Family butcher and livestock market operator dies aged 74

John Coxford and his wife Liz pictured at an Aylsham Show lunch at Fakenham races in 2011

John Coxford pictured with his wife Liz at an Aylsham Show lunch at Fakenham races in 2011 - Credit: Archant

A family butcher who also ran Aylsham’s last livestock market, John Coxford, has died suddenly aged 74.

Born and raised in the town, he was one of the first intake of students at the new Aylsham High School.

He started as a trainee butcher at the age of 15 on £3 per week, at Gilbert White’s shop in Red Lion Street.

When the chance came to take over Philip Partridge’s shop in 1968 at the other end of Red Lion Street, he and his wife-to-be Liz seized the opportunity. Over the years, they expanded the business, which at one stage included two shops in the town, another two in North Walsham, including a meat cutting plant, and another at Thorpe.

He supported livestock farmers by buying locally even before it became fashionable – and always had a keen eye for a really good carcase, whether live or "on the hook". 

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His shops would be dressed with prize cards and rosettes from the annual Norwich Christmas Show and Sale, and even latterly from Aylsham, as customers had the pick of the best championship cuts.

Liz and John Coxford, left, hand over to the new owners of Coxford Butchers, Aylsham, left to right,

Liz and John Coxford, left, handing over to the new owners of Coxford Butchers in Aylsham in 2014 - left to right, Emma Payne, Kate Sloper, Jason Gibbons and Johnny Payne - Credit: Antony Kelly

When he took over Aylsham livestock market in 1991, it had a weekly turnover of about 160 pigs. With auctioneer, William Frazer, they expanded it almost ten-fold by the year 2000, selling about 800 sheep, 550 pigs and 100 sows each week.

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But having revitalised the town’s pig and sheep market, the business was hit hard by successive disease outbreaks in the livestock industry.

The 14-week closure from August 2000 due to East Anglia’s classical swine fever outbreaks, followed by the world’s worst epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in February 2001, were a knock-out blow.  

When markets could finally re-open in 2002, the cost of compliance with new stringent biosecurity rules was prohibitive for smaller specialist centres.

In that first week of February, more than 100 years of pig and sheep sales at Aylsham came to an end. It joined a long list of lost auction markets across Norfolk. 

John Sydney Coxford, who lived his entire life within a couple of hundred yards of his birthplace on the Old Cromer Road, died at home on January 2. 

He was married in April 1970 in Aylsham’s parish church – the newly-weds did travel beyond the town’s limits to a wedding reception at Cromer’s Cliftonville Hotel and honeymoon in the Lake District. Sadly the first Covid-19 national lockdown prevented a big family golden wedding celebration.  

A lifelong supporter of the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association, he was actively involved with its organisation, including as a sponsor. He was elected a life vice-president by the association.

Mr Coxford became involved partly through his membership of Aylsham Young Farmers’ Club. But his “can-do” approach soon led to wider responsibilities.

He was also a deputy showground layout steward, working alongside Mike Bush. He played a crucial role in the launch of the eve-of-show dinner and dance, which raised tens of thousands of pounds for charities over the decades. His youngest daughter, Jo, has taken on these responsibilities. 

Mr Coxford was also a successful cattle exhibitor and supported his daughters as they competed at equine competitions across the country.

He was a generous fund-raiser for charities, especially the Norfolk Heart Trust’s Balloons for Hearts and Sparks for Hearts. 

He leaves a widow, Liz, three daughters, Kathryn, Claire and Jo, and four grandchildren, Aimee, Yasmin, Imogen and Isabelle. 

  • A family funeral will be held at Cromer Crematorium on Wednesday, January 27. Donations are invited for the British Heart Foundation. For details see 

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