David Cyril Elliot Ridgeon

David Cyril Elliot Ridgeon

Obituary: David Cyril Elliot Ridgeon

Published:  13 October, 2014


Mr David Ridgeon was born on 6th May 1935, the day of the King George V Jubilee Celebrations. It was a family joke that the gun salute for George V on the Common sped his arrival! His National Service was with the Royal Artillery in Germany; he returned to continue working with 'Cyril Ridgeon and Son Ltd,' becoming the third generation to join the family business.

He trained in the yard, went on the road as a Sales Representative for the Company and travelled to Sweden and Finland for hands-on timber training. In 1958, David Ridgeon was given the challenge of managing the newly acquired Saffron Walden Building Material Supply Company. He turned the business around and it was noted that David "obviously intended that we were to be successful".

When his father died in 1973, David Ridgeon took over the leadership of Ridgeons with the strong emphasis that 'the success of the business relies on the quality of our staff and on the service we give to our customers'. He had a one-to-one leadership style, investing in the development of his employees and empowering them with responsibilities. He led with humility, authenticity and, above all, a sense of stewardship. He was President of Ridgeons Group '25 Club', for full and part-time employees with over 25 years of service, and was always thrilled to see new members join the Club. He also took a great deal on interest in, and was a trustee of, CPW - the Chaplaincy to People at Work.

Mr Ridgeon focussed on the continual need for Ridgeons to 'make it easy for our customers to do business with us'. He developed his team of Directors and, under his leadership they grew the business, taking it from a £6m turnover business in 1973 with 330 employees to a £115m turnover company by 2004, with 913 employees. David always sought high standards and led his trusted team as improvements and acquisitions expanded the family business.

David Ridgeon achieved the respect of his peers in the industry, serving as President of the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) in 1989 after chairing the Education and Training Committee of the BMF. In 2000, he served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants. After completing 50 years with the Ridgeon Group, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Builders’ Merchants Awards for Excellence in 2003.

His most proud moment was to be honoured with an MBE by Prince Charles for services to the builders' merchant industry and services to the community of Cambridgeshire.

Known as a true gentleman, a courteous and kind leader, his modesty belied his considerable achievements while his quiet generosity reflected his Christian faith.

David was married to Jill for 53 years; they were faithful friends to so many people. He was a proud father to Rachel and Anne, and especially proud grandfather to his four grandchildren. St Andrew's Street Baptist Church in the heart of Cambridge was his 'church family' and was always important to him. David served as a deacon, church secretary, trustee and chairman of the fabric committee (maintaining the church buildings). He enjoyed seeing the development of the buildings over the years, and the improvements in the facilities for community use.

A member of Rotary since 1965, David joined the Saffron Walden Club and then transferred to Cambridge in 1974. He was club secretary for both areas and President of Cambridge Rotary in 1986. David was committed to the many friends and business colleagues he so regularly met with and the fundraising work of Rotary in Cambridge.

The character of the family business today, with high standards of ethics, integrity and management, stems from David.


Key dates and connections:

  • Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants: Master 2000 - 2001
  • Builders Merchant Federation: National Chairman for BMF Education & Training Committee
  • National President BMF 1989/1990
  • East Anglian Timber Trade Federation
  • East Anglian Sawmill Association
  • Regents Park College, Oxford: College Council
  • Hills Road Sixth Form College: Governor
  • Green Hedges School for the Disabled: Governor
  • Cambridge Rotary: President 1986/87
  • Hobson’s Conduit Trust: (an ancient monument and water system to bring fresh water into the city of Cambridge) – Trustee

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