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Tributes paid after death of well-known record shop owner

PUBLISHED: 13:53 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:53 16 October 2019

Robin Watson at the Robin's Records market store he started in 1971. He later opened a permanent shop on Pottergate. Photo: Family submit

Robin Watson at the Robin's Records market store he started in 1971. He later opened a permanent shop on Pottergate. Photo: Family submit

Archant

Tributes have been paid to a generous family man who founded a well-known Norwich record store.

Robin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: FamilyRobin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: Family

Robin Watson died aged 75 on September 27 after being diagnosed with cancer some years earlier.

Mr Watson, who was born in Essex, first set up Robin's Records on Norwich market in 1971, at the time operating just one day a week.

He had been selling records at markets across the country, but, after growing fond of the city, decided to set up home in Norwich, opening a permanent store on Pottergate two years later.

Robin's Records, on Pottergate, pictured in 1980. Photo: ArchiveRobin's Records, on Pottergate, pictured in 1980. Photo: Archive

He weathered years of change in the industry and overcame obstacles - in 1977, thousands of pounds worth of stock was destroyed by fire - to become a popular spot in the city for music lovers.

His wife Gillie Bexfield described him as a warm, generous man who loved his family, music and cooking, and who was something of a wine connoisseur.

"He was just lovely," she said. "He was generous, he was always loving, upbeat and cuddly, and just good fun to be around.

Robin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: FamilyRobin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: Family

"He was so upbeat - I don't know how he did it really."

The pair, who lived in Swardeston, had been together 32 years, and were engaged for the majority of that time, marrying a few years ago when Mr Watson fell ill.

As challenges in the industry mounted, Mr Watson closed the record store in 1983, describing the shop as a "victim of the times" in an interview with the Eastern Evening News, to which he used to contribute a weekly album chart.

An article in the Norwich Evening News covering the closure of Robin's Records, in 1983.An article in the Norwich Evening News covering the closure of Robin's Records, in 1983.

At the time, he said: "I am very sad to see it go, but one has got to be philosophical about it. We have hung on as long as we can, but we can't go on any longer."

With Robin's Records - which also inspired a Robin's Records rally team - behind him, he later ran a shoe shop on Dereham Road, sold wines and started work with the University of East Anglia, helping them with parks and gardens surveys.

The latter was his way into a career in the university's stores and supplies department, where he spent almost 20 years until he retired aged 67.

Robin's Records, on Pottergate. Photo: Family submitRobin's Records, on Pottergate. Photo: Family submit

After retirement, the couple spent more time with family - including daughter Rachel Watson, son-in-law Carl and granddaughter Amelia - and took up sailing on their yacht.

Daughter Mrs Watson described him as "warm, kind and loving".

"He was just amazing, and it's not just me being biased," she said. "He was such a popular man.

Robin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: FamilyRobin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: Family

"In the 1970s and 1980s he was a real face around Norwich, he was a real dude."

She said he was a modest man who was passionate about music, loved a good glass of wine and was a "fabulous cook".

And she said she had fond memories of a childhood spent in the record shop, including when Motorhead frontman Lemmy came into the shop to sign copies of their Ace of Spades album in 1980.

Robin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: FamilyRobin Watson, who founded Robin's Records in Norwich and who has died aged 75. Photo: Family

Mr Watson inspired others to set up their own record shops, including Tony Kostrzewa, who founded well-known Red Rhino Records in York after striking up a friendship with him, and Johnny Appel, who opened Backs record shop after working at Robin's.

And Ms Bexfield said his love of music never waned, with his taste evolving over the years to include music from all over the world.

A celebration of his life will be held at St Faith's Crematorium at 12.30pm on Friday, October 25.

The Robin's Records rally team. Photo: Family submitThe Robin's Records rally team. Photo: Family submit

If desired, donations can be sent to the Oncology and Haematology F007 fund or Star Throwers, a Wymondham-based cancer charity. They can be sent via Kevin Cobbold Funeral Services.

- Would you like to pay tribute to Mr Watson? Please email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

Robin Watson, founder of Robin's Records, who has died aged 75. Photo: FamilyRobin Watson, founder of Robin's Records, who has died aged 75. Photo: Family

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