Bob Sutton: Architect, building society chairman and Norfolk rugby legend

A Norfolk rugby legend and architect, Bob Sutton, who has died aged 95 peacefully at home, was the first chairman of the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society.

He also worked on many of the city's leading building projects including the Hotel Nelson, Hotel Norwich and stands at Carrow Road.

A senior partner in Norwich architects J Owen Bond & Son (now Owen Bond Partnership), where he had trained, he retired in 1987.

He had become a director of the Norwich Building Society in 1970, vice-chairman in 1978 and chairman four years later. His leadership was critical in the merger of Norwich and the Peterborough Building Societies and his unstinting efforts as the first chairman of the enlarged group laid the foundations for further significant growth.

Born on April 7, 1917 at the Royal Standard pub in Dereham, Robert William Sutton won a scholarship to Swaffham Grammar School. His tutor urged him to go to university, but he decided to study architecture. He took evening classes at Norwich School of Art and passed the Royal Institute of British Architects exams shortly before the second world war.

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He volunteered for the Royal Artillery Survey in 1940 and was posted to an officer cadet training unit at Lark Hill on Salisbury Plain to train as a flash-spotter. He fought in Italy and was a captain in the 3rd Survey Regiment at Monte Cassino, where his unit sustained heavy casualties. On a lighter note, he recalled afterwards meeting the pope.

Demobbed, he returned to Norwich, having married Irene in 1940. Always passionate about rugby, he combined his architectural skills to design club houses for Norwich, Holt and Wymondham.

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He played for Norwich RFC and in 1956 became secretary – just three years after the club had acquired 15 acres of land in Fifers Lane – and served a dozen years in post. He was instrumental in the club twinning with Rouen Rugby Club and was awarded the Medaille d'Honneur De La Jeunesse et Des Sports in 1966.

As a past president of Norwich, his contribution as an ambassador was recognised by being elected president of Norfolk RFU in 1970.

He then became heavily involved with Wymondham RFC and a few weeks ago hosted a reception at his home for former England rugby player Matt Dawson. As president for more than 10 years, only last year he had been made patron in recognition of his efforts to create a thriving community club.

Widowed in 2009, he leaves two daughters, Jane and Jo, three grandchildren and a great-grandson.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Wymondham Abbey on Friday, July 6 at 11am.

Michael Pollitt

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