Abridged version of the obituary published by The Times on 08.09.20

Timothy John Billington was born in Reading in 1944, the eldest of Henry and Susan Billington’s three children. Billington was educated at Bradfield College, where he developed an early interest in racing. While his Housemaster, AJN Young, was out playing golf, he and his friends would slip into Young’s study to phone in bets to a Reading bookmaker.

Of his time at the College, his brother Tony writes:

Tim was a great supporter of Bradfield. At school he was a good all-rounder, excelling at tennis and squash. He captained the tennis team that was undefeated in school matches and with Chris Gorringe (E 59-64), Roger Wilcher (B 59-63) and Tony Billington (H 59-63) reached the final of the Independent Schools Youll Cup.

After leaving Bradfield he played OB squash for many years and ran the OB tennis. His proudest moment was, after many years of being runners-up, in 1974 he led the OB team to victory over St Paul’s in the final of the D’Abernon Cup on the grass courts at Wimbledon.

For several years after the construction of the indoor tennis courts at Bradfield, Tim organised a local mixed doubles group on Wednesday nights. He was delighted in the fact that he introduced over a hundred different guest players to these evenings. He was a similarly loyal member of the Bradfield Golf Club and achieved enormous pleasure playing regularly with his friends, and indeed his brother. Friendly golf but always competitive, and usually Sunningdale rules so that the game was invariably decided on the last green.

In addition to Tim, Bradfield has educated his uncle, Stephen Hemsted (D 23-26), his brother Tony, two daughters, Harriet (J 92-94) and Felicity ( J 95-97), three step-children, William ( C 07-00), Nolan, and Juliana Byrne( I 04-06), and two nephews, George ( H 90-95) and Charlie (H 93-98) Billington.

He mastered tennis playing “cruel but fair” family doubles on the hard and grass courts in the garden and spent school holidays competing in local tournaments. He and his siblings, Jane and Tony, played at Junior Wimbledon. With his brother Tim played in the Berkshire senior side for many years, achieving the holy grail of county players, winning 15 out of 15 rubbers at County Week.

Billington married Angela Beard in 1969. They had four daughters. Billington dealt stoically with a string of personal tragedies including the untimely death of Angela of cancer in 1980, and of his second wife, Elizabeth Salmon, who suffered a brain embolism in 1985 only three years after their marriage. His daughter Susanna died of a heart attack in her 30s and Billington himself survived lifethreatening non-Hodgkin lymphoma 15 years ago. According to a friend “he took everything life threw at him and came up smiling.”

After acquiring Pangfield Farm following his father’s death in 1980, he began his breeding career in a small way, buying an apparently undistinguished mare, Riverine. Among her progeny were some of Billington’s most successful horses. From humble beginnings, over the next 25 years he bred 36 winners, all homefoaled and trained by his friend Hughie Morrison at East Ilsley.

He also found happiness with his third wife, Gemma Byrne, part of an Irish racing family.

As a farmer, Billington first raised sheep and cattle then turned his hand to arable crops. Although he would claim, “I’m just a farmer”, his range of interests and ability to forge lasting friendships with people from all walks of life belied this self-effacing estimate. He was as much at ease attending the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, where he was given a “ringside seat”, as he was discussing England’s opening bowlers over a pint at the pub.

One day he picked up the phone and a voice said, “This is Catherine.” It took him a moment to realise it was the duchess, whom he had known since she was a child. She was calling to ask his advice about which surface he thought best on the tennis court they were having laid at their Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.

Tim Billington, farmer and horse breeder, was born on August 16, 1944. He died of pneumonia on August 12, 2020, aged 75.

Access the full obituary in The Times here.