Bernard Matthews’ support for charities

Bernard Matthews was always willing to help good causes and charities –from lifeboats to road signs and from school computers to backing sport.

While he always enjoyed his annual trip to meet the crew of Caister's lifeboat and bring his largesse of a Christmas turkey, Mr Matthews helped numerous appeals over the past four decades.

He became involved with the independent lifeboat when he bought a new boat in 1988. The coxswain Dick Thurlow said Mr Matthews had been asked to lend funds for a deposit for a new boat. 'To our surprise he pulled out a cheque book and wrote a cheque for the whole thing,' said Mr Thurlow. And he remained equally generous to the lifeboat over the following years.

In 1976 he helped the National Trust safeguard a stretch of the north Norfolk coast for future generations as it acquired 500 acres of Stiffkey Marshes. A year earlier he had actually out-bid the trust when it tried to buy the marshes at a public auction.

Sometimes donations were public as his generous backing for the Castle Museum or the �100,000 donation to Norwich City's Youth Academy in 2000. And a year earlier Mr Matthews became the biggest commercial sponsor of the UEA Sportspark with a �50,000 sponsorship deal.

While some of the sums might have been smaller, they all made a difference including key funding of �7,000 to keep the East Anglian air ambulance flying in 1996.

As a teenager he had watched the heavy bombers of the 2nd Air Division of the USAAF take off from south Norfolk. So when an appeal was launched to raise funds for its Memorial Trust, Mr Matthews made a large private donation. He said: 'I have always felt the British owe the US pilots and their crews a great debt of gratitude and that is why I also wanted to give my personal support to the Memorial Library.

Most Read

'We actually purchased seven American airfields in Norfolk and Suffolk and built turkey sheds on the old runways. This was a huge saving in the laying of concrete. Now years later, it is the profits from my business which enable to make this gift.'

His most visible sign of support linked to another of his great causes, Admiral Lord Nelson, ahead of the 200th anniversary of his death at Trafalgar. Mr Matthews, who made annual visits to Nelson's Dockyard Museum in Antigua, led a personal campaign to remind the people of Norfolk about one of their most famous sons. He paid for signs with the legend, Nelson's County, after the Department of Transport had blocked his original suggestion, Welcome to Norfolk. As Mr Matthews said: 'Lots of people do not know where Nelson came from. They do not know he was a Norfolk man and they should know as it is an important part of Britain's history.'

Signs of varying sizes were placed at 28 different sites where 'A' and 'B' roads cross the county boundary.

While he also made a large and often significant donations without any fuss, he was a great supporter of educational projects and became a founder Charter member of the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme.

He was also a strong supporter of Scouting in Norfolk and also of the Matthews Norfolk Brass Band, which won so many awards and prizes over many years.