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Influential Royal Norfolk Show steward Russell Steggles dies aged 95

Russell Steggles, a respected farmer and former Royal Norfolk Show head steward, has died at the age of 95. Picture: James Steggles

Russell Steggles, a respected farmer and former Royal Norfolk Show head steward, has died at the age of 95. Picture: James Steggles

James Steggles

Pedigree cattle breeder, Royal Norfolk Show head steward and progressive arable farmer Russell Steggles has died aged 95.

Russell Steggles, a respected farmer and former Royal Norfolk Show head steward, has died at the age of 95. Picture: Archant LibraryRussell Steggles, a respected farmer and former Royal Norfolk Show head steward, has died at the age of 95. Picture: Archant Library

For more than 40 years, he played an influential role in the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) having started his stewarding duties when the annual show was staged around the county.

On his retirement after 15 years as head cattle steward in 1988, he was elected an honorary RNAA vice-president. He presented a superb bronze model of a British Simmental bull, cast by sculptor Jack Pooler, as a permanent trophy in the beef section.

In the show ring, a highlight was winning the supreme female beef inter-breed championship in 1985 with a home-bred Gelbvieh cow, Wacton Gazzelle, shown by his eldest son Kim. This was a first for the breed.

Born into a south Norfolk farming family on December 31, 1923 at Rose Farm, Larling, he was the fourth of five children. After school in Diss, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was posted to Canada to train as a fighter pilot, returning to Britain in 1941. He served for the duration, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes, and was demobilised in 1946.

He started his career managing a poultry unit at Roydon while also managing a farm at Thickthorn, near Norwich, and then obtained a tenancy at Wacton Common, near Long Stratton. Having met his future wife, Rosemary, at a Young Conservatives' meeting in 1949 and they married on March 28, 1951.

When the 500-acre Wacton Hall farm came on the market in 1950, he bought it at auction - managing to find the funds to complete the purchase. Although beef cattle were his first love, he reared sheep and pigs and used the latest techniques, including aerial crop spraying, to grow arable crops. He imported continental cattle breeds from the 1970s, initially Simmental and then Gelbvieh and produced quality pedigree stock.

Buying cattle at markets across the country for finishing, he was known as the "man with the red carnation" in his buttonhole, which he grew in his greenhouse.

He became involved with the RNAA in the late 1940s at the invitation of the then secretary, Mr H E Jeffery, who was then renting an office in Pine House, Diss, from his grandfather Ernest Steggles.

In those days, the show was staged at locations around the county, including Raveningham in 1952 and the last peripatetic show was at Narford in 1953. And, he remembered a post-war directive by a former show secretary that all stewards had to wear a "bowler" hat.

He had moved to the cattle section and was an assistant steward in 1960, initially responsible for Canadian Holsteins and Aberdeen Angus. A steward in 1968, he was head cattle steward in 1973 and was on the RNAA's council.

He had served on Depwade Rural District Council before the 1974 local government reforms and his parish council.

He took up sailing, initially on Barton Broad and later on the Broads in his cruiser, Hobson's Choice; in retirement he shared his passion for racing with his wife by regular visits to Newmarket.

After retiring from farming in 1987, he sold Wacton Hall moving to Brettenham, where was a churchwarden, and latterly lived at Harleston.

He leaves a widow, Rosemary, four children, Kim, Robin, James and Jose, and nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

He is survived by his youngest sister, Peggy.

- The funeral will be held at St Ethelbert's Church, Larling, on Monday, December 23 at midday.

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