Friday, 13 January 2012

Peter Hutley - A Man for All Seasons

Peter Hutley - A Man for All Seasons
The creator of the Wintershall plays, Peter Hutley MBE KSG, is in conversation with A&B News’ special correspondent, Peter Burholt, about his life, his passions and evangelisation

Part 1 – From the beginning to a religious realisation
On a bright Saturday morning Wintershall is a sight to behold. The house, part of which dates back to 1227, sits in 1,000 acres of rolling Surrey hills which spill out from its windows. Peter Hutley’s reputation went before him, but who is the real man behind some of the most provocative plays ever performed in this country?

Q: Let’s start at the beginning. Your father was a market gardener, so what was your upbringing?
A: Yes, that is quite true – he and his father before him. I was born in 1926 and I remember we were very poor. My first memories were of Essex and then East London. Without any qualifications I left school at the age of 15 and became a messenger boy for estate agents, Hamptons – now the renowned international property consultancy, Knight Frank.
I had tried to get into the Royal Air Force, but they found out I was under-aged! Much has happened to me, but what took place next was one of my greatest opportunities which would shape my life.

You have to remember that the last war was still on and many men from this country had either died in battle or were still on active service. The task for the War Damage Commission – headed by Lord Beaverbrook – was to quickly put factories back into operation. People were waiting to go to work, so this was a most urgent war time activity. I became involved in this reconstruction work, which gave me the unique chance to test my skills in organising a work force and to learn about how to re-assemble bricks, mortar and plant. And to think, I was only 16½ years old! It was a truly fabulous time for me.

Q: What happened next to the very young Peter Hutley?
A: At the age of 18 I joined the Army, where the superiors found that I had a mechanical aptitude. In typical Army style, I was able to demonstrate this by assembling a bicycle pump in 15 seconds!

I was commissioned and sent to recently independent Burma to carry out, once again, post-war reconstruction work. After 4 years in the Army I left with the rank of captain – not bad, I thought, for a boy who left school at 15 without qualifications.

A wry smile came across his face as he remembered his achievement all those years ago.
Without realising it, the next move was another significant step in my life. I returned to my previous employers but soon left to start my own business, having studied at night over a number of years to be a surveyor. In the mid-1960s I went to Australia at the instigation of a great friend. It was here I came across the concept of property bonds - this is when a number of people can invest in a joint fund to get a better return on their money. It is a bit like a financial cooperative.

Q: So why was this so significant?
A: When I returned to the UK I found no one had followed this idea, so I went to the appropriate Ministry to get permission to start this concept. They declined my request, advising me to go across the corridor to the department which looked after insurance.

They were more receptive, but it took an Act of Parliament to allow this concept to start. It was a very successful time for me, which then allowed me to go into banking. I remember I had to have an office within walking distance of the Bank of England as their liveried staff, so well known within the Square Mile, carried messages by hand in those days. It took me back to my first job.

Q: Do you ever re-visit Australia?
A: With 109 flights under my belt, I think I have flown to Australia more than most pilots! I now have extensive property interests in that country, including shopping centres, offices and a cattle property.

You asked me if I had a Christian attitude to business in, what is always perceived to be, the cut-throat occupation of property development. Throughout my life I have always worked on the basis that I treat others in a way in which I would like to be treated. Sometimes this is difficult to follow, but this is what I have done.

Q: So, at this stage in your life, had you made your “pile”?
 For a man with considerable wealth, Peter played down the fact that he was once worth more than £50m.A: Yes, I had made my modest nest egg that supports the great cost of keeping things going. But I felt there were other things for me to do and I have always been used to a range of hard work activities.

Q: When did religion become an important focus in your life?
A: Well, that is an interesting question. Let me take you back to when I was a boy. We eventually moved to Bramley, where my father was a prominent Baptist.

However, the first real test of my religion came when I joined the Army. On entry the sergeant barked at me “Hutley, what is your religion!” I had to think quickly “Baptist, sir!” Back came the retort “Hutley, I only have 3 boxes on my form – Church of England, Roman Catholic or non-believer. I’ll put you down as Church of England” So, from this point, I was an Anglican.
Some years later I came to the conclusion that the Anglican Church was illegal. Jesus laid His hands on Peter to be the head of the Church. The First Act of Supremacy was passed by Parliament under Henry VIII in 1534, which I felt was an event I could not support.

Part 2 to follow – conversion to Catholicism, Medjugorje, the Wintershall Plays and even greater ideas on how to evangelise…. all at the age of 85 years.

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