Jeffery Smith: Missionary turned long-serving Norfolk priest

Rev Jeffery Smith, rememberence day service, Dereham, Norfolk

Rev Jeffery Smith, rememberence day service, Dereham, Norfolk - Credit: Archant

Rev Jeffery Smith, died aged 89, at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital.

A missionary in Africa, the Rev Jeffery Smith, who has died aged 89, was a priest in Norfolk for the second half of his ministry.

The globe-trotting rector, who had worked on a mission station in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the 1950s, moved to the heart of the county as priest-in-charge of Bintree with Themelthorpe in 1973. He was also responsible for Twyford and Guist and in 1979 was appointed rural dean of Sparham.

Before moving to take up his first post in England, he spent six years in the north-west Cape area of South Africa in a parish, which was 268 miles long. 'We never discovered the width,' he told the EDP.


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After spending eight years in Scotland, mainly at Fraserburgh, partly because he did not like the cold, in 1968 he volunteered for the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. 'It was the hottest part of South Africa and the most desolate, treeless region possible,' he said. He covered 25,000 miles a year and weekend services would often involved trips of 160 miles.

Jeffery Donald Morris Smith was born at Southfleet, near Gravesend, Kent. Later he joined the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment in June 1942 and was posted to the Army Catering Corps. Then with the Royal Signals, he landed in Normandy, shortly after D-Day. He saw action across Europe and arrived in Berlin, then with the 11th Hussars, and was demobbed in January 1947.

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From the age of eight, he once said that he wanted to take Holy Orders. In 1953, he was ordained and spent eight years in Rhodesia, where he also married his Canadian-born wife, Sheila. They had met aboard ship en route to South Africa via the remote island of St Helena, where her father had been born. After staying three months visiting family until the next ship arrived, she decided to visit his mission station. Then, she sold her return ticket, partly to pay for the wedding.

After his first ministry in England, he was appointed to the eight-parish Hempnall group in 1981 when he was installed as the rector, where he was also in charge of Woodton, Bedingham, Topcroft, Morningthorpe, Fritton, Hardwick and Shelton.

After almost three years, he moved to a Broadland group of parishes as priest-in-charge of Catfield, Ingham and Sutton until he retired in April 1989 and moved to Dereham.

He was recalled to clerical duties, albeit temporarily, when the incumbent left and on November 11, 1990, he was invited to take the Remembrance Sunday service, wearing his campaign ribbons.

He leaves a widow, Sheila, and sons Christopher and Mark.

A funeral and Requiem Mass will be held at St Mary's Church, Walsingham, on Friday, September 13 at 11.30am.

Michael Pollitt

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