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Leading Norfolk figure Lady Ralphs passes away at the age of 99

PUBLISHED: 08:00 31 January 2014

Lady Ralphs.

Lady Ralphs.

A leading figure in Norfolk life for almost 70 years, who played a major role in education and the criminal justice system, has passed away at the age of 99.

Lady Ralphs, a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk and former magistrates chairman, played an active part in many voluntary organisations.

The retired lecturer helped influence thousands of teachers and children and the former governor was actively involved in supporting Norfolk education right up until her death.

Lady Ralphs passed away at her home in Norwich on Tuesday She leaves behind three children, seven grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.

Lady Ralphs was actively involved in many aspects of education in Norfolk and married the man who was to become the county’s chief education officer - Sir Lincoln Ralphs, who died in 1978

Lady Ralphs made significant contributions - both locally and nationally - through her work as a magistrate and served as a Norwich magistrate for 27 years and was chairman of the bench.

In 1981, she became the first woman chairman of the Magistrates’ Association of England and Wales and was also made a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk in the same year.

Lady Ralphs was born in January 1915 in Cornwall as Enid Mary Cowlin and went to school at Penzance Grammar School for Girls where she later returned to teach geography. During her university days, she was president of the students’ union at Exeter University and vice-president of the National Union of Students.

She married in 1938 the man who was destined to become chief education officer for Norfolk, who was knighted for his services to education in 1973.

She moved to Norwich in 1946 and became a part-time lecturer at Keswick teacher training college where she stayed until her retirement in 1980.

She was governor of Norwich School, Wymondham College and Culford School and was president of the Norwich branch of the United Nations Association. She was also president of Norfolk Girl Guiding and member of the Guide Council for Great Britain.

Former South West Norfolk MP Baroness Shephard, who first met Lady Ralphs in 1963, said:

“Lady Ralphs has given seven decades of continuous public service to the people of Norfolk and further afield. She has contributed so much to many areas of public life in education, teacher training, the magistrates service, the United Nations Association, and girl guiding to name a few.

“She was a towering figure and an outstanding role model. She was a strong supporter of Wymondham College from its formation to the end of her life.”

Lady Ralphs was known as “the visitor” at Wymondham College and was a big supporter of the school throughout her time in Norfolk.

Melvyn Roffe, principal of Wymondham College, said: “Lady Ralphs was involved from the very inception of Wymondham College, supporting her husband Sir Lincoln Ralphs and taking an interest in every detail of the college as it has developed. It was her energy, charisma, contacts and determination that galvanised the campaign to save the college when it was threatened with closure. She served as College Visitor for over twenty years, regularly attending governors’ meetings and other college events. No one, student, staff or governor, who met her could have failed to have been inspired by her extraordinary perceptiveness and sharp intellect, by her integrity and wisdom and by the vigour of her approach to life.”

A private cremation will be held and a memorial service will be held in Norwich Cathedral at 3pm on March 21.

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