Peter’s life-saving legacy for the Littlehampton

Littlehampton lifeboat stalwart Peter Cheney, who has died, aged 85 (Jan 2014)
Littlehampton lifeboat stalwart Peter Cheney, who has died, aged 85 (Jan 2014)

CREW members provided a guard of honour at the funeral of Peter Cheney, who reopened Littlehampton’s lifeboat station in 1967, almost half a century after its predecessor closed down.

More than 250 people attended Mr Cheney’s funeral at Worthing Crematorium last Monday (January 20). He died earlier this month in Worthing Hospital, aged 85.

Mr Cheney, of Berry Lane, Littlehampton, followed his father into the family estate agency and auctioneering business and then did likewise by dedicating his spare time and energy to helping save lives at sea.

A lifelong supporter of the lifeboat charity, Mr Cheney went on to serve the RNLI for more than 40 years in an official capacity, holding office as station secretary, chairman and secretary of the Littlehampton branch, and receiving a number of honours from the RNLI, including honorary life governorship, in 2004.

The sea played a major part in his life – after being invalided out of the Merchant Navy in the mid-1950s, he briefly held a shore-based post. He and his wife Susan were keen sailors and members of Arun Yacht Club from its formation in the 1950s.

At about the same time, he took over the family business, later concentrating on the auction rooms in Western Road, Littlehampton.

He ran the business with Mrs Cheney for more than 50 years before bringing his gavel down for the last time in 2007, and announcing the closure of the premises.

The auction rooms were popular with sellers and bidders alike, as much for the friendly atmosphere as for Peter’s knowledge of antiques and the trade, and his reputation for fairness and honesty.

His father was secretary of the fund-raising branch of the RNLI in Littlehampton before and during the Second World War, so it was perhaps no surprise that Peter should play such a key part in the revival of Littlehampton’s lifeboat station in the 1960s. And when BBC children’s television programme Blue Peter came on board with a fund-raising appeal for an inshore lifeboat costing £1,000, enough cash came in to pay for a further two boats, but Littlehampton’s had the distinction of being named Blue Peter I.

Speaking at the funeral, Littlehampton lifeboat operations manager Nick White said Mr Cheney had had the respect of all those involved with the station. “Peter was a leader. He had warmth and personality, and he was one of us.

“He made his mark on us all and we will miss him.”

He is survived by his wife, who also gave long and loyal service to the RNLI, and was also a leading figure in St John Ambulance for many years, including nine years as county president, resulting in her being awarded the MBE.

He also leaves their son, Andrew, who followed him into the fine art world.

Donations in Mr Cheney’s memory will go to the town’s lifeboat station.