FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a "true country gentleman" who died in a tragic farmyard accident.

William Lax, 80, was killed by a bull on his farm at Carlton Grange, Aldbrough-St-John, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, on Thursday.

Mr Lax, known as Willie, was well known in farming circles and for his involvement with the Zetland Hunt.

Niece Ruth Gibbon, of Eryholme, near Darlington, said her uncle's death had come as a great shock.

She said: "Willie was very fond of his family and we were very fond of him.

"He was a true country gentleman who loved his hunting and farming.

"He died with his boots on, which is what he would have wanted, although he might have preferred them to have been his hunting boots."

Mr Lax, a bachelor, was a warden at the church in Aldbrough-St-John and looked after the churchyard at nearby Stanwick.

He loved cricket and would regularly travel to Headingley and Lords to watch games.

He was also a keen skier and went regularly, the last time being two years ago.

David Robinson, from the Zetland Hunt, described Mr Lax as a unique character.

"His manner and manners were of a different age.

"Everybody who had anything to do with horses and hounds knew Willie.

"He was one of the last examples of a bachelor farmer.

"He had grown up between the wars and had seen so many changes in agriculture, but he kept on farming," he said.

Councillor John Gill, Aldbrough resident and a friend of Mr Lax, also paid tribute to the farmer.

He said: "He was very respected member of the community.

"And he was a good friend to a lot of people - his death is a big shock to us all."

It is believed the farmer died while trying to stop two bulls fighting.

An inquest was opened and adjourned last week. The Health and Safety Executive has also been informed.

Mr Lax's funeral will be held at 12.15pm on Friday at St John's Church in Stanwick.