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Tributes to Ronald Buxton, a Norfolk country gentleman who led a rich and varied life

PUBLISHED: 10:15 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:22 15 February 2017

Ronald Buxton and his wife, Phyllida, in a Miles Gemini, on their honeymoon in the summer of 1959, which was spent flying the Giro di Sicilia (the Round Sicily Air Race).  Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILY

Ronald Buxton and his wife, Phyllida, in a Miles Gemini, on their honeymoon in the summer of 1959, which was spent flying the Giro di Sicilia (the Round Sicily Air Race). Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILY

Archant

He was a Norfolk country gentleman who was responsible for one of the greatest by-election upsets of the 20th century.

Ronald Buxton. Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILYRonald Buxton. Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILY

Tributes have been paid to Ronald Buxton, of Kimberley, who died aged 93 on January 10.

Alongside his spell as a Conservative politician, Mr Buxton was also renown for his work as a structural engineer, businessman, building conservator, organist and farmer.

Antony Woodward, an old friend, said he was a “tremendous character”, who became “the most talked about man in Britain” after his surprise win in a 1965 Leyton by-election over foreign secretary Patrick Gordon Walker.

Mr Woodward said: “It was a hard Labour seat and he won it by 205 votes. It caused tremendous ripples.”

Ronald Buxton and a grandson, Rupert Warre, seated at an organ. The instrument is at Kimberley (It wasreclaimed by Ron from Peterborough cathedral when that organ was restored)  Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILYRonald Buxton and a grandson, Rupert Warre, seated at an organ. The instrument is at Kimberley (It wasreclaimed by Ron from Peterborough cathedral when that organ was restored) Picture: VIA THE RONALD BUXTON FAMILY

Eton educated, Mr Buxton served as an army officer and fought in the Burma Campaign in the Second World War. He bought Kimberley Hall, near Wymondham, in 1958, saving the grand country house from demolition, and members of his family still live there.

Mr Buxton joined a steel construction company, H Young and Company, as an engineer, and eventually became first chairman. Mr Woodward said: “He had the idea of exporting flat-packed steel buildings to Africa.

“He was a brilliant business opportunist and set up, or bought into a number of companies around the continent, and they built basically every steel building in Africa for a while, from cotton factories to breweries.”

He was also a keen pilot, and once narrowly avoided disaster when over the Mediterranean flying back from Africa.

An aerial view of Kimberley Hall. Picture: ROBBIE BUXTONAn aerial view of Kimberley Hall. Picture: ROBBIE BUXTON

With fuel running dangerously low, he dropped a message in a boot onto the deck of a passing tanker, which was able to pick him up after ditching in the sea.

Although he farmed in Norfolk, his major farming project was in Zambia where he had 10,000 hectares of land and about 8,000 head of cattle.

Mr Buxton also helped to restore the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Carleton Forehoe.

He hosted The Messiah from Scratch - an informal performance of Handel’s Messiah - along with the Wymondham Choral Society at Kimberley Hall for 20 years.

Mr Woodward said: “He was amazingly public-spirited and held a lot of concerts, pony shows, charity balls and other events.”

He is survived by four children and his wife, Phyllida.

A passion for Norfolk

Ronald Buxton left an indelible mark on Norfolk’s heritage and community and would be missed by many, said his daughter, Vanessa Buxton.

She said one of his most valuable contributions to the county was saving Kimberley Hall, built in 1712, from demolition.

Miss Buxton said: “Many historic houses were demolished in the 1950s as their artefacts were more valuable than the house itself.”

The manor house is now a wedding venue.

After helping to restore the church at Carleton Forehoe, Mr Buxton went onto play the organ there for 52 years.

But the church has twice had lead stolen from its roof, most recently in May last year.

Donations to the repair fund can be made in Mr Buxton’s memory via funeral directors, RJ Bartrum and Son, Wymondham, who can be called on 01953 603 138. Mr Woodward wrote a biography of Mr Buxton called The Book of Ron, available by emailing events@kimberleyhall.co.uk

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