Local historian, former social worker, and community stalwart dies aged 97

Anne in 2012

Margaret Anne Carter died aged 97. Here she is pictured in 2012. - Credit: SUPPLIED

A former social worker, historian, and Girl Guides leader from Norfolk, who has died at the age of 97, has been described as “a source of enduring fascination".

Margaret Anne Carter delved with delight throughout her life, whether in the village of Little Melton near Norwich, where she lived for seven decades or in her birth town of Maymyo, Burma, in Mainland Southeast Asia.

The Burma birthplace of Anne Carter

The Burma birthplace of Anne Carter - Credit: SUPPLIED

The distant past was also within her orbit as she painstakingly researched the precise location of the county's Kett's Rebellion, one of the bloodiest uprisings of pre-civil war England. Previously historians had differed in opinion but her research of historical documents finally discovered the lost and unknown location of the infamous Dussindale, on the eastern outskirts of the city, where the 1549 rebellion was squashed. 

Her family recall with admiration her ability to read handwritten medieval Latin church records like other people read paperbacks. And her research of families covered both her own - the Garrad family - and many others including Claude Carter, of Norfolk, an officer in the Indian army on the Burma front for four years during the Second World War, who she also married in December 1951.

Her empathy and interest in people, from rebels to royalty, made her a natural social worker. Two of the three years of her social sciences study were at Bristol University, while the other was under the Home Office. In 1949, Anne, as she was called by everyone, became the first full-time probation officer in east Norfolk.

Anne Carter in 1930 as a Girl Guide in Kalaw, Burma

Anne Carter in 1930 as a Girl Guide in Kalaw, Burma - Credit: SUPPLIED


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Born Margaret Anne Garrad on July 21, 1924, she was the eldest child of Marjory, nee Rawson, and the Reverend Charles Garrad, a former Cambridge don and missionary whose spiritual realm included the temporal project of translating the Bible into Burmese directly from ancient Hebrew and Greek. Rev Garrad christened his daughter and her brother, Douglas, born in 1926, and sister Liz, in 1929.

Anne Carter in 1933

Anne Carter in 1933 - Credit: SUPPLIED

Taught initially by her mother, Anne was aged eight when she sailed to England for the rest of her school years. From Clifton High School in Bristol, she went on to board at St Mary’s School in Calne, Wiltshire. Soon after the Second World War broke out, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and rose rapidly from typist to commissioned officer, serving in the United Kingdom, Italy, Palestine, and Austria. She flew in aeroplanes before most contemporaries in bomb racks of Lancaster and Liberator bombers. By the restoration of peace, she was 21 and a Junior Commander (Captain), in charge of a Women's Services transit centre with 200 beds she set up in Austria. By this time, Captain Garrad was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, and War Medal. 

Anne Carter in 1945 in officer school in Palestine and Egypt

Anne Carter in 1945 in officer school in Palestine and Egypt - Credit: SUPPLIED

Captain Carter, aged 21, in 1946

Captain Carter, aged 21, in 1946 - Credit: SUPPLIED

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Her busy mind turned towards a career in social work. As a probation officer, she got to know people whose lives had been turned upside down by war as well as those who did not experience decent parenting.

Anne’s first seven years of life with Claude, now an accountant, were at Blofield, east of Norwich. After having their first two sons, they moved to Postwick, on the outskirts of the city, for the next 25 years and had a third son.

Running a chicken farm on the side, with 1,000 egg-laying hens, taught them plenty about hard work. From 1960-69, Anne taught part-time at the Old Hall School, Heathersett. From 1983-96 the couple lived at The Old Rectory in Fundenhall. Then a year after Claude's death in 1996, Anne moved to a cottage in Little Melton, where she stayed.

Anne Carter in 1972, birdwatching at Blakeney Point

Anne Carter in 1972, birdwatching at Blakeney Point - Credit: SUPPLIED

As well as raising three teenage sons through the 1970s, she worked as a senior family social worker for Norfolk Schools Psychological Service. Involvement with Girl Guiding led to her writing three handbooks for the movement. Her senior positions in guiding included assistant county commissioner for Norfolk for many years. Though always cherishing the past, she recognised that future lives matter, which was why she contributed so steadily to lighting the best ways ahead for young people.

She delved but also delivered and telling the stories of churches and congregations was a way of chronicling the surrounding community. In 1987 she wrote two short histories of Postwick and its church, with rigorous academic underpinning. The Postwick dissertation was accepted by the Cambridge University Extra-Mural Board Certificate in Local History in 1983. Ten years later, Anne obtained the Canterbury Institute of Genealogical Studies Certificate. 

She was also a major contributor to, and editor of, Little Melton - The Story of a Norfolk Village, published by the Little Melton Community Trust in 2003. 

Anne Carter in 2007, revisiting Burma

Anne Carter in 2007, revisiting Burma - Credit: SUPPLIED

A poignant reacquaintance with her own past came in 2007, when Anne, accompanied by her sons, Thomas, Peter, and Michael, travelled to Burma - her first visit since leaving as a young child in 1932. From this “homecoming” and further study of the Garrad family, including diaries and correspondence, came her book Bewitched by Burma. The visit covered places from her childhood and honoured Claude’s wartime service in the country.

Anne Carter in 2009 as the guest of the president of Zambia

Anne Carter in 2009 as the guest of the president of Zambia - Credit: SUPPLIED

Anne in 2009 on the Zambian presidential plane

Anne in 2009 on the Zambian presidential plane - Credit: SUPPLIED

Her abiding sentiment was gratitude for the opportunities life had endowed. In a BBC Radio Four interview recorded in June, a few weeks before her death, she spoke of her curiosity and sense of duty instilled in girlhood. One son was a diplomat; another, an engineer living in Western Australia; the third, a businessman in France. Through such personal connections, as well as feeding her inquiring mind, she visited all five continents. Some places were more bewitching than others, but all made an impression on a lady with a talent to preserve.

Anne died on July 23 and is survived by her sons and six grandchildren. The funeral service will take place at All Saints Church, Little Melton, on Tuesday, August 17 at 2pm. More details can be found here.

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