Norfolk mourns death of man who dedicated his life to the county
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011
A lifetime of dedicated service to Norwich and Norfolk was Bryan Colman Read’s legacy. A third generation flour miller, he died peacefully at home aged 95.
He was presented with a CBE by the Queen in 1983 for his services to the milling industry, and in 1986 was made a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk.
Born in Norwich in 1925 to Hector and Ena Read, he was the middle child of three. His older sister, Brenda, later became head of pre-prep at Town Close, where Bryan had been one of the first pupils in 1932. His connection with the school lasted a lifetime. He was chairman of governors for 25 years, overseeing many developments, including the new sports hall that was named after him.
Educated at Bishop’s Stortford College, he went on to read engineering at St John’s College, Cambridge. After training in other mills he joined the family business, R J Read, at Albion Mill in late 1947. On the death of his father he became managing director and later executive chairman, before the flour mill – the last in the city – and its agricultural merchanting businesses were sold.
He was a recognised industry leader – twice serving as president of the National Association of British and Irish Millers. During the Cold War and shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis, he visited the Soviet Union in 1962 on a fortnight’s fact-finding tour with a 25-strong UK delegation.
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A strong supporter of research, he was chairman of the Cambridge-based National Institute of Agricultural Botany in 1976 having been a founder member of what became the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) in 1965. He served on the HGCA, representing millers, for 25 years. A member of the Agricultural and Food Research Council, Bryan was also a trustee of the Flour Milling and Baking Research Institute. In 1961, it developed the Chorleywood process of working dough, transforming commercial bread baking techniques into what they are today.
Away from business, he was passionate about the waterways of the Norfolk Broads. His father had been a Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioner, a role he also undertook. It was to lead to years of often patient negotiation and diplomacy for what in 1988 became the Broads Authority, of which he was a member. He later served on the Council for National Parks and was particularly pleased when the Broads were recognised as part of the National Parks family.
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He was president of the Broads Society for 10 years and later founder of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads Charitable Trust. As a former miller, he had a keen interest in the corn and drainage mills of Norfolk – R J Read had owned Horstead mill until it burnt down in 1963. As chairman of the Norfolk Windmills Trust he helped protect these precious landmarks.
In his early years he was a keen competitive yachtsman, racing in the Star class with Jimmy Clabburn in the Olympic trials of 1948. Latterly, he preferred to follow the progress of his grandchildren as they inherited his love for the Broads and sailing his boats, including a 105-year-old cruiser, Harrier.
In 1995, he led a high-profile campaign - supported by the EDP - which raised almost £300,000 to buy Percy Hunter’s classic wooden sailing vessels and Ludham boatyard from Norfolk County Council. He became the first chairman of the Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trust which continues to run this unique fleet to this day.
He served the community as a magistrate for more than 30 years, much of that time as rota chairman and often on complex juvenile cases, sitting as many as 50 days a year.
Bryan had many other interests. He was the first chairman of the Norwich branch of Save the Children in 1960, and chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Triennial Festival, which during his tenure moved to be an annual event. He served on the University of East Anglia’s Council for more than three decades and was recognised with an honorary degree as a Doctor of Civil Law. He was also a dedicated trekker, undertaking long walking trips around Britain and further afield.
He married Sheila Winter in 1949. They had twin daughters Joanna and Susan, a son James, who died in 2009, a daughter, Rebecca and eleven grandchildren.
In 2003, he became a great grandfather and just 10 days before he died, his 21st great grandchild was born. His wife, Sheila, died aged 90, in 2018.
To donate to causes in Bryan’s memory, visit www.memorygiving.com/bryancolmanread
His funeral is being held on Wednesday, November 18. To view the service online contact Allcock Family Funeral Services for login details on 01603 766996; a celebration of his life is planned for 2021.