Basil Cook: Innovative farmer, JP and chairman of South Norfolk Council

A highly-respected south Norfolk poultry farmer, Basil Cook, who has died aged 91 at his Wicklewood home, was always prepared to innovate and master the latest technology.

He took part in the modern poultry revolution, which turned chicken from an expensive luxury into the nation's favourite white meat.

Basil Cook, who was born in Wicklewood, near Wymondham, started farming at the age of 14 when his father died in 1934. He left Vicarage Farm to his widow and their son, who by 1940 had expanded by buying the neighbouring Union Farm.

Over the years, he acquired more land and by 1959 his herd of 30 Friesian cows was averaging 1,000 gallons – significantly better than the national average. He made the milking parlour himself and employed four men on 150 acres.

Just three years later, Mr Cook became one of Norfolk's first poultry farmers to vaccinate against fowl pest. After four fowl pest outbreaks in as many years and having lost 13,000 laying birds, he determined to protect his latest flock of 3,900 hens immediately a vaccine became available on July 30, 1962. And probably much to his surprise and to that of Ministry of Agriculture officials, he lost just two per cent of his birds when fowl pest struck. His neighbours were not quite so lucky, as he told an executive meeting of the Norfolk National Farmers' Union.


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For more than six decades, he was a member of the NFU's poultry board, and became a quality egg producer. He always maintained that food had become too cheap because many took it for granted.

In the 1950s, he was an enthusiast for co-operation buying a half-share in a sugar beet harvester with a neighbour. Tractors, drivers and even trailers were shared or exchanged, each keeping careful account of the cost. And a precision seed drill and pick-up baler were also jointly owned, unusual in the late 1950s.

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A natural mechanic, he converted his self-propelled combine from a bagger model to handle bulk grain.

Mr Cook was a long-serving magistrate and stood down in 1990 as chairman of the Wymondham Bench after 19 years' service.

A former chairman of South Norfolk District Council from 1973 to 1980, he had represented Wicklewood since 1964. He was instrumental in the creation of the civic centre at Long Stratton and on August 6, 1976. laid one of the first pillars of South Norfolk House. Last year, he became one of six honorary alderman, recognising his extraordinary civic contribution.

He was also a long-serving chairman of Wicklewood Parish Council and in 1969, he was re-elected for his 21st year. He was churchwarden for more than 50 years.

Always prepared to appreciate the advantages of technology, he bought his first computer when he turned 70 and he never stopped learning. He never took a driving test but passed an advanced motoring test with flying colours when he was in his 70s.

He leaves three children, Rosemary, Katherine and Anthony, and four grandchildren. A funeral service will be held at St Andrew's Church, Deopham, on Thursday, July 7 at 11am followed by burial at Wicklewood. Michael Pollitt

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