We are very sad to announce that a long-standing member of CPRE Norfolk and stalwart of the old West Norfolk Committee for many years, Maurice de Soissons, died peacefully on Friday, aged 91. His long-time friend, Rosemary Bryan, who worked as Planning Case Officer on the West Norfolk Committee and who knew him for many years has written the following tribute.
‘Where do I start saying something about my friend Maurice.
I was invited to a CPRE West Norfolk District committee meeting being held in the upstairs rooms of a hotel in Dersingham when to my great surprise, I found that Maurice was the Chairman. But this wasn’t the first time I had met Maurice.
We first met in 1956 when we both worked on The Rhodesian Farmer magazine in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia; Maurice was a journalist reporting on farming matters round the country – usually dressed in khaki shorts, bush jacket and long woollen socks – and I worked on the Small Ads pages writing about Landrace pigs and root knot namatodes!
My family and I returned to England in the early 1960s and one day wandering round Woolworths in King’s Lynn, who should we bump into but Maurice, his wife Pat and their children! They had a holiday cottage (Kudu Cottage) in Sedgeford. Our next surprise encounter was in Brussels, where Maurice and my husband were both working.
So to the 1990s and back to CPRE and our West Norfolk Committee. Maurice was Chairman and I eventually became the Planning Caseworker. Maurice would frequently ring me (before 8 o’clock in the morning at the cheap rate) and discuss various planning applications and discuss strategy. No emails or mobile phones then. He was obviously keenly interested in architecture; the design of houses, their setting and use of materials was very important to him. He once took a whole series of photographs taken of properties around Norfolk and displayed them for discussion at a meeting; it was interesting to find so many different responses.
Maurice continued to work as a journalist and wrote many articles, mostly on countryside matters, and also found time to write novels set in the world about him.‘
The EDP have today printed an obituary:
Maurice de Soissons died peacefully at the Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, in the early hours of Friday.
Mr. de Soissons, from Brancaster, wrote books on the history of Brancaster Staithe and its fishing families, Holkham and its tenant farmers, Telford in Shropshire and Welwyn Garden City, which his father, the architect Louis de Soissons, designed.
He also wrote two countryside novels – Bloodlines and Rearing Field.
Born at Welwyn Garden City, Mr. de Soissons went to Marlborough College in Wiltshire. After National Service in the early 1950s, he went out to the then Rhodesia to farm. There he met fellow ex-pat Patricia Reynolds, who he married in 1956. The couple returned to Britain in the early 1960s and bought a cottage in Sedgeford.
Mr. de Soissons worked for the Brussels-based International Iron and Steel Confederation before he retired to concentrate on his writing.
He became Chairman of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Norfolk in 1995, Vice-Chairman in 1996, and was Vice-President from then until recently.
Rosemary Bryan, who knew Mr. de Soissons when both worked on a farming magazine in Rhodesia in the 1950s, was the planning case worker for CPRE in West Norfolk. She recalls meeting up with him out of the blue, in Woolworths in King’s Lynn, after both returned to England. ‘He cared very much for the countryside and how development affected it. He was a very good Chairman’ she said. ‘He was just a very nice person, really polite. He was a real gentleman, a lovely man’.
Mr. de Soissons was predeceased by his wife, Patricia. He leaves sons Philip and Oliver, daughter Claire, granddaughter Rose and great-grandchildren Owen and Emily.
His funeral is being held at St. Mary’s Church, Burnham Deepdale on Tuesday 5th March at 1pm.
The service and internment will be followed by refreshments in the village hall.
Donations to the Hospice may be made at the service, or sent via John Lincoln Funeral Directors in Hunstanton.
Maurice de Soissons came from a very interesting lineage – you can read more about his illustrious family background and his famous father here.