DESCRIBED as a 'quiet intellectual', John Prest, who has died aged 89, will be remembered for his contribution to telling the story of Oxford and the surrounding areas.

A Fellow and Tutor in modern history at Balliol College from 1954 until 96, he became an Emeritus Fellow upon his retirement.

Known for his rigorous and meticulously researched histories of the great industrial changes of the 19th century, Mr Prest also wrote the The Illustrated History of Oxford University in 1993.

His home for more than 50 years was Walled Cottage in Wheatley and, in later years, he turned his attention to telling the story of his home with books including The Most Difficult Village and contributing to Wheatley in the World War 1914-19.

Aside from history his other great love was gardening - something demonstrated by the beautiful flowers of his cottage home.

A trustee of Oxford Botanic Garden, Mr Prest also helped to found the National Botanic Garden of Wales and wrote the book The Garden of Eden: The Botanic Garden and the Re-creation of Paradise in 1981, which brought him new friends in Japan.

Born in Tadworth, Surrey, to the watercolourist Dorothy Martin and civil servant Thomas Prest, Mr Prest attended Bradfield college in Berkshire.

During the Second World War, he was nearly killed by a fire bomb and kept its tail-fin for the rest of his life.

After national service with the RAF, in 1949, he attended King’s College, Cambridge and graduated with a first before being made a fellow of Balliol in 1954.

During his time at the college, he championed causes including admitting women for the first time and opening the doors to more pupils from state-school backgrounds. Encouraging the college to embrace new technologies was another passion.

In 1961 he married Susan Davies, a trainee nurse he met at the university’s Scottish dancing club.

Illness and a near-fatal fall from a tree took their toll and forced the couple to leave Walled Cottage for the final time.

Mr Prest moved to Burley in Wharfedale, west Yorkshire to be closer to his son, Charles, and daughter-in-law Fiona.

Here he continued to read and write to friends, and a final book, The Lucky Martins, was published in 2015.

Mr Prest died on July, 3, 2018.

He is survived by Susan, their children, Charles, Jonathan and Julia, and his grandchildren.

There will be a service of thanksgiving at St Mary's Church, Wheatley, Oxford, on September 22.