Robert Phoenix

One of Norfolk's last corn threshers, who helped develop one of the biggest cricket clubs in the county, has died aged 83.

One of Norfolk's last corn threshers, who helped develop one of the biggest cricket clubs in the county, has died aged 83.

Robert Phoenix, who helped secure land in Great Melton, west of Norwich, for a cricket pitch and then built the scorebox, sightscreens, practice nets and pavilion around it, was also a founder member of the Great Melton Bowls Club.

He was born in Wicklewood, near Wymondham, in 1923 and served in the Middle East during the second world war as an RAF navigator, reaching the rank of warrant officer.

When he returned home in 1946 Mr Phoenix entered into the family firm of threshing contractors, and his convoy of chaff cutters became a familiar sight on the roads around Norfolk.


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The advent of the combine harvester meant the days of the threshing drum were numbered and in 1958, Mr Phoenix moved into arable and dairy farming - but even into the 1980s he could still be seen cutting corn with a binder and giving threshing demonstrations at country fairs and steam engine rallies.

It was in 1989, after he retired from farming, that Mr Phoenix asked landowner Edward Evans-Loombe for some land in Great Melton for a cricket pitch, so that the team co-founded by his sons Steve and Mike could play in the village.

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As vice-president Mr Phoenix helped the club become one of the biggest in the county - and continued to cut the outfield three times a week for many years to come.

Popular and well-respected in the village, his family home became the venue for church fetes, and in retirement he went back to his hobby of woodcraft - working hard to restore an old showman's caravan.

As recently as September he featured on Anglia News when he and his two brothers, Brian and Ray, held an auction of many items of machinery.

Mr Phoenix was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 but remained active until a few months before his death and retained his sense of humour and indefatigable spirit.

Married for 56 years, Mr Phoenix leaves a wife, Ruth, sons Steve and Mike, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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