Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Geoffrey Fairhead 1934 - 2018

From the Parish News – January 2018


1st August 1934 – 2nd January 2018

A large congregation filled St. Mary's Church Denton for the funeral service of Geoffrey Fairhead, which was conducted by the Rev Christopher Hutton on 24th January. The Fairhead family, can probably trace their connections to be one of the longest native born families resident in Denton. His grandfather, Harry Fairhead, was blacksmith at what is now the “Old Forge'' next to the Village Hall on Norwich Road. There Geoffrey and many other youngsters in the village would love to congregate to watch the horses being shod and the many other activities that went on there. In those days the forge was one of the main hubs of the farming industry.

Geoffrey's parents actually took occupation of Haggard's Farm in 1921, very close to 100 years ago. Geoffrey was born on Chapel Corner on August 1st 1934. His father and mother, Clarence and Bessie Fairhead, although living at Chapel Corner were already farming at Haggard's Farm. He went to Denton Village School from age 5 to 15. He was taught by Mrs. Hilson and the infant teacher Mrs. Knights. The latter also accompanied the Church Choir in St. Mary's and encouraged Geoffrey to become a choirboy. He admitted in later years that some of the incentive for this may well have been the “pocket money'' the choristers received.

Geoffrey helped his father on Haggard's Farm from a very early age as at the time, probably as part of the war effort, village children were legally allowed a certain number of half days from school to help on the farm. It was natural therefore that when Geoffrey left school he immediately began to help his father on the farm. He particularly loved working with the horses but he steadily moved with the times and progressed to tractors and modern farming methods as they came along. He always had a deep concern for his animals, particularly the pigs, the dairy cows and later the beef cattle. Geoffrey sowed the grass on the village playing field using an old tool called a “seed fiddle” which today would be quite a museum piece, but it made a very efficient job, as can be seen on the playing field to this day.

In 1959 Clarence, Bessie and Geoffrey moved from Chapel Corner to the Watch House Public house which had then recently closed. Also at this time Geoffrey met his wife to be, Valerie Quantrill, at a Young Farmers Club dance in Bungay. They married 5 years later in 1964 at Bungay Trinity Street Methodist Church. They then came to live with Geoffrey's father Clarence at the Watch House. Sadly his mother Bessie had passed away 9 months previously, and Clarence himself died four years later in 1968. The Watch House was to be Valerie and Geoffrey's home until the present day.

Geoffrey worked mainly single-handedly on Haggard's farm, while Valerie, as well as helping on the farm and giving birth to, and caring for, their two sons, Andrew and Peter, served as school secretary at Alburgh with Denton School for 28 years. Hard work was the order of the day and, apart from a four day trip to Wales for a honeymoon, there was no chance of a break until much later in their life when Andrew had left school and decided to help his Dad on the farm. When they did manage the occasional break it still had to follow the four day rule, one day journeying out, two days to relax and explore the area they had visited, and a day to return home.

In 1999 Geoffrey had to have a hip operation, and a year later, following a heart attack, underwent heart surgery at Papworth Hospital. Andrew from then on took over the running of the farm although Geoffrey was always very much involved and would regularly be seen cycling to and from the farm with his dog Sally close by. Meanwhile, Peter became an agricultural engineer servicing farm machinery, in a more modern way keeping up the tradition of his great-grandfather Harry.

Geoffrey was immensely proud of his family, and, as the boys progressed, Andrew was married to Elizabeth and Peter to Catherine, coupled with the arrival of their four grandchildren Harry and Emma and Jack and Thomas. Geoffrey felt his life's work was complete and in spite of the onset of melanoma and later bowel cancer, for which incidentally he refused an operation, he always had a keen interest and pride in all the family achieved and never ceased to be involved with the welfare of the farm, the animals and countryside around him.

A true countryman who you could honestly describe as “Salt of the Earth”.
Our sympathy and condolences go out to Valerie, Andrew and Elisabeth, Peter and Catherine and his four grandchildren.

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