Remembering an inspirational figure from the East Anglian publishing scene

Susan Yaxley, of Larks Press. Photo: Larks Press.

Susan Yaxley, of Larks Press. Photo: Larks Press. - Credit: Archant

An inspirational figure from the local publishing scene who was given a special award for outstanding contribution to East Anglian literature has died.

Susan and David Yaxley, with their eldest son, Thomas, who inspired the setting up of Larks Press. P

Susan and David Yaxley, with their eldest son, Thomas, who inspired the setting up of Larks Press. Photo: The Yaxley Family. - Credit: The Yaxley Family

Susan Yaxley, who founded Larks Press in 1985, and who received the inaugural East Anglian Book Awards UNESCO City of Literature Exceptional Contribution Award in 2015, died on November 16 aged 79.

Originally from Liverpool, Mrs Yaxley spent time in Dorridge, Warwickshire, and Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, while growing up, and met her future husband, David, at University College London when they were both studying history.

Mrs Yaxley became a history teacher and the couple, who married in August 1960, lived in Hemel Hempstead before moving to Stibbard in 1965, where they brought up their two sons, Thomas and Robert.

History and literature were two of Mrs Yaxley's lifelong passions, and she published books on Tudor Home Life, the Reformation in Norfolk Churches, the rising of 1549, Wymondham Abbey before the Dissolution, the Siege of King's Lynn in 1643, short biographies of Thomas Bilney, Bishop Herbert de Losinga, and Queen Alexandra, and several literary and musical quiz books.

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In 1985 Mrs Yaxley set up Larks Press to provide typsetting work for her eldest son, Thomas, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Since then Larks Press has published 170 different books, most with a Norfolk connection and spanning subjects including history, biography, memoirs, dialect, maps, walks and fiction. Titles have included Wilderness Walks, Hard Up Street, Faden's Map, Bryant's Map, The Seventeenth Child, Is This You, Nurse? Ghost Fields of Norfolk, Stuff and Nonsense, The Lawless Coast and The Gamekeeper's Boy, plus pocket biographies of Nelson and Edith Cavell.

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Mrs Yaxley also took a full part in village life, including being a member of the Women's Institute since 1965 and a member of the parish council, of which she was chairman for a number of years.

She was also a magistrate for about 20 years, gave courses on Norfolk history for the Workers' Educational Association, founded the Stibbard Players in the 1970s, which up until 2014 presented at least one play a year, and was a member of the Thornhill Singers for many years and sang in a number of other choirs.

Mrs Yaxley suffered a severe stroke in June 2015 and died of liver cancer on November 16 this year.

Mrs Yaxley's funeral will be at noon on Monday, November 28 at All Saints' Church, Stibbard.

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