A leading light in Cornish public life and custodian of Caerhays Castle, has died peacefully at home aged 91, writes Robert Jobson.

Julian Williams, born and brought up at Werrington Park, near Launceston, was the younger son of former North Cornwall MP and Royal Navy Commander Alfred Williams and his wife Audrey.

Having attended Eton and Cambridge, where he was president of the University's Union, his ambition was to follow his father and his uncle, Torquay MP Charles Williams, into Parliament.

His first election battle was in a Labour stronghold at Birmingham, where he lost to Dennis Howell, later to become Sports Minister, before being chosen to defend a Conservative seat in Plymouth.

But the death of Charles Williams in 1955, and Julian's marriage to Delia Marshall of St Mawes in 1956, led to a change of course and him inheriting Caerhays Castle and also Glen Quoich estate, in Scotland, which had to be sold along with other assets to pay death duties.

He was to spend the rest of his life at Caerhays, entrusted with a Grade One listed castle designed by the renowned John Nash, of London, a spectacular 120-acre garden created by his grandfather JC Williams and famed for its magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons, and a country estate.

Backed by his wife and a loyal, long-serving team at Caerhays, he branched out into public life and enlivened Cornwall in many spheres, for which he was later awarded a CBE.

Standing as an Independent for the Grampound division, whose parishes included Caerhays, he served Cornwall County Council from 1967 to 1989, being returned unopposed throughout that period. He was elected council chairman for his last eight years.

Mr Williams was a former president and long-serving vice-president of the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association, the Royal Institution of Cornwall, the Cornwall Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs, and for 40 years was president of Cornwall County Cricket Club.

A Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Cornwall, he served on Prince Charles' Duchy of Cornwall Council, the Prince's Trust, Lloyds Bank's regional board, as a Justice of the Peace at St Austell, president of Gorran Cricket Club and chairman of the Harbour Commission at Portloe.

Pre-deceased by Delia, to whom he was married for more than 50 years, he is survived by his two sons: Charles, who has been a driving force at Caerhays for many years, and David, who works in London, as well as five grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

Mr Williams' funeral service is to take place at St Michael's Church, Caerhays, on Saturday, January 19.