▪Crispin Rope – RIP

When Crispin Rope, the philanthropist & intellectual, died earlier this year, we lost the last person to know Margaret Rope closely. Marga was Crispin’s aunt.

The family story goes that baby Crispin was taken to the convent where Margaret was an ‘enclosed’ nun, and shown to her through the visitors’ grille – so one can even say they met! During the boy’s childhood, the two also corresponded – even in enclosed convents, nuns can receive letters.

Crispin Rope with the ‘Goblin Market’ panel (made by Margaret Rope)

After Marga’s death in 1953, Crispin also contributed to the efforts to keep her legacy alive. He was a willing funder – through the family charitable trust – of publications and events that sought to increase the public awareness of her work. Without his support, the appreciation of Margaret Rope’s genius would not be where it is.


The sad story of Crispin’s beginnings is well-known: he never met his father, Michael, who died in the crash of the airship R101 in 1930, two months before Crispin was born.
Michael, an outstanding aeronautical engineer, had only recently married Lucy Doreen Jolly, of a leading Suffolk farming family – and, at the time of his death, Lucy was pregnant with Crispin. Lucy never remarried.

So, here was Crispin, surrounded by past & present high-achievers on both the maternal and paternal side. It comes as no surprise therefore that he was drawn to the life of the brain. Crispin excelled in mathematical studies, and, in later life, became fascinated by computer science. (It was due to his efforts that a large artwork ‘The Monument’ was commissioned and erected in 2008 in his home-village of Kesgrave; it commemorates the pioneer electronic computer scientists).

However, it appears that Crispin had another path than science to follow: philanthropy. His mother had enough wealth to set up a charitable trust, and he joined her in his early middle-age in the work of running it and (through his astute investments policies) keeping it going.
Much of the charitable funding the two did was in response to their Catholic faith. Crispin had (like a number of his relatives, including Marga) even looked toward the contemplative life – as a young man, he took up a novitiate in a monastery for two years before deciding it was not for him. (Later, he entered a very happy marriage with his wife Rosemary, who survives him).

With the trust’s direct support, specialist hospitals in both Bolivia and Uganda were able to flourish, though the number of grants (big and small) could run into hundreds a year.
The charitable work expanded exponentially in the 1980s when land farmed by the Jolly family was sold for development; much of the money Lucy received was channelled into a very busy charity project (now called the Mrs L.D.Rope Charitable Settlement), so much so that a custom-made set of offices eventually had to be built for it.

Soon after, in 1992, through the trust, Crispin founded, and underwrote, the Science & Human Dimension Project (SHDP) – a project which sought (and seeks) to increase public interpretations of science.
Today the charitable trusts are still run by the family, and continue to support the same aims & mission that Crispin and Lucy established.

Regard for Margaret Rope

Crispin already owned a number of works by his aunt Margaret.
The trust also maintains and conserves the Kesgrave Holy Family Catholic Church (built by Lucy in the 1930s in memory of Crispin’s father and all the other victims of the R101 disaster), in which a number of outstanding windows by Marga are to be found.

Kesgrave Holy Family Church. Crispin is buried in the small graveyard. (Pic: http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk)

Clearly, the efforts to rehabilitate Marga’s previously neglected reputation could not have succeeded without Crispin’s direct support. We owe him a considerable debt.
It is a sadness that he was too ill in 2016 to visit the exhibition in Shrewsbury that he had helped to bring about.


Obviously, one of Crispin’s (and that of his mother Lucy, who died in 2003) legacies lies is in the happier lives of the thousands of people their charitable funds helped.
Curiously though, the inhabitants of the village where he lived nearly all his life also made their own reciprocal gesture. Not far from the trust offices is ‘Ropes Drive’, named by the community after Lucy & Crispin.
Crispin died peacefully in February and is now buried in the small family plot beside Kesgrave RC Church – just yards from the office buildings of the charity he worked so hard to sustain.

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Read also:
An appreciation by John Cornwell of Crispin’s work in setting up the the Science & Human Dimension Project (SHDP). Click the download button below (opens as a WORD docx).
Reproduced with the permission of the author.


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