Peaches Golding

Peaches Golding: “It’s nice to know Bristol had my back”

A conversation with zoologist, bastion of local business, former high sheriff, chair of the Bristol Water Challenge Panel, school governor and trustee of the SS Great Britain Peaches Golding can go in many a direction. It’s how this accomplished woman came to take up the historic role of lord-lieutenant of Bristol and what’s involved that has piqued Siân Yates’ interest

Following Google Maps’ directions to Lord-Lieutenant Peaches Golding’s place on foot will lead you right into the middle of the golf course in Ashton Court Estate. Dithering beside the third hole, it’s time to call Peaches and ask for some navigational help. When I finally arrive at her beautiful Leigh Woods home, Peaches vibrantly greets me at the front door with her soft American accent and a warm smile. She is graceful, polite and welcoming – just as you’d expect from a lord-lieutenant – when she invites me in.

“We’ve been living here for 33 years, we’re very lucky,” Peaches says. Looking around her living room, it is clear that she is well-travelled, with a love of all things flora and fauna. Her home is filled with ornaments and trinkets, many from Nigeria where she first met Bob, her Bristol-born husband of nearly 40 years. “Bob was a director of the zoological gardens at the University of Ibadan and after three years, once he’d completed a 16-year tenure, we came to the UK to live,” she says. “We’d lived in London and the Cotswolds but decided to make Bristol our home. Why? Because it’s just the right size and it’s got this great mix of business, innovation, cultures, etc. It’s got some great charities and some beautiful places – it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Peaches and Bob share a passion for zoology, which she also studied in her home state of North Carolina, later obtaining an honorary degree doctorate from both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. But how did she make the giant leap from zoology to becoming the lord-lieutenant? “I don’t know! I’m still amazed at the transition from becoming an American zoologist to having the tremendous honour of working for Her Majesty and the Royal Family.”

I’m still amazed at the transition from becoming an American zoologist to having the tremendous honour of working for Her Majesty and the Royal Family.”

Peaches explains how the recruitment decisions are made. “People are asked two questions. The first is ‘what type of things are going on in this county over the next decade?’ – Her Majesty likes her lordlieutenants in post for 10 to 15 years. The second is ‘who is best placed to lead the county during that time?’ Names are discussed and the clerk presents them to the Privy Council. The names are then taken to the Prime Minister who then makes a recommendation to Her Majesty and if she is pleased, one is appointed.”

Does Peaches even know who nominated her? “I have no idea, and I don’t think I will ever know what was said about me,” she says. “You’re asked if you want your name to be put in the hat, but you don’t expect it to come back out. It’s an honour and, to use the American expression, it’s nice to know that Bristol had my back.”

Peaches’ role is multifaceted. One day, she may be showing members of the Royal Family the city; the next, she could be on board aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales with numerous delegates from around the world. “I attend all events and places where one would expect a member of the Royal Family to be, in their absence – I have a special seat in Bristol Cathedral, military affiliations, I attend ceremonial activities such as Remembrance Sunday, I recognise businesses and innovation in the city, and voluntary and community activities. I also cut ribbons, open things, celebrate anniversaries – anything that brings us together as a city and county.”

It’s at this point that Peaches leads me into her conservatory, a beautifully lit room adorned with exotic plants and flowers, and I learn of her most preferred Bristol pasttime. Brightly coloured hibiscus plants curl up and round the walls – her husband grows these for her, and she wears a new one in her hair each day. “It’s my favourite thing – being in here with family and friends. I also enjoy good food; I like food from every corner of the world,” she says. “But of course, in normal times when I’m out and about I enjoy going to Bristol’s music venues – such as St George’s Hall, Bristol Old Vic, etc. We’ve always had really high quality entertainment and so much choice when it comes to events, like the Harbour Festival and the Balloon Fiesta.

“It’s an honour and, to use the American expression, it’s nice to know that Bristol had my back,”

“I always advise first-time visitors to see Bristol from the river; explore one end of the harbour to the other by boat to see the Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain, the Matthew, Lloyds Amphitheatre, St Augustine’s Reach, St Mary Redcliffe (the godliest church in all her kingdom, as pronounced by Queen Elizabeth I), then up to Bristol Bridge and Finzel’s Reach. It’s the essential trip.”

Of course, both visiting and living in the city is more challenging at the moment. Peaches believes Bristol is well placed to mitigate the worst effects if higher incidences of poverty and ill-health result due to Covid-19. “During lockdown we have perfected partnerships between the third sector, business, military, civic, religious and Royal organisations and have developed strategies for recovery. A multitude of residents have volunteered to help these organisations reach the most vulnerable in our city. Our broadly based economy, excellent business incubators and vibrant creative industries will aid our ability to retain and create new jobs and enterprises and I am optimistic that everyone will continue to play their part in creating safe, robust communities and sustainable economic growth.”

There’s time for one final question: how does she plan to entice Her Majesty to Bristol? “It has been a while hasn’t it? 2012 was the last time. It’s about time!” she says. “Of course, we can’t forget that it’s the Queen’s platinum jubilee in 2022, so we should be thinking about what we can do to encourage her to celebrate with us.”