TRIBUTES have been pouring in following the death of West Dorset landowner and benefactor Sir John Colfox.

Sir John died of natural causes aged 90 on Saturday night surrounded by his family at the family home.

Now, members of the local community have paid tribute to the man described as “one of a kind”, “a traditional village elder” and a “great man”.

Sir John acquired his title after his father died, and was heavily involved in the local community and local school life.

A statement issued by the family said: “A popular and modest man, Sir John loved the countryside and cared deeply for the land and local wildlife. He often said he felt lucky to have lived in what he called "the most beautiful part of England."

“He had an intense and genuine interest in what others were doing even when he was frail and had worries. He had a passion with which he wanted to share the good things around us. He was a great man and a great father and will be hugely missed.”

The secondary school in Bridport, built on land donated by the Colfox family, was renamed the “Sir John Colfox School” in 1999 following the multi-million pound private finance rebuild of the school.

Kay Taylor, headteacher at the school, said: ““I have known Sir John since the time I came to the school as a deputy head in 1994.

“Sir John was always keen to see that the school got the best deal possible and he was delighted to give his name to the new secondary school which opened in 1999.

“The students in the school know Sir John and have a strong sense of the continuity of support that the Colfox family have always given the school. “His dedication and sense of humour will be deeply missed.

“For the staff, governors and students in the school he was always there supporting the school. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his unwavering support over the years.

“He will be deeply missed.”

Peter Smith, chairman of Symondsbury Parish Council, said: “The whole parish was saddened by the loss of such a long term supporter of the community, who was involved in village life over many years.

“He was so keen on local schools, and helped Symondsbury Primary School and of course the Sir John Colfox School greatly.

“He was always helpful and quite happy to talk about all sorts of things, he was really a traditional village elder.

“All of our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

George Streatfeild is chairman of governors at Symondsbury Primary School and said he had known Sir John “forever”.

Mr Streatfeild said: “Sir John and my father were very close friends and the families have known each other forever.

“It is a huge loss.

“He had a big impact on the local schools and his daughter is still one of the governors at the school.

“It is the end of an era, he really was one of a kind, he was almost part of the landscape in the area.

“He was a very compassionate person and very thoughtful, he really was a lovely person.”

He leaves behind his wife Frederica and five children, Phillip, Edward, Charlotte, Connie and Victoria, and 17 grandchildren. Members of the public are invited to the funeral, which will be held on Wednesday, July 23 at St John the Baptist Church in Symondsbury.