Patrick Dacre Trevor-Roper was born on 7th June 1916 at 20 Bondgate Without, Alnwick on the street known locally at the time as ‘Doctors Mile’. He was the youngest son of Dr Bertie Trevor-Roper who had moved to Alnwick from Glanton in 1916, having bought the medical practice of the then recently deceased Dr Robert Robson.
Patrick was born into a household that included an elder sister (Sheila) and elder brother (Hugh). In the 1921 census, as well as the Trevor-Roper family, there were 3 live-in ‘servants’ in the house comprising a children’s nurse, a cook and a housemaid. A governess, Miss Amos, came to the house to teach the children until the boys were old enough to be sent away to boarding school. All available sources suggest that it was a joyless household, firmly controlled by their mother, Kathleen, who was keen to maintain social distinctions – a household in which the children were not allowed to mix in the local community. Years later, when his elder brother Hugh said to Patrick that it was ‘a rather grim household’, Patrick agreed. Despite that, both boys survived, thrived and developed into eminent people in their chosen professions. Despite the apparent ‘grimness’ of the household, the photograph and painting show a man with what appears to be a mischievous sense of humour.
Patrick became an eye surgeon, ophthalmologist and as his obituary in The Guardian writes, also ‘an art historian and philanthropist who championed gay rights’. His medical training coincided with his philanthropy when he established the Eye hospital in Ethiopia and supported the development of Eye hospitals in Lagos and Sierra Leone. He also set up the Moorfields Eye Bank to store corneas for transplants.
Patrick was one of the very few people in 1950s Britain who was openly gay – a brave position at a time when homosexual activity was illegal even between consenting adults and it, perhaps, demonstrates the respect in which he was held by colleagues and others at the time that he was able to give evidence in person to the Wolfenden Committee in 1955 which eventually led to the decriminalisation of male homosexual activity in England and Wales in 1967. He said of himself that “he enjoyed tilting at social prejudices within his reach” which might explain how and why he was one of only three gay men who agreed to present in person. He was later involved in the HIV/Aids charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, when it was being set up.
His interest in art led to him writing a book, ‘The World through Blunted Sight’, which according to the British Medical Journal obituary argued that the proportions, perspectives, and palette of many famous painters was related to eyesight conditions such as short sight, astigmatism, glaucoma, and cataract.
Like his brother Hugh, Patrick loved history but in a very practical way. He helped found organisations such as Save Britain’s Heritage and the Spitalfields Trust. He bought a 400-year-old Grade 1 Jacobean House called Plas Teg which was linked to the Trevor-Roper and Dacre* family. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/northeastwales/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8545000/8545553.stm. Accessed 21 June 2020)
*Hence the reason Hugh Trevor-Roper took the name Lord Dacre of Glanton on his ennoblement
See also information on Hugh Trevor-Roper