A former alumnus of Rotherfield Greys Primary, Peppard Primary and then Chiltern Edge schools, Michael Humphries QC lived in Satwell, where his parents settled in 1961 upon their return from Nigeria where his father, an architect, designed civic buildings during the transition to independence.
Young Michael, along with 15 or 16 other local children, first went to Rotherfield Greys school and then, when it closed in about 1966, transferred to Peppard school. He has clear memories of sitting next to Gillian Seymour and that one of his best friend was John Stanger.
He went on to attend Chiltern Edge school where his father, who then worked as an architect for Oxfordshire County Council, had designed both the new Science block and Sports’ Hall – both cutting edge buildings at that time.
Michael is very proud of being a founder member of Rotherfield United Football Club. There were not enough boys in either Rotherfield Greys or Rotherfield Peppard to form their own village football team so a group of the young teenagers, supported by their Dads, created the club. There were divergent views as each boy wanted to adopt their favourite team’s colours for their own team. Michael wanted the colours of his favourite team, Arsenal, who had won the FA cup in 1971 but he knew he would be voted down. So very craftily he suggested their second team’s colours – yellow and blue. They all agreed but, in the event, the shop only had livery in yellow and black and hence those became, and indeed remain, the club’s official colours.
Michael moved on to, what was then, King James’s 6th Form College in Henley to study for his A levels before winning a place at Leicester University. A minor teenage rebellion resulted in him not following in his father’s professional footsteps but choosing another vocational degree – the law. It was at Leicester that he met his wife, Juliet, who was also studying law.
He chose to become a barrister, which meant a post-graduate year of study at Bar School. To fund these studies he became a Henley postman for a year. On one of his rounds he delivered mail to a, then almost unknown, journalist named John Humphreys! He also delivered the mail in Rotherfield Greys where he could pop home for a mid-morning coffee.
Despite the teenage rebellion he came to realise that, due to his father’s influence, he was interested in buildings and this heralded his future career in planning law. He became a QC (Queen’s Counsel) in 2003 and is now regularly voted one of the top planning law QCs in the country. His great mentor was Lord Silsoe, QC, for whom Michael worked as a junior for several years on the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry. Indeed, it was through David Silsoe’s influence that Michael became involved in large infrastructure projects.
As he has become more senior, Michael has promoted many major infrastructure projects in his own right, including Thames Water’s Thames Tideway Tunnel project, known by the London Evening Standard as the “super sewer” (see www.tideway.london/the-tunnel).
Michael lives in west London and works in the Temple area, off Fleet Street, which means a fairly frenetic lifestyle: it is good, therefore, that he can retreat to the tranquillity of his house in the French countryside to the north-east of Toulouse. There, with Juliet and his children, 25 year old twin son and daughter and 15 year old daughter, he can unwind and enjoy walking and pottering in his garden.
Whilst Michael continues to work on major projects, when he does eventually retire, he doesn’t intend to put his feet up: he would like to study something totally different from the law – perhaps astronomy or fine art.
Michael hasn’t entirely cut all ties with Peppard; his parents, both alive and well, live in Henley and when Michael visits he often takes the opportunity to walk in the area and relive memories of Peppard School.