Chris Barringer: Author, Norfolk historian and UEA’s director of extra mural studies

Chris Barringer has released a new book called 'Exploring the Norfolk Village'. Pictures taken in Ca

Chris Barringer has released a new book called 'Exploring the Norfolk Village'. Pictures taken in Cawston.Photo:IAN BURTCopy:For:EDP CentroEDP pics © 2005 (01603)772434 - Credit: Archant © 2005

Author, historian and a campaigner for Dragon Hall, Norwich's medieval merchant's house, Chris Barringer, has died peacefully aged 82.

He inspired members of local history groups across Norfolk and became the University of East Anglia's first director of extramural studies in 1991.

Then, there were 1,000 students taking 67 courses, which had risen to more than 3,000 students taking more than 100 courses at 20 locations in Norfolk and Suffolk when he retired four years later.

John Christopher Barringer was born in Croydon, London, on March 6, 1931 into a Quaker family. His father, who was an advertising copywriter, changed jobs and the family moved back to Ilkley, Yorkshire.

He went to Ilkley Grammar School and became head boy. There, his love of walking, geography and the countryside was encouraged. He also became actively involved in stage productions and also sport, particularly rugby and cricket, which he continued to play for Ilkley after leaving school.

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Commissioned as a junior officer in the Royal Corps of Signals, he was later awarded a county scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge University, to read geography. During his time at Cambridge he went on several field trips including those to Iceland and Norway.

Having decided to become a teacher, he then qualified and gained the rare distinction of being appointed head of geography in his first position at Lancaster's Royal Grammar School.

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There he played for the Vale of Lune Rugby Club.

He married Kate and they had a daughter and son.

In late 1965, he became Norfolk tutor for Cambridge University's board of extramural studies, and moved to Hethersett. He started local history groups across the county at Blakeney, Downham Market, King's Lynn, Mattishall, North Walsham, Norwich and Reepham. While he was based at Cambridge he started his book- writing career, with volumes on the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.

He became involved in the community, playing cricket and also starting the Hethersett Society, which still runs today.

During this period he also ran summer schools at Brathay in the Lake District and at Cambridge University and was an A-level geography examiner.

In Norwich, he ran classes for many years from Wensum Lodge including the King's Street group and even had a lecture room named after him.

He became involved in the discovery, restoration and preservation of nearby Dragon Hall, fundraising and obtaining a heritage lottery grant for major works.

For 15 years until 2002, he was chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust. His contribution was recognised in autumn 2005, when he was invited to unveil a memorial stone at the opening of the educational extension.

When the county's provision of adult education moved from Cambridge University to the UEA in 1991, he also continued lecturing, mentoring post-graduate students and writing books.

He was involved in many groups and societies until he retired from the UEA in 1995. His wife died the following year, and he married Charlotte in 1999.

He was president of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, president of the Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Research Group, chairman of the Whitwell Hall Educational Trust, chairman of the Dragon Hall Trust and chairman of the Hethersett Society.

He wrote and edited many books on local history of villages and towns in Norfolk. His latest finished work, with the working title Norfolk – A History, will be published posthumously.

He leaves his second wife Charlotte and his children Helen and Robert and four grandchildren Henry, Jenny, Hannah and Sam.

A funeral service is to be held at St Remigius' Church, Hethersett, tomorrow at 1pm.

Michael Pollitt

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