Tribute paid to district judge, festival co-founder and 'proud family man'

District judge, Martyn Royall, died last month

District judge, Martyn Royall, died last month - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

An esteemed district judge who was once told by a former headmaster not to pursue a career in law has died aged 73. 

Martyn Royall worked until the final weeks of his life and leaves behind a legacy of helping others, especially young people. 

Born in 1948 in Bristol, Mr Royall grew up in a small village near the city. 

After moving to Salisbury, he passed his Eleven Plus exam and attended Bishop Wordsworth’s School where he became a keen squash player and played badminton for the county. Aged 16, he was awarded the school’s woodwork prize, despite not passing the subject at O-Level.  

He was told by his headmaster that a career in law would not be for him but, undeterred, he stayed on at sixth form and completed his A-Levels. 

In 1966, he started a five-year article – similar to an apprenticeship – with Thomas Eggar, in Chichester, and attended the College of Law at Guildford. A poorly paid role, he would order dripping on toast for supper from the local bus station café as that was all he could afford. 

During this time, he met his future wife, Jontë, also an articled clerk from another firm. Their first date involved meeting outside a youth club, where Mr Royall worked, after he put out a fire started by boys using timbers from the roof. 

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After completing his articles in 1971, as a qualified solicitor he took up a position at Hawkins, Ferrier & Newnes, now Hawkins Ryan. He was offered a partnership after 12 months and stayed at the firm for 21 years.  

In 1972, the couple married in King’s Lynn, and went on to have three children - Anna (1974), Jack (1975), and Tom (1979). The family moved regularly around Norfolk as Mr Royall indulged in renovating houses and living in them before selling on.  

As a solicitor, he was involved with civil litigation. He also advised businesses and became an expert on shell fishing rights in the Wash. He attended meetings of the Young Solicitors group in Norwich, and was secretary to the Local Law Society in King’s Lynn, once becoming its president. 

Martyn Royall, pictured enjoying the Norfolk countryside

Martyn Royall, pictured enjoying the Norfolk countryside - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

In 1981, he was elected chairman of the National Young Solicitors group and was given an honorary membership at the American Bar Conference when he travelled to New Orleans. During the same year, he cycled from London to Harrogate to raise money for the Solicitors Benevolent Association, practicing during his daily commute between Hunstanton to King’s Lynn. 

Other accolades include becoming a member and area chairman of Round Table, chairman of Lynn Vancouver Round Table, Rotary Club member, chairman of the governors at Flitcham VA Primary School and at Scarning VA Primary School, near Dereham. 

In 1985, he became one of three local businessmen to start the free music festival, Festival Too. In 1992, aged 44, he was appointed a full-time district judge and moved to Norwich. He was elected and served as national president of the Association of District Judges in 2004, and was appointed as recorder in 1997 on the south-eastern circuit while sitting in the criminal courts of Essex. 

He was also involved with charities that supported families, including The Benjamin Foundation. He set up a contact centre in Norwich to provide a safe and neutral environment for children to see their non-resident parent following relationship breakdowns. 

He retired in 2015 but continued to sit as a judge in Norfolk and Kent, sometimes from home via a screen. 

After his passion for building and renovation and his distinguished legal career, the third and final pillar of his world was undoubtedly his friends and family.  

He made friendships through clay pigeon shooting and, for almost 20 years, ran a small shoot alongside friends. He often went on annual fishing trips with them too. 

His family described him as “a great family man” who “liked nothing more than when the whole family was together”. 

Mr Royall leaves behind his wife, children and 10 grandchildren. He died on September 6 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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