Roger Beck | Stalham Farmers' Club | Leading speakers from the agricultural industry.

Roger Beck.

Former's president support for church - 

Donations at Roger Beck's funeral in October last year went toward the £12,000 cost of a new ridge at St Peter's Church, Brunstead, near Stalham.

Mr Beck, club president between 2000 until his retirement in 2010,who died aged 88, led efforts to save the church. In the mid-1990s, the roof was in such a poor state that the chancel was open to the sky and ducks were nesting in the thatch.

Thatcher Stephen Aldred, who lives in nearby East Ruston, and his son Ben completed the restoration over the past four weeks, which was given a £10,000 grant by the Norfolk Churches Trust and also £1,000 from the Diocese of Norwich.

It will mean that two family services can go ahead. On September 25, his daughter, Sheila will be married at the church on her 60th birthday, just yards from Brunstead Hall, where Roger and his late wife, Jeanne, lived for so many years. And members of the family will also dedicate a memorial headstone to their parents.

The new ridge needed 300 bunches of Norfolk sedge – all grown at nearby How Hill, said Mr Aldred, who returned to the family’s thatching business in 1975 after studying at the former Norfolk College of Agriculture (now Easton & Otley College) alongside Mr Beck's son, Alan. 

Mr Aldred and his brother, Michael, re-thatched the church in 1994.

Even more remarkably, when repairs to the nearby hall were being carried out, a large flagstone – the threshold to the original front door - was found. Monumental masons from North Walsham will carve the names of his parents in the stone that was set in their front door.

Mr Beck’s grandfather, Cecil Norman, moved to Brunstead to farm in 1919 and the family have been custodians of the church in the tiny parish ever since. It holds a number of services each year including harvest festival and a candle-light carol service.


For more than three decades, east Norfolk farmer Roger Beck, who has died aged 88, represented growers at the county’s oldest established beet sugar factory.

His collection of Case tractors, which he had acquired and restored over many years, was one of the best in the country.

His quiet style representing thousands of growers at the Cantley beet sugar factory commanded respect from British Sugar’s staff too. In the turmoil of the 1970s major factory re-build, his positive approach was particularly appreciated.

It was fitting that he was a guest at a special dinner to mark the factory’s 75th anniversary at the Hotel Nelson, Norwich, in 1987.

His campaign reports to the Norfolk National Farmers’ Union’s executive meeting in Norwich were always a model of clarity.

Roger Norman Beck, of Brunstead Hall, near Stalham, who was born on October 23, 1927, went to Norwich School. During the second so-called “Baedeker” raids on June 27, 1942, Norwich cathedral was the focus of attack as an estimated 850 incendiaries were dropped. He joined the volunteer fire-watchers during the bombing and indeed kicked many off the roof – almost certainly helping to save the cathedral.

Later at home, his role in safeguarding St Peter’s Church – just yards from the family’s home since 1919 – was crucial. When in 1996 the thatched roof was open to the sky where ducks were also nesting, he led efforts to raise funds and save the church for occasional worship. Sadly, his beloved church now needs urgent repairs yet again.

In 2000, he became president of Stalham Farmers’ Club but wasn’t really well enough to join the 175th anniversary summer party. He always supported club events, wearing his official tie with much pride, and retired as president in 2010. He served as chairman in 1966 – his father, Cecil, had been chairman in 1960 and 1961.

For a quarter of a century, he was treasurer and helped to arrange the club’s foreign trip in 1971 with neighbour Hubert Sands as 34 members went to West Germany.

He enjoyed success in many club competitions and the family farm won the best two-acre beet trophy eight times over six decades, between 1958 and most recently in 2009.

He saw massive changes in the beet industry over the decades. When he delivered his first load to Cantley aged 19 in 1946, he took a farm worker to throw off the 6.5 tons of beet. In those days, his father employed 12 full-time staff and grew 65 acres of beet.

When he celebrated 60 years’ beet delivery in January 2007, he drove his original five-ton “O” type 1946 Bedford lorry, the farm was growing 165 acres of beet – employing just one full-time worker.

His lorry, which cost £500, had been restored in 1985 and has now completed more than 230,000 miles – and was on its third engine.

After the war, the average beet yield was about 19 tons an acre. “We used to take three loads a day and then two the next. It used to take two men at least one hour to load but I did recall once having to get a load on by myself,” he told the EDP.

He enjoyed his working tractor collection and also staged a memorable informal yesteryear harvest event in August 1999 when three friends with vintage combines cut 19 acres of wheat. His son Alan used a 1966 Claas Matador combine – which had been originally owned and used on the farm.

It was a joyous occasion and clearly relished by Mr Beck, who was driving a Case 600 combine with a broad grin in the sunshine.

He leaves a son, Alan, and two daughters, Helen and Sheila, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His wife, Jeanne, died earlier this year.

A funeral service will be held at St Peter’s, Brunstead, on Monday, October 31, 2.30pm.

Michael Pollitt