Former Pendle businessman and charity champion awarded prestigious ancient honour

Former Colne man Bill Thomas has been awarded a Knight Bachelor for his services to politics and charity.
Former Colne man Bill Thomas has been awarded a Knight Bachelor for his services to politics and charity.

A former Pendle man, who was the first in his family to go to university, has been made a Knight Bachelor in the New Year's Honours List.

Bill Thomas was awarded the title for his services to charity and politics. Knight Bachelor is the most ancient sort of British knight which existed during the 13th-century reign of King Henry III.

Mr Thomas was born in Colne but now lives in Derby where he is co-owner of Hopton Hall and estates and is also chairman of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines charities.

He also chairs Spirent Communications plc, Clarkson plc and Node4 Ltd. Mr Thomas was also chairman of the Labour Party's Small Business Task Force, the Independent Review of Defence Procurement and was a member of Labour's Skills Task Force.

He is a former chair of the International Advisory Board of the Cranfield School of Management and, as alumni president, served on the Cranfield University Council. He also served for nine years on the president's committee of the CBI.

Growing up in River Street, Mr Thomas' attended Sacred Heart Primary School in Colne and the former St Theodore's RC High School in Burnley.

Mr Thomas' father Jack taught at Sacred Heart School and later became deputy head at Fisher More RC High School in Colne. Mr Thomas' sister Pat taught at St Theodore's in a career spanning 30 years.

A graduate of Leeds University Mr Thomas gained a maths degree, two masters degrees and two honorary doctorates.

He worked for Electronic Data Systems for 25 years and ended his career as senior vice president of Hewlett Packard’s Enterprise Services with responsibility for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Together with his wife Julie, Mr Thomas has spent the past nine years, since he retired, renovating the buildings and grounds of Hopton Hall, which is famous for its display of snowdrops each year. The couple have three children and one grandson. Mr Thomas often returns home to Pendle to visit family and friends.

Speaking of his 'surprise and delight' at receiving the honour Mr Thomas said:" Keeping this a secret was hard but I am very proud

" I have been lucky and always worked with exceptional teams. This award reflects the quality of those I've worked with."