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'He had incredible energy' – Family pays tribute to Norfolk farming champion David Papworth

PUBLISHED: 12:43 23 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:50 23 August 2018

Norfolk farming champion David Papworth, who has died at the age of 73. Picture: Colin Finch

Norfolk farming champion David Papworth, who has died at the age of 73. Picture: Colin Finch

Archant © 2006

Tributes have been paid to a Norfolk farming champion and community stalwart – described by his family as a sensitive and driven man who was a fierce protector of his industry.

David Papworth, whose family business is based at Felmingham near North Walsham, died suddenly at home aged 73.

He was an award-winning farmer, a senior member of many industry bodies, a long-serving parish chairman, and an integral driving force behind the Aylsham Show and the Royal Norfolk Show, where he was presented with the Timothy Colman Prize in 2007 for his outstanding contribution to farming.

But while he was “immensely proud” of his career achievements, his son Kit Papworth, a director of the family’s contracting firm, said his father would be equally remembered for his energy and community spirit.

“He was a passionate defender of his industry,” he said. “In the early part of his life, when he was growing up, it was all about valuing food and food security, and the production of food was really important to him. He couldn’t understand why we would import food when we could grow it. For him, it was a waste to see land not being cropped.

“He was a hard taskmaster. As a father, and as another farmer, he always wanted to get on. He saw any delay as holding him up or holding him back. It drove the whole business.

“He had this phrase: ‘Rome burns’, meaning while we are sitting here, there’s stuff happening that we could be doing or helping. So he would just get up and say “Rome burns”. It drove us on as young farmers. He had incredible energy.

READ MORE: Obituary – Farming champion and show stalwart David Papworth dies aged 73

The other thing that people around him would say is that he was very community-minded. If a village was losing its identity or becoming a dormitory village, he would host a village fete or a bonfire party. He felt very strongly about everyone knowing their neighbour and their friends, and testament to that is the number of people from the local area who have been coming around this week.

“He was also an incredibly deep and sensitive man. As the youngest son of an older father he showed that throughout his life.

“And he was so tied to the land. There was always a twinkle in his eye when he was back on the farm, that was when he was most happy.”

Industry figures also paid tributes to Mr Papworth. John Newton, Norfolk county adviser for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “This is very sad news and our thoughts are with David’s family.

“David made a tremendous contribution to the NFU over many years and farmers will have benefitted from his wise words and advice during that time. Personally I will remember him as a kindly source of help and information on sugar beet and many other farming issues in Norfolk.”

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