Farewell to Bill Godfrey - founder of Norwich DIY firm

Bill Godfrey pictured at his Riverside Road store in Norwich in 2003.

Bill Godfrey pictured at his Riverside Road store in Norwich in 2003. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press ©2003

Tributes have today been paid to the founder of a DIY store which became one of the most renowned home improvement names in the region.

Opening day at Godfrey DIY Superstore in April 1998. Left to right: Sam Glanfield, Shelia Godfrey. B

Opening day at Godfrey DIY Superstore in April 1998. Left to right: Sam Glanfield, Shelia Godfrey. Barry Godfrey, Bill Godfrey and Paul Wright. - Credit: Archant

Bill Godfrey, who opened the first Godfrey DIY store in Norwich more than 30 years ago, has been described as a 'unique and gifted entrepreneur'' and a 'true gentleman''.

He has died, aged 92, following a short illness.

The father-of-three, who lived with his wife Sheila in Gorleston, opened the first Godfrey DIY store in 1983.

It went on to become a household name throughout the region with stores in Gorleston, Lowestoft. Diss, Fakenham, Ipswich and Southend as well as Norwich.


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Tributes to Mr Godfrey, also a grandfather, have today been led by his son Barry, 50, who worked with his father in the family business which finally closed in 2013 following the recession. He has described his father as 'a self-made man, a unique and gifted entrepreneur, and above all, a true gentleman.'

Barry, who lives in Norwich, said his father had a very difficult start in life but had a great determination and a 'faultless work ethic'.

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He said: 'In every aspect of what he did he was in control and paid a lot of attention to detail.

'He was a very gifted entrepreneur, it has to be said.'

Mr Godfrey, who was married to Sheila for more than 60 years, was born in Lowestoft in October 1923, and left school at 14 when he started work as an apprentice plumber.

He went onto work at Jewsons in Great Yarmouth until he was called up for national service in 1941.

While in the RAF he spent time in Canada and Ceylon, but on returning to the UK in 1947 he rejoined Jewsons and took on various management positions and in particular specialised in maximizing efficiency of sawmill operations.

In 1959, with fellow Jewsons manager Bernard Tuck he formed EBM (Easter Box Manufacturers) Timber in Lowestoft before diversifying into general timber products.

They went on to open DIY stores in the early 1970s before selling the business to Montague L. Meyer timber group, which later became Meyer International, in 1976.

In all his business life Barry said his father was never 'adversarial' and 'always treated people very, very fairly' which stood Godfreys in good stead.

He said: 'A lot of people had a lot of respect for him whether it was suppliers, staff or customers.'

Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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