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

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 - Credit: Archant © 2006

An eight-time champion Norfolk farmer, David Papworth, has died suddenly at home aged 73.

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 - Credit: Archant © 2006

The family's business, LF Papworth, based at Felmingham near North Walsham, has won the Norfolk farm business competition's supreme championship eight times since 1981 and been reserve champions four times.

Mr Papworth's outstanding contribution to promoting the understanding of food, farming and the countryside was recognised by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) in 2007 by the award of the Timothy Colman Prize.

He had studied at Easton College, where he won a national award from the City and Guilds of London Institute. In 1972, he topped 607 students in the industry's agricultural examination winning the highest prize, a silver medal.

As president of the Aylsham Show in its 35th year, he maintained the family's strong connections with what has become the country's largest one-day event. His father, Leonard, who had a key role in the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association (AASA) through the 1950s and designed the distinctive logo and tie, had moved from Cambridgeshire to Tuttington in 1926.

The Royal Norfolk Show was also a life-long interest and he was involved at every level for 52 years. Aged 21, he started as an assistant steward in 1966 at Costessey. The next year, with older brother, Jim, as steward, they were responsible for the 27-strong Ayrshire section. In 1969, David had moved from the cattle lines to be an assistant in the Welsh pig section.

He rose through the ranks, later becoming head steward of sponsorship, raising vital funding for the annual two-day show. After serving on the RNAA's council and more latterly on the executive committee, he became one of the inaugural trustees. In 2002, he was elected an honorary vice-president.

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The family always rose to the challenge of helping to stage the annual Aylsham August bank holiday show. When it was still possible for spectators to sit on straw bales, several trailers were regularly supplied for grandstand seating – harvest permitting.

During his presidential year in 1981, the AASA, which had started the Norfolk Farms' competition just two years earlier, held the first supreme championship.

It was fitting that the farming and contracting business, now run by joint managing directors, his son Kit and nephew Tim, has added eight supreme trophies to decorate the board room at Lodge Farm, Felmingham.

He was elected an honorary life vice-president and his son has continued the family's long connection with the show, now serving on the executive committee.

Off the farm, Mr Papworth served on the Norfolk Police Authority for eight years and took a leading role in flood defence. Chairman of the Norfolk Rivers IDB (Internal Drainage Board) he was a former vice-chairman of the King's Lynn Consortium of IDBs, now Water Management Alliance, and was a member of the Environment Agency's regional flood defence committee.

He was passionate about forging better links between countryside, townspeople and young people and was active in the Norwich Farmer Science Dialogues. And he spoke of his concerns at the RNAA's 2007 annual meeting about potential future food shortages caused by climate change and global warming. As a boy, he could remember food rationing, which had only ended in July 1954

A former chairman for many years of Aylsham Growers, the long-established pea and bean group, he made a major contribution to the success of the beet sugar industry. Elected to the NFU's sugar board in 2009, he was chairman of beet reception in 2012 until his retirement last year. He was also vice-chairman of the board during the 2014/15 beet campaign.

For many years, he was an expert assessor for the insurance company, NFU Mutual.

And in 1999, he organised a highly-successful fund-raising demonstration for the EDP We Care 2000 appeal and had been a course builder and designer for the Pony Club for many years.

He was also a long-serving chairman of his local parish council, Tuttington and Burgh.

He leaves a widow, Andra, and three children, Kit, Sarah and Jo, and six grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are to be announced.