sadly, just two years later, the business went into administration. Today it is owned by Stephen Hung and still operates as a hotel.

Nicki Moss worked under Ralph, who died earlier this month at the age of 77, for more than two years.

“He was a really caring and considerate man,” she said. “The hotel was ran well with the family and he always put 110 per cent in – even though he drank us dry sometimes.”

His funeral was held at Garston Crematorium on Friday, December 13 and donations to the Hospice of St Francis were requested instead of flowers.

Current hotel manager James Barker said: “On behalf of the owner and staff we send our condolences to the family and thank Ralph and his family for creating such a beautiful property in Hertfordshire, and we thank him for what it is today, as it wouldn’t be here without him.”

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning said Ralph, whose wife died earlier this year, was the first businessman he met when he came to the town.

“He was mad about rugby, like me – a very passionate Irishman and very passionate about his roots,” said Mr Penning.

“He was just a lovely man. None of us are perfect and no one would say Ralph was perfect but he just didn’t have a bad bone in his body – he would help anyone.”

In line with his love of rugby, the builder stepped in to help out when the town’s Camelot Rugby Club hit hard times in the past.