David Bolton in country attire

David Bolton

13th March 1956 - 17th November 2020

On Thursday 14th October, 2021 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of David Bolton was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:

I find it hard to believe that it was almost a year ago that David’s shock diagnosis, followed so swiftly, and heartbreakingly by his sudden and unexpected death, devastated all of us. Here at St Bride’s we still miss him tremendously, in all kinds of ways: it has taken me a very long time to get out of the habit of looking for his cheerful face every time I came into church.

But of course, our sense of loss is as nothing to what must have been felt by those of you who really were closest to his heart – his much-loved family, and the friends with whom he shared so much of his life. The world really does feel like a different, and a less colourful place without him.

David’s funeral last December took place at a time when pandemic restrictions were still in force and attendance had to be very limited- so it is wonderful that today we can at long last gather together to honour his memory and to celebrate his life.

St Bride’s held a very important place in David’s life for very many years, and amongst other things, he was always very proud of its associations with journalism. That is why, by special request, we shall be including the Journalists’ prayer later in this service.

Thank you all for coming this morning; and particular thanks to the Guild of St Bride and its members, whose generosity has made this service possible.

We begin now with an opening prayer. Let us pray.

Almighty God, whose reign extends far beyond the bounds of this life. In the mystery of what lies beyond our sight, we pray that your love may complete its work in David, our beloved brother in Christ, and in all those whose days on earth are done. And grant that we who serve you now in this world may at last share with him the glories of your heavenly Kingdom; through the love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Angela Dowling

Bar-Bar Humbug

David was a veritable institution, so much part of the Queen’s Larder’s fabric that even now, nearly a year down the line, we half expect him to burst through the door with a: “HELLOOOO, I’m David!”

His incredible presence has left an indelible print on the pub as we know it.

His flamboyance and savoir-faire went a long way to alleviating the humdrum of our “serve and deliver” duties. The character we all took for granted is so strong; it’s a legacy that’s unlikely to diminish.

Even though he left the centre stage of the Queen’s Larder more than 10 years ago, he was always in the wings. Not a week went by without someone asking after him. There’s been Sven from Sweden; Steve and Tami from Texas; Dougie from Dundee, to name a few. Even now, the enquiries about the Lord of the Larder persist.

One of David’s favourites, Sia Harris, who, a decade ago, arrived on our shores from Japan vividly remembers his crash course in London pub culture. Her request for an orange juice provoked an incredulous: “OOOOOOrange JUICE????”, followed by: “We don’t encourage non-alcoholic drinking here”. Sia, who had just married London-savvy Derek, realised she was on a hiding to nothing and plumbed for a half pint of real ale. After all these years, she thanks David not only for endless hours of entertainment but for making her the discerning real ale drinker she is today.

He got his kicks shooting the breeze with the bee’s knees, such as high court judges and duchesses, mingling with media magnates, having caviar moments with controversial artists. At the same time, he relished reminiscing with real-hard rogues of the WC1 hood and thinking nothing of walking the extra mile delivering The Telegraph and other essentials up flights of stairs for age-old friends who were singing their last aria.

We’ll never forget how humble he could be when he’d come back after a visit with Dolly and Charlie, emoji stickers festooned on his Oxfords, saying: “no more polishing for these bad brogues!”, or the times he shared images of angelic Ava cradled in his arms, on his knee, chuffed she got Vivaldi.

David was a perambulating peek into the area’s past, much like “Better Call Saul”; it was “Want to Get Educated, Check with David”! If very rarely, he wasn’t quite sure of anything, he’d refer to his Hunter Street library for the finite facts that he’d announce at his next stop-over at the Queen’s Larder.

His input was invaluable, and we miss him every minute of every day. Even though many of us couldn’t attend his funeral last year, most of us gathered outside St Bride’s to bid him a reluctant farewell, travelling from counties and countries to be there. Nothing has changed except now its time to celebrate the Lord Larder Legacy in a sanctuary that was his real home.

Jonathan McEvoy

Mr Erudite

David Bolton made a bigger imprint on the imagination of Fleet Street than many a man who walked its ways for longer.

Effervescent, erudite, eccentric, he was renowned in every one of the local watering holes he supped in. Which is to say them all, at one time or another. He knew and retold the stories hidden behind each corner and stamped into every cobble of EC4. He imbibed the genius loci, the spirit of the place, as if the ghosts of Johnson and Pepys, of generations of hacks and lawyers, were woven into his well-tailored shoulders. Central to this mythology for 2,000 years is the church in which we now appropriately celebrate David’s sheer love of living.

I first set eyes upon him sitting over there behind the choir stalls. He was dressed as if he had just stepped off a grouse moor. Plus fours, weighed down by extravagant tweed, and carrying one of the many hats he wore at a singular, jaunty angle. It was about a dozen years ago and he had returned to St Bride’s, which he had first visited as a law student in London in the 1970s. He soon became a fixture of the place, as shop volunteer, tour guide (a job he loved), verger and Guildsman. He was at the heart of everything that happened here until his sudden illness last year robbed him in the mid-late summer of life.

I’ll tell you something: no-one loved a memorial service more than David. ‘Wonderful memorial service on Monday,’ he’d tell me. ‘The lovely Joanna Lumley was there – read Philip Larkin. She gave me a kiss. We had a nice chat. Lady So-and-so – the Dowager – was also there. She was carrying a little dog in her handbag, would you believe it? Drinks at the Humble Grape. The wine was flowing. I stopped off on the way back at the Old Bell, caught up with a dear old friend, then on to the Cheshire Cheese, a couple of pints there. Back home at 11. A glass or two of port. Wonderful day.’

That memory captures one of the essential things about David, the item I remember most: the fun. The mischief. The twinkle in his eye.

Regulars at St Bride’s – and non-regulars – will recall how his smiling face was the customary welcome here over recent years, escorting the congregation to their seats. One reader at a memorial service, however, was unwilling to follow David’s seat recommendation. ‘Must I sit here?’ asked the obstreperous reader. To which David replied: ‘When in Rome…’ The reader snapped back: ‘What was that?’ David: ‘I said: ‘Feel at home!’

Another time, one Thursday morning, James Irving, who runs the office here, received a text: ‘Just on to the third bottle of Burgundy at El Vino. See you at midday for the staff meeting.’

James fondly remembers another pure David moment. Said James: ‘I’ve been doing dry January this year, David. Have you ever tried anything similar?’ David: ‘Well, there was a week in August 1984.’

There was a lot more that went into the making of David Bolton than a camel’s thirst. He was simply the most knowledgeable man I ever met. It is impossible even to sketch the limits of his learning. History fascinated him, of course. Churches and cathedrals were crucially important. Just mention Durham and off he would go on St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede and barrel vaults and decorative arcading. Like the old Football League he divided all England’s cathedrals into four divisions, the exact order of which he could recite off the top of his head. Incidentally, Lincoln he rated highest. St Alban’s was close. Gloucester, his beloved home Cathedral, was his specialist subject when he appeared on BBC’s Mastermind. His general knowledge round was less impressive. ‘The half-time refreshments in the green room were rather too good,’ he owned up.

He knew just as much about virtually every parish church, however obscure. Other star subjects included the Church, with a capital ‘C’ – its star clerics and its dubious – architecture, music, stately homes, kings and queens, Roman Britain or Roman Rome – everything that Lord Clark called ‘Civilisation’, and much more, to current affairs, Stilton cheese, English bitter, French wine, vintage port, Jermyn Street shirtmakers, Welsh rugby and beyond. His mind was inexhaustibly inquisitive and his memory for dates and names and quotes and battles retentive verging on the ridiculous.

The Bloomsbury flat in which he spent the last two decades of his life, most of it with his much-missed partner Sandra, was a living museum. It must have contained the largest collection of books outside the British Library. Actually, north of 5,000 at a conservative estimate. Old Penguins, the full Pevsner collection and duplicates, Haynes manuals, Ordnance Survey maps, the list goes on. No book was ever wasted in David’s hands. Or discarded or forgotten. They were all living, enduringly turned to and loved. An inveterate hoarder, he kept his old microscope – in its box – his Latin homework, postcards from his father, cards from his then infant sons and the pipes he started smoking as a 15-year-old.

And to the final part of this tribute. His clothes. He liked a bit of swank and ceremony and a stiff collar, for sure. His collection of suits at the time of his death numbered 70, in stripes of every width. Seventy shoes or boots. Thirty blazers, including boating jackets and his superb smoking jacket. Sixty-plus hats, including a family heirloom silk top hat with which he was especially pleased. Two dozen canes and umbrellas. Corduroys of every hue of burgundy and mustard. Prints on every inch of wall – 200 minimum.

The place should have been preserved by the National Trust. If he had been a junior cabinet minister it would have been.

David was interested in everyone and everything. Although a Telegraph reader he took delight in where I had been on Daily Mail service and what I had written, however mundane the subject or leaden the prose. He had bought the paper and devoured it and would recount it to me. He was a man of substantial faith, never happier than to be of service, particularly, it must be said, when, as verger, selecting the Communion wine. His research ethic in this endeavour was unrelentingly professional. (He almost bankrupted the church with his choices!) He was old-fashioned in a courteous and chivalrous and charming sense rather than a reactionary. For he was an Englishman, as Gilbert and Sullivan would have it, but it was ‘greatly to his credit’ that he was never a narrow one. He was humorous and witty and worldly. He was proud of his family. He delighted in his bank of knowledge, managing to regale us with his recollection of this north transept or that without ever lecturing us or bragging to us. He was thrilled to have been associated with St Bride’s and the Guild. He drank deeply from the well of life.

As Oscar Wilde, whom he was apt to quote, said: ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that’s all.’

Our dear friend David lived, indeed. And, better, with his joie de vivre he not only lit up occasions; he enriched lives.


Lord Black of Brentwood read Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Robin Turner, Head Verger, read Our revels now are ended from The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 4 by William Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Charlie Bolton, grandson, read Grandad David

When I think of my grandad, I think of a smartly dressed man who loved books, architecture, classic films and beer.

When I was learning about the Romans; asking him questions was more interesting than asking my teacher.

When he used to come to the house, I used to greet him with
‘alright our kid’.

He laughed immensely and would put on an equally silly northern accent, then he would go out for a smoke telling everyone he was just going outside for some fresh air.

For my fifth birthday, I had a batman fancy dress party. Grandad David came dressed as Alfred, which wasn’t exactly very challenging for him. But people who didn’t know him, say he stayed in character the whole time.

All these memories, will continue to stay with me, even though I miss him greatly, I know he is smiling down on us with a pint in his hand.


The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

Bring me sunshine – Arthur Kent
Fidelis – Percy Whitlock
Psalm 121 – Henry Walford Davies
My beloved spake – John Sanders
Hymn to the Virgin – Benjamin Britten
A policeman’s lot is not a happy one – W S Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Every time we say goodbye – Cole Porter arr. Jonathan S
Morning has broken – Traditional Gaelic melody


O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
I vow to thee, my country
Thine be the glory

David Bolton in top hat and tails
congregation sitting for service


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