Obituary: Norwich stalwart who 'impacted many lives' dies aged 91

Margaret Hardingham, pictured during her time as chair of Age Concern Norfolk, cutting a cake

Margaret Hardingham, pictured during her time as chair of Age Concern Norfolk, cutting a cake in celebration of St Faith's and District Over 65s club with its chair William Coe - Credit: ARCHANT

A community stalwart has died at the age of 91 after dedicating more than 60 years to her local area.

From assistant bank manager and early years practitioner to becoming a lecturer and preacher, the many guises of Margaret Hardingham were testimony to her dedication to helping others. 

Her daughter, Jane Ward, said the mother-of-two "impacted on a number of people” in her community. 

She added: “After moving to Sprowston, she played an active part in the area as well as in Broadland for over 60 years. 

“She was both a mover and shaker locally and a tireless compassionate servant to the people in her community.” 

An only child, Mrs Hardingham was born in Mutford, Lowestoft, on May 29, 1930, and attended St John Leman School, Beccles, as a weekly boarder.  

Although she wanted to attend university, her parents did not allow it so she began employment in a bank, working her way up to assistant manager, described as “quite the achievement” for a woman at that time. 

Beating the Retreat and Band Concert at Thursford on September 11, 201

Beating the Retreat and Band Concert at Thursford on September 11, 2012. (Left to right) Peggy Germany, Margaret Hardingham, Eileen Ward - Credit: ARCHANT

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She met her husband, Trevor Alfred Hardingham, at the London Road Baptist Church’s youth group, in Lowestoft. They married there on Thursday, February 14 - Valentine’s Day - 1957. 

Mrs Ward revealed that as children they had thought the date romantic, but it turned out it was for practicality. 

"Mum said it was because Thursday was half-day closing and therefore Trevor’s father - who was a butcher - was able to attend.  

“At least he had no excuse to forget their wedding anniversary.” 

The couple moved to Sprowston in 1960 and had two children, Jane and Jeremy. 

Initially worshipping at Silver Road Baptist Church, they eventually joined Sprowston Methodist Church and remained members for nearly 60 years. 

“Mum’s faith in God was a motivator throughout her life in both secular and religious settings. 

“Feeling called by God, she later trained as a Methodist local preacher and preached around the Norwich circuit for many years, in turn, mentoring and encouraging others.” 

The oldest woman and man pictured in 1999 at the annual Age Concern get-together

The oldest woman and man of Age Concern Norfolk in 1999. Pictured at the annual Age Concern get-together (right to left) is Ned Potts, James Fiddy, Elsie Gooch, and Margaret Hardingham - Credit: ARCHANT

Mrs Hardingham would become instrumental in setting up the Norwich Chinese Methodist Church, now based on Bowthorpe Road.

As well as creating a link between the two cultures, she led the children's work, preaching a translated service regularly, and taught English as an Additional Language. 

When her children were young, Mrs Hardingham helped to run the Sprowston Nursery Playgroup and retrained as an early years practitioner. She remained on the leadership team. 

She eventually went on to run the nursery at St Christopher’s School for a number of years.  

Mrs Ward recalled a memory often recounted to her. 

“One story she used to tell us was of a child thinking she was younger than the headmaster,” she said. “The fact that he was quite a lot younger amused her. 

“Apparently, on further questioning, the child had based their analysis on the fact mum was small whereas the headmaster was tall.” 

While there, she gained a Winston Churchill Fellowship and studied the development of children under five in the Netherlands before qualifying as a Churchill Fellow in 1972. 

She was eventually asked to lecture part-time on childcare courses at Norwich City College. 

Mrs Hardingham was also involved in a number of organisations.  

She was a parish and Broadland district councillor, both a chair of governors and on the board of governors at Sprowston’s schools and Thorpe Grammar, and was on the Wherry Housing Committee. 

Mrs Ward said: “She did all she could to enable those working in school to be able to provide the children with a good all-round, well-balanced education.” 

Having had personal experience of caring for her mother who had dementia, Mrs Hardingham became involved with Age Concern Norfolk eventually becoming its chair. 

“Mum took a real interest in people and got alongside them when they were in need. Many people sought her help and she would do her best to resolve their difficulties.  

“She was an encourager and had a real gift for helping others.” 

Mrs Hardingham died on January 8. As well as her children, she leaves behind seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. 

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Sprowston Methodist Church on February 4 at 2.30pm.