The 2nd Lord Kennet, who served as a junior minister in Harold Wilson’s Labour Government, later joined the SDP and then rejoined Labour, has died at the age of 85.

His home was in Lockeridge where his father, the 1st Lord Kennet (Edward Hilton Young), had bought the Lackett in 1908.

The house is adjacent to the Valley of Stones and it is believed the family is currently the longest to have lived continuously in the village. Lord Kennet’s only son Thoby Young succeeds him as the 3rd Lord Kennet.

Wayland Kennet, as he was known, was the son of a First World War naval commander and the sculptress Kathleen Scott, who had married his father in 1912 after being widowed by the death of Captain Robert Scott, the Antarctic explorer.

The family had another home in Bayswater in London, where JM Barrie had written Peter Pan and, as a child, Lord Kennet divided his time between London and Lockeridge.

He was educated at Stowe and served as a sub lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and then went on to Harvard.

Between periods in the Foreign Office in 1948 he married Elizabeth Adams who survives him, together with their son and five daughters.

He wrote and co-wrote numerous books ranging from the Profumo Affair to volumes on Italian politics. He worked as foreign correspondent for The Observer in Rome and North Africa and he was theatre critic for the Tribune and a Guardian columnist.

In 1974, after denouncing the influence of trade unionism on the Labour Party he crossed the floor and joined the new Social Democrats who elected him as their chief whip.

However when the Social Democrats merged with the Liberals he rejoined Labour which, by then, was no longer so union dominated.

He served as chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, was a founder and chairman of the Avebury Society that successfully opposed inappropriate development in the village.

Lord Kennet was also patron of Action for the River Kennet and of the Stonehenge Alliance .

His funeral takes place at St Michael and All Angels Church at West Overton today at 3pm and it is expected there will be a memorial service later in London.