Tribute to John Pepper (London House Warden 1983-93)

Madeleine Melling (Goodenough Fellowship Officer 1991-2005) shares some fond memories of John Pepper, former Warden of London House, who died on 13 November 2021 after a long illness

John Pepper will be remembered with great affection and respect by staff and residents alike during his ten years as Warden of London House. On arrival he was no stranger to Mecklenburgh Square as he was the son of Brigadier EC Pepper (Peter) who had been appointed Warden of London House in 1945 (during Peter’s tenure the Director’s title was Warden). In joining the College, John followed quite naturally in the footsteps of his famous father. He brought with him a deep knowledge of the history of the College, of former members and current staff, and a great love for the place and what it represented.

During John’s time the two Houses, London House and William Goodenough House, each operated separately under the watch of a Warden supported by two Deputy Wardens, an Accommodation Office and Finance Office, two Housekeepers and a Maintenance Team. Wardens were responsible to the Director and his team of Bursar and Works Bursar.

The relationship that John shared with the Wardens of WGH, Jill Morrogh, Sandra Lello and Mary Lomas and the Deputy Warden Val Martin was particularly friendly and supportive. They all enjoyed his sense of humour and fun. Both Houses worked closely and very well together.

One of the big changes that took place during his time was the integration of men and women in both Houses at the start of the academic year of 1991. LH provided 95 ladies’ rooms out of a total of 290 rooms in the building. (This new arrangement proved very popular among the residents, as I witnessed from across the Square in WGH.)

John’s time also oversaw a large renovation and refurbishment programme which included the building of The Health Centre in the basement of the West Wing which originally was used for storage and baggage rooms, and included an Olympic-size swimming pool which had never been filled with water. (John took me to see this amazing pool just before the building work started – it was a sad sight). LH had a new buttery and the Library was beautifully renovated.

Sports of every kind played a very important part in the life of the Square. John’s son, Bruce Pepper, was captain of the London Goodenough Trust (as it was then known) Rugby Football Club when they toured and won the Singapore 7’s International Rugby Tournament in 1992.

John was extremely popular among his residents. He always kept ‘an open door’ and welcomed everyone who passed by his office. His laughter frequently rang through the corridor to the amusement of the neighbouring offices.

John’s early career with Barclays Bank had sent him to many countries overseas and he had a particular affection for Africa. In LH he loved to engage in long chats with his African residents and share his many experiences of working in that part of the world. John and his wife Finula thoroughly enjoyed a tour of South Africa on behalf of the London House visiting many of the places he remembered well and meeting up with former residents.

John was always warmly supported by his devoted wife Finula throughout their married life together. At Goodenough the couple lived in a flat on the first floor of LH which had been given the name of the Pepper Pot but when John retired they moved to their home in Sandwich, Kent where he and his predecessor Warden Col Tony Naylor found themselves neighbours. John remained very active at the Royal St George’s Golf Club and also spent much of his time fundraising for the local hospice.

To honour John’s charitable spirit, the College has established The John Pepper Memorial Scholarship which will offer financial support to students who need it to complete their postgraduate studies. If you would like to leave a message of condolence, share a memory of John or donate towards his Scholarship please visit his tribute page by following this link


(Madeleine Melling, Fellowship Officer 1991-2005)