Dudley Crisp

Dudley Crisp, who devoted his life to promoting the rural way of life in Norfolk, has died aged 82.

Dudley Crisp, who devoted his life to promoting the rural way of life in Norfolk, has died aged 82.

He lived for more than half a century at Gressenhall, near Dereham, and it was in the village that he marked perhaps his greatest achievement by being at the heart of the creation of the rural life museum.

Mr Crisp - who was a true "doer" - worked tirelessly to promote the museum and helped shape the rise and rise of the attraction, which is now one of the county's most visited places.

As well as chairing the friends of the museum, his impact on the rural community included being an avid follower and member of the West Norfolk Foxhounds and former chairman of organisations including Gressenhall Parish Council, Fakenham Round Table, Dereham 41 Club, Gressenhall Charity Commissioners and the Mid Norfolk Conservative Association.


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He was an avid supporter of Fakenham Racecourse and, amazingly, Mr Crisp, a former amateur jockey, had missed just two race meetings since the second world war.

Mr Crisp had been active in farming and at the museum until shortly before he died at Lincoln House, Swanton Morley.

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Having been born in Wickmere, near Aylsham, in May 1924, the son of John (Jack) and Doris Crisp, he joined the RAF during the war and learnt to fly a Stearman plane in America. When he returned to Britain, he became a tug glider pilot.

During his working life, Mr Crisp sold tractors, cars and commercial vehicles for a number of companies including Norfolk Tractors in Downham Market, Baxters of Fakenham, Oliver Rix of Sculthorpe, and Rix of Fakenham.

He had a change of career and farmed his own land and worked on his contracting business until he retired.

Mr Crisp married Margret (also known as Peggy) in 1950 and the couple had three sons, Richard, Anton and Michael, and grand-children Alec, Harry, Emily and Lucy.

He made endless contributions to Gressen-hall museum, but his crucial role was to persuade the county council not to sell the farm but lease it to the friends and he then took on the running of the farm.

Former curator Bridget Yates said: "Dudley and Peggy were unfailingly helpful and it is hard to think that the museum would have got established and become the success it is today without their enthu-siasm and encouragement in those very early days before there was any money and when there was not a lot of understanding from the powers-that-be about what we were trying to do."

Mr Crisp was a key player in fundraising and collecting exhibits and he helped set up the first tea room where his wife would bake chocolate cakes.

He was the mainstay of every single one of the open days for at least 18 years, working day and night in the run-up to each open day to make sure it was perfect,

Mrs Yates added: "When I look back, I think of Dudley in my office in his overalls, having a smoke and a coffee, with the tractor parked by the front door, sorting out the next list of things to do. Would Gressenhall be as it is without him? I doubt it and that's a fine memorial."

There will be a memorial service for Mr Crisp on Friday, March 30, at Gressenhall Church at 3pm.

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