THE Earl of Clanwilliam, the inspiration behind the Tisbus project has died aged 90.

John Herbert Meade, the 7th Earl, lived in Tisbury, and learned via the House of Lords that government grants were available to set up community minibus services in rural areas.

He was instrumental in securing start-up funding of about £10,000, and organised fellow-residents to manage the scheme. Prince Charles attended its launch in August, 2000.

Lord Clanwilliam was born in September 1919 and moved to Uppark, in Sussex, as a boy when his father inherited the estate.

Uppark was given to the National Trust in 1954, but according to his son, Lord Gillford, it remained “home in his heart for the rest of his life” despite the catastrophic fire which destroyed the remaining family possessions there in 1989.

The young John attended the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where his father, Admiral Hon. Sir Herbert Meade-Fetherstonhaugh, the Hon Naval ADC to the King, had formerly been in command.

In 1934 he went to sea as a midshipman, but neither the Navy, nor the Army - a spell with the Rifles - suited his ebullient character and after the war he went to South Africa.

There he supervised an abalone canning company that employed a black - and illegal – workforce. While diving for abalone, he made one of the first sightings of the fabled Grosvenor Treasure.

He returned to London to serve a page/usher at the Coronation. In 1956 he married Maxine Hayden-Scott, and embraced family life.

In 1989, aged 70, he took his seat in the Lords. A keen gardener, he took a strong interest in soil conservation, but spoke on a range of subjects.

After his wife’s death in 2004 he helped her friend, the artist Graham Rust, complete a book of country house recipes called Food for Friends which she had begun.

He died on Christmas Eve and is survived by his son and two daughters, Lady Rowena and Lady Tania.

Tisbus will be providing transport for mourners attending the funeral at St John’s Church on Friday at 11.30am, at which all are welcome.