Connie Riches: Key role in Snetterton motor racing circuit

A businesswoman and top dog breeder, Connie Riches, who has died aged 90 after a short illness at her Broadland home, was a founding director of Snetterton's motor racing circuit.

Under her leadership, the former second world war airfield was transformed into one of the country's top racing circuits, which attracted international drivers through the 1950s and 1960s.

Her husband Fred Riches, who farmed at nearby South Farm, Hargham, bought the 486-acre site in March 1951 when the Earl of Albemarle's Snetterton estate was sold by private treaty. It included three full-length runways, perimeter track and about 100 acres of concrete.

Constance Violet Riches, who was born on December 1, 1920, at Stow Bedon, moved to Great Hockham as a toddler. When she went to the village school, her teachers included the elder sisters of her future husband.

She volunteered before the outbreak of war and joined the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force).

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Stationed near Edinburgh, she secured a 48-hour pass and managed to get to Luton. Her fianc� met her there and they were married in 1944 before she had to return to duty.

Connie, as she was known, was a natural businesswoman, who also bred greyhounds, after she left service life. And she won a championship title at London's White City.

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As the Snetterton circuit was developed in the mid 1950s, in partnership with the flamboyant Oliver Sear, who was able to bring top racing stars to Norfolk, she was closely involved in the day-to-day management in those key early years when crowds of 50,000 flocked to the track. Today, the family's role is remembered by Riches Corner, which is near the grandstand on the 1.94-mile circuit.

When the family's interest was relinquished to Mr Sear, who later sold the circuit in March 1963 for about �45,000, she concentrated on her business career, even buying a shop in Attleborough. She was incensed when the vendors would only accept her husband's signature on the contract!

For many years, she bred pigs with great success at Heath Farm, Quidenham.

After her marriage ended, she became officer manager at the Diss office of Omar Mobile Homes, where she worked until she was 70. Her former husband died in 1996.

Her family's links with the pig industry continue because her elder daughter, Pauline, is married to Jimmy Butler, founder of the fast-growing Blythburgh Free Range brand of outdoor pork.

She was always a keen gardener and when she lived at Heath Farm, she had six acres of gardens. And even until shortly before her death, she was still pottering in the garden at her home at Surlingham.

She leaves two daughters, Pauline and Jill, grandsons Stuart and Alastair, and two great grandsons, William and Thomas.

A funeral service will be held at Holy Trinity Church, Great Hockham, on Friday, February 11, at 11am.

Michael Pollitt

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