Village Archive

24th Apr 2017 Last updated at 15:45

Mrs Angela Fraser DL - Half a Lifetime of Community Service

Angela Fraser came to Chipstead with her parents as a young lady of 21 years.  She was to go on to live in Chipstead for over 60 years, during which time she has had a long and distinguished career in local government. This included 21 years as a borough councillor for Reigate and Banstead, including one as Mayor, and 28 years as a county councillor for Surrey, including two years as Chairman.

Angela is well known for speaking her mind in a forthright manner, which may not have always made her popular with everyone!  However, this quality has made her a good lobbyist for getting things done, and has helped her make a significant contribution to the local community.

Article researched and written by Rupert Courtenay-Evans and Barry Pepper

Early Years

Angela’s parents were John and Elsie Meston. Before marriage John's career was as a tea and rubber broker working between India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) & the City of London.  When they got married Elsie joined him in Calcutta.

John and Elsie lived for some years in Tollygunge, in the south of Calcutta (Kolkata), famed for the  Tollygunge Club where gentlemen and ladies of the British Raj would seek welcome relief from the sweltering heat and noise of the city.

In 1932 Elsie (also known as Chippy, alluding to a chip off her father’s strong character), came back to England as she was not well, subsequently followed by John who became a Director of Gow Wilson and Stanton Ltd in the City.  In 1933 Elsie gave birth to their first and only child, Angela Mary Meston, in a nursing home in Streatham.

AF John and Elsie

Angela’s parents, John and Elsie Meston, at Angela and Ian’s wedding reception at Uphill in 1967

The family home was in Norbury but it was severely damaged in the early daysof the blitz in 1940, rendering it uninhabitable. Angela and her mother spent the rest of the war in a nomadic existence moving around relations out of town from Sutton, then Nottingham, to Devon, on to Buckinghamshire and finally Carshalton Beeches, thus going to many schools. Meanwhile her father lived with his parents in Purley in order to carry on working.  He commuted to London and joined the army as soon as business allowed.  He was commissioned into the RASC and served in Scotland and India.  After demobilization he joined the Home Guard and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel.  After the war the family had the house in Norbury repaired and lived there until 1954 when they moved to Uphill in How Lane, Chipstead.

AF Uphill

Uphill in How Lane where Angela lived from 1954 to her marriage in 1967

Angela attended Croydon High School, but dance and ballet were her real interests and she was encouraged in this by her parents. However, her father insisted that she stayed at school until she achieved the school certificate.

The Ballet Years

After leaving school in 1950, she went to the Arts Educational School of Ballet in London, where she qualified both as a dancer and dancing teacher. She did well and danced in several London shows. One of her principal distinctions was dancing in the “corps de ballet” in the 1952 Christmas performances of  “Where the Rainbow Ends” with Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin as the principal dancers. In 1954 she was in another long running pantomime “Mother Goose”, this time with Max Bygraves, Peter Sellars and Shirley Eaton at the London Palladium.

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Angela appearing in “Mother Goose” at the London Palladium in 1955

Entry into Politics

After some years Angela felt that she should change career and she did not want to teach in the family dancing school.  So in 1958 she went to the Marlborough Gate Secretarial College in the Bayswater Road, where the principal told her that she would never type properly because her finger nails were too long!  Nevertheless she confounded all by passing out top.

Her first job was as a secretary to an executive in the London office of a Lancashire Chemical company working just off the fashionable Berkeley Square.

In 1959 she went out to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) with her parents where she stayed for several months, much to her current employer’s annoyance! She returned to England and lived with her parents in Uphill, getting a job at the House of Commons as a personal assistant and secretary to four Conservative MPs.

Socially in Chipstead she became a prominent member of the local Young Conservatives. In 1965 her father became Chairman of the local Conservative party, replacing Major Ian Fraser, who was MP for Plymouth Sutton. It was through this connection that Angela first met Ian who had his “town house” in Chipstead, How Hatch in How Lane, which he had bought in 1948 and had lived there with his wife Mary and their two children. Tragically, Mary had died of cancer in 1964.

Angela and Ian were married at St. Peter’s Church in Woodmansterne (How Hatch is in Woodmansterne parish) in September 1967, and held their wedding reception at Uphill.

So after living with her parents at Uphill for 13 years, Angela began her married life only a few hundred yards away in the same road!

AF Wedding

Angela and Ian emerging from St. Peter’s Church in Woodmansterne on their wedding day in September1967

AF How Hatch

How Hatch in How Lane where Angela started her married life in 1967

Major Ian Fraser MC (1916 – 1987)

Major Ian Fraser was born in 1916, and educated at Shrewsbury and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he got a double first class degree.  He joined the Indian Army as an officer in the 13th Punjab Frontier Force Rifles (The Piffers) and saw service on the north-west frontier.

AF Ian Fraser

Ian Fraser as an Assistant Government Whip in 1962

In World War II he took part in operations in Iraq and Syria against Vichy French forces and was Mentioned in Despatches in 1941. In 1942, his regiment joined Auchinleck’s 8th Army in North Africa and were in full retreat after the fall of Tobruck. On 28th June, his unit was overrun by enemy tanks at Mersa Matruh. Here Ian won an MC for spectacular bravery and initiative, culminating in throwing a bomb at the occupants of an enemy tank. He was subsequently captured and taken before Field Marshall Rommel from whom he temporarily escaped.

Ian was re-captured and transferred to a POW camp in Italy, and subsequently to a camp in Germany, where he remained until near the end of the war when the allies were advancing. The Germans then decided to march the POWs away from this advance. Unfortunately, their column was mistakenly attacked by an American fighter plane and Ian had the ill fortune of being seriously wounded in the leg which had to be amputated in Germany.

After the war Ian was repatriated to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot for rehabilitation. In 1945 he married his first wife, Mary Stanley. They had a son (Ewan) and daughter (Victoria).

In 1948, Ian returned to his regiment in India, where he went to the Staff College in Quetta for his promotional course to become a major. He passed out top of his course but was told that he would never be passed fit for active service, and so he returned to England and resigned his commission.

After leaving the army Ian joined the city firm Guthries before becoming General Secretary to the John Lewis Partnership, but decided to stand down and go into politics. After contesting Tottenham unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party in the 1955 general election, he sought a safer seat and was narrowly beaten by Margaret Thatcher in the selection for Finchley. He was adopted for Plymouth Sutton, which he won after an energetic campaign in October 1959.

Although he did not drive himself during his election campaigning, he was a skilful motorist and a strong supporter of the Government’s pledge, honoured in 1960, to equip war pensioners with a suitably modified car. He vigorously defended the decision to give them priority. Another speech in February 1961 was made in defence of Enoch Powell’s National Health Service bill, which raised the charges on dentures and spectacles, but he was more critical of the failure of the NHS to update their models of artificial limbs. However, he was not dissatisfied with his own artificial leg which had been fitted in 1946 and which had enabled him to pass out top of his intake at Quetta, which had been a very tough and challenging course. About the only thing he could not do, as he told the Commons amidst loud laughter, was to dance a Highland Fling!

He was made PPS to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1962 and then became an Assistant Government Whip 1962-4. In 1964 he managed to retain his seat by a small margin. He remained in the Whips’ office when the party went into opposition, but in March 1966 went down to defeat at the hands of a locally born Labour candidate, Dr David Owen, later Foreign Secretary in the Callaghan Government.

AF Whips

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the Conservative Whips in 1963. Ian Fraser is in the back row at the extreme right

Ian never returned to the House, although he spent a year with the Conservative Research Department. In 1967 he became Executive Director of the GUS Export Corporation, remaining with them until 1970.

Ian was a highly intelligent man with a good sense of humour and a very pleasant manner. He was well liked in the constituency and the House. He was a keen sailor and even after he left Plymouth retained his connections with the Royal Western Yacht Club. He was also a keen fly fisherman.

Married Life

In the first few weeks of their marriage Angela and Ian had a stroke of misfortune. While Angela was driving down the High Road near Shabden Park on a blind bend, they met a car on the wrong side of the road which resulted in a head-on crash. The impact fractured Ian’s only leg in 2 places and broke Angela`s right arm. Ian was in hospital until Christmas. Both made a good recovery but Ian decided not to return to his previous work and became secretary of the Buttle Trust , a children’s charity in the education sector, a post he held until he retired at the age of 70 in 1986. 

Their elder son Charles was born in 1968 and their younger son Anthony in 1971. Ian threw himself into fatherhood once again. He had even been known to help them go to sleep with a small glass of sweet sherry!

Like their half brother, both Angela’s boys went to Eton. After leaving school, Charles trained as a school teacher and was subsequently ordained into the Church of England.  He currently works at The Leys School, Cambridge, as Head of Divinity. He is also the Vicar of Great and Little Eversden, two nearby parishes, a really demanding career combining two very different jobs. Anthony went into the army and was commissioned into the Black Watch for 13 years. He now works for the investment bank JP Morgan. The two sons have given Angela five grandchildren so far.

Meanwhile, just up the lane at Uphill in 1967, Angela’s father’s health was deteriorating with heart failure, so John and Elsie Meston decided to build a bungalow in the side garden of Uphill so that John was spared climbing stairs. They named the bungalow Tollygunge after their time in India. However, John died shortly before the bungalow was completed in 1969 of a heart attack on London Bridge station and never had the opportunity to reside there. Angela`s widowed mother lived in Tollygunge for the rest of her life, dying in 1997, at the grand age of 96.

Borough Councillor

Angela had herself always wanted to do some work for the community and so became interested in local politics. In 1978 she noticed that the local Conservatives were advertising for people to become Councillors and in 1979 she won her first election as a Reigate and Banstead Borough Councillor for the Chipstead and Woodmansterne ward (later incorporating Hooley), a position she held until 2000.

During her time as a borough councillor Angela chaired the finance and health committees and became Mayor in 1988/9.

AF Mayor

Angela on her appointment as Mayor of Reigate and Banstead in 1988

On review of Angela’s career as a borough councillor, she volunteered that her best achievement was to improve the integration of the large and rather unwieldy borough of Reigate & Banstead, with the disparate areas of Horley in the south and Banstead in the north.

In October 1987 Surrey’s hurricane did great local damage, and it was during clearing up after the storm that Ian’s amputated leg stump became very infected and required urgent admission to Epsom Hospital. He was treated there and duly discharged on Remembrance Sunday. Tragically, shortly after getting home he collapsed and died while walking upstairs. He was only 71.  Angela was understandably heartbroken but did manage, with the aid of her grown up sons, to fulfil all her mayoral engagements the following year.

Ian died on 8 November, 1987

AF Mayor and Sons

Mayor Angela Fraser with her sons Charles and Anthony. Charles on the left acted as her official escort on civic occasions and provided great moral support during Angela’s term as Mayor, so soon after Ian’s death

 AF Queens Regiment

With “drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed” the Queen’s Regiment present themselves to Mayor Angela Fraser in Reigate in 1988. Escorting Angela is Brigadier Hugh Tarver, Deputy Colonel of the Regiment

AF Horse Drawn Coach

Dressage champion horse Salute leads a coach and four through Reigate in 1998 carrying Mayor Angela Fraser on the ten mile ride to Horley to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society

AF Mince Pies

At the last Reigate & Banstead council meeting before Christmas the Mayor traditionally provides mulled wine and mince pies. Angela’s mammoth bake-in of 348 mince pies started at the end of October. “I almost do not care whether I ever see another mince pie” laughed Angela as she finished off her 20th dozen in 1988

County Councillor

In 1981 she added County politics to the Borough and was elected for Epsom and Ewell North East until 1985.  In 1989 she won her first election as a county councillor for the local county ward which includes Chipstead and Banstead. During her time as county councillor she chaired many committees including Education Sites and Accomodation, Property Services and Community Services. She was Executive Member for Community Services, Personnel and Youth Services.  She served on the Surrey Police Authority.  She was elected Chairman of Surrey County Council from 2007 to 2009. Whilst chair of the roads committee, Angela succeeded in getting the twin mini-roundabouts and speed warning signs in Outwood Lane installed.  As Chairman of the devolved highways committee she was successful in getting the 30mph speed limit installed throughout Chipstead village, a first for a village without street lighting.

AF SCC Chairman

Angela on her appointment as Chairman of Surrey County Council, 15th May 2007

On review of Angela’s long and distinguished career as a county councillor, she volunteered that she felt her work to keep Surrey County Council on its long term site in Kingston has perhaps been her greatest achievement. The magnificent County Hall in Kingston upon Thames has been Surrey CC’s home since 1893. In 1963 Kingston became a London borough isolating County Hall outside the Surrey boundary. Many councillors took the view that a new headquarters should be found at the county town of Guildford, but a suitable site could not be located. Angela fought against an alternative new-build site overlooking the canal in Woking, and the initiative was dropped, saving the county budget an enormous amount in the long run, and much councillor’s time.

AF County Hall

The County Hall in Kingston upon Thames, designed by Charles Henry Howell, County Surveyor and partner in Howell and Brooks. It was completed in 1893 by the firm Higgs and Hill.

She was awarded the distinction of becoming a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey (DL) in 1996, a lifetime award. Angela finally stepped down from the county council in 2013.

During her 35 year period in public service from 1979 to 2013, Angela has served on virtually every borough and county committee, being chairman or vice of many of them.

AF Brooklands

Angela meeting HRH the Duke of Kent on his visit to Brooklands, Weybridge for the Festival of Science and Engineering, 27th June 2007

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Angela attending the Review of the Surrey Wing of the Air Training Corps at Kenley Aerodrome, 16th September 2007

Working for Charities and Schools

During her career in local government Angela has been a leading light in many charities, including  the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, Age Concern (Merstham, Redhill and Reigate), Reigate Priory Museum Society, Surrey Royal British Legion County Appeals Committee and President of the Women's Section of the Surrey Branch of the RBL and The High Sherriff of Surrey's Youth Awards for Crime Prevention.

AF Young Mariners

Angela attending Thames Young Mariners 60th anniversary at Ham, Richmond, 28th July 2007

Angela has also served as Governor to a number of local schools, including Croydon High, Aberdour, Reigate VIth Form College, Chipstead First School, the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, and Banstead Community Junior. She was Chairman of Chipstead First School committee at the time of its closure by the Department of Education in 1994 , and she made every effort , including lobbying the Minister of Education, to get the decision reversed, albeit in vain.

AF Banstead School

Angela attending the opening of the Banstead Community Junior School Garden, 18th May 2009

While she was Mayor she made the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People, her Mayoral good cause and with the support of a very active committee raised £116,000 over the year for Banstead Place. 

Keeping Active

Angela is still Chairman of the Chipstead Conservative Association, and served for many years on the Chipstead Flower Show committee.

When she does have any spare time she loves her long haired dachshunds, gardening, flower arranging, going to the theatre or a concert and travelling abroad, not to mention a quiet game of bridge and, of course, seeing her boys and their families. However, in spite of all this she admits that 30 years is too long to be a widow, particularly with her vitality.

We salute a grand lady who has done so much for us all.