Nigel Wright | Stalham Farmers' Club | Leading speakers from the agricultural industry.

A leading member and former secretary to Stalham Farmers’ Club, Nigel Wright, died peacefully at home died just days before his 84th birthday on January 9, 2022.

He was the club’s vice-president and a former chairman in 1991. He was secretary between 1962 and 1985 having followed a family tradition and his uncle Roy had held the same post in the 1930s. A staunch supporter of the National Farmers’ Union, he was county chairman, serving a two-year term from 1995. Later he was elected chairman of the East Anglian NFU board. In November 1999, as the regional chairman, he led a high-profile campaign to promote the return of British beef to France with Norfolk NFU chairman Robert Steven. They presented a topside joint of Norfolk beef, actually from near neighbours Mary and Alan Beck of Brunstead, to the French honorary consul for East Anglia.

Born into a Broadland farming family in January 1938, he was the oldest of three children, including sister Wendy and younger brother, Rupert, known as Toby. His grandfather William had farmed 2,000 acres at Ludham Hall and his father, Ivan, who died in 1948, had taken over Church Farm, Stalham. Nigel went to Town Close School, Norwich, and Gresham’s, Holt, and then studied at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, before returning to the family farm. It was then a typical mixed holding with about 18 Ayrshire and Friesian milking cows – and employing a total of 17 staff.

As Mr Wright recalled in June 2007, as part of the EDP’s The Rural Revolution series, the east Norfolk market town of Stalham in the early 1950s was almost self-sufficient with shops and banks. While it had a declining livestock and produce market, there was a slaughterhouse, grain merchants, Woodrow’s mill, and a regular passenger and goods train service. The farm was close to Stalham Staithe, where sugar beet could be loaded into wherries for processing at Cantley factory. After the long drought in 1947, when a nine-acre field of beet was lifted, it hardly filled a 40-ton wherry, he said. In the 1950s, during the annual beet campaign, British Rail would bring wagons into sidings at Stalham. “You would be allocated one or two trucks a week which would sit there until you’d filled them up.” It was hard work, throwing beet off a tractor and trailer into a railway wagon, holding about 13 tons, he added.

By 1956, the Suffolk horses had gone as tractors took over and the dairy herd was sold in 1964 as the farm switched to more arable crops. There were improvements – the laying of main sewers ended the need for the “honey cart” - and there was still a good train service. He remembered leaving his front door to catch the 8.20am train to Leicester for lunch with his (late) sister Wendy. Many people travelled by train to work in North Walsham or Yarmouth.

Mr Wright was the backbone of Stalham Farmers’ Club, which had been founded in 1841. He served as chairman in 1991 and typically modest, declined nomination as president on several occasions. In 1997, his eldest son Alistair won the club’s prestigious Cantley sugar beet Cup for highest overall yield for the second year running. They also won Stalham’s competition for best two-acre sugar beet crop in 2012. In 1997, he and his great friend Roger Beck, judged the Suffolk Agricultural Association’s champion farms’ competition. Speaking at the club’s 175th anniversary celebrations in June 2016 at How Hill Farm, Ludham, he recalled that he had been fortunate enough to have attended the club’s 125th and the 150th. But, he joked, he would be 103 when the club marked its bicentenary in 2041. He recalled too that the club in 1966 had 127 members – then all farmers and it had assets of £94 11s 4d (£94.57).

He was a Norfolk Rainfall Organisation recorder for more than half a century at Church Farm. Since 1972, he noted that the driest year was 1973 when 18.49 ins (469.89mm) was recorded – the wettest, 1987, had 920.24mm (36.22 ins). Average rainfall at Stalham has declined – the 32-year average was 27.4ins while the 10-year average was 25.9ins.

A member of the Broads Authority for many years, he was also elected to North Norfolk (District) Council in the 1980s, serving at least eight years, and failed to be re-elected by just eight votes. He was a member of Stalham Town Council. A keen sailor, he enjoyed gardening too. He also cultivated a species of geranium with distinctive salmon pink leaves, which was very similar in colour to some local bricks, Ingham salmons.

In the 2007 EDP article, he said that a clay pit in Ingham, just over the hedge from one of his fields, was a source of material for these flat (and frogless) bricks. Some of the bricks used in his garage were Ingham salmons and he recalled shortly after the second world war seeing the last of these bricks being fired.

Married in 1960 to Pam, they marked the diamond jubilee. He is survived by his widow, and leaves three children, Alistair, Ben, and Jess, and five grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, January 26 at Ingham church, 11am.