This article is written by Zoe Myall for Spalding Guardian

In the third of our series of features focussing on the people behind some of our area’s famous names, this time we look at the ‘Winfrey’ family.

Winfrey Park, in Long Sutton, takes the family’s name, as does Winfrey Avenue in Spalding.

The Winfreys were a well-established and connected family in the 18th and 19th century and perhaps the most well-known of the family was Sir Richard Winfrey.

Born in Long Sutton in 1858, he was a politician, owner of the Spalding Guardian and a campaigner for agricultural rights.

As Junior Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries he worked with the government to prevent poverty during the First World War. This was by promoting the reclamation of grasslands for wheat and potato production and the enclosure of marsh, such as that at Sutton Bridge for wheat.

He also personally gave £25,000 to help provide smallholdings for the unemployed and lived to see the tenants play their part in the production of food during the Second World War.

When starting my research into Sir Richard’s life, I first took to faithful Google, as well as thumbing through our print archives.

It was during an internet search that I stumbled upon a document written by Claire Winfrey, who is married to Ian Winfrey, Sir Richard’s great-grandson.

The document told the history of the Castor House Estate, in Castor, near Peterborough, which was once the home of Sir Richard and was inherited by Ian in 1985.

It formed part of a book called ‘A History of Castor, Ailsworth, Marholm with Milton, Upton and Sutton’, which was published by the CAMBUS project through their local church.

I contacted the couple, and Ian put me in touch with his father, also called Richard and now aged 87. He recalled visiting his grandfather as a child, aged around seven.

“He was very old when I knew him,” said Richard, who today lives in Stibbington, near Peterborough.

“It was the first years of the war. He was affectionate, but more particularly so because my brother (Charles) and I were his only grandchildren so we had a special place in his heart.

“He had three daughters, none of whom had any children but one did adopt a son.”

Winfrey Park in Long Sutton, which includes inscriptions on the gates. (4168412)

Sir Richard Winfrey first trained as a pharmacist at chemist shops in Kings Lynn, Stamford and Grantham and, after qualifying, moved to London to pursue his career, progressing rapidly, according to Long Sutton and District Civic Society.

But with his sights set on becoming a politician, and, at that time newspapers being an important part of doing that, he purchased the Spalding Guardian for a nominal £100 in 1886.

In her chapter for the book, Claire Winfrey writes that Sir Richard had his own column in the paper in which he attacked the then opposition Spalding Free Press for its ‘unbalanced’ reporting and ‘castigated’ his political opponents.

He later bought the Lynn News and started the North Cambs Echo.

“He was affectionate, but more particularly so because my brother (Charles) and I were his only grandchildren so we had a special place in his heart.”

Bricks engraved with the initials of members of the Winfrey family, inset into Long Sutton Parish office, formerly the United Reformed Church. (4168418)

Claire writes how Sir Richard’s advice on a man going into politics was ‘to get hold of the right sort of wife.’

‘He and his friend, Harry Millhouse, had both fallen for the same girl, Annie Pattinson,’ she wrote.

‘On the toss of a coin it was decided that Harry would court her and later Richard was best man at their wedding.

‘When six years later Harry died, the still single Richard was at last able to court and marry Annie.’

Sir Richard wrote a number of books, including ‘Days I Remember: 1893-1939’; ‘Great Men and Others I Have Met’; and a history of his life called ‘Leaves From My Life: Memories of Bygone Days,’ dedicated to his grandchildren.

During his remarkable life, Sir Richard was a Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk from 1906-1923, and for Gainsborough from 1923-1924.

He also spearheaded getting the Corn Production Act of 1917 drawn up and championed Agricultural Wages Boards to ensure minimum wages.

He was for a time Mayor of Peterborough; in 1914 was awarded his knighthood, and served as a justice of the peace.

Sir Richard also invested some of his wealth in his home town of Long Sutton.

He gifted a pair of entrance gates to the recreation ground, today called Winfrey Park, in commemoration of the coronation of King George VI.

The inscriptions of the Winfrey family’s initials can be found on the Long Sutton Parish Council offices, formerly the United Reformed Church in London Road.

It was during the Second World War that Sir Richard’s newspaper business was passed on to his son, Richard Pattinson (Pat) Winfrey.

He grouped together his father’s newspapers in Eastern England to form EMAP (East Midlands Allied Press). The company was carried on by Pat’s sons (Richard and Charles) and it became one of the top FTSE 100 companies in the UK.

By 1952, the company owned 17 local newspapers, followed by the purchase and creation of magazines and radio stations.

But in 1996, it sold 69 newspapers, including the Spalding Guardian and Lincolnshire Free Press to Johnston Press.

The Spalding Guardian and Free Press are today owned by Cambridge-based Iliffe Media, after a sale was agreed by Johnston Press in 2016.


Subsequent Comments

Regarding your feature ‘What’s In A Name – Richard Winfrey’. Many years ago when my late husband was employed as an engineer designing and troubleshooting machinery in the paper and textile industries he went to Spalding from Kent to see Mr Winfrey, owner of the local press.

Printworks often run 24/7 and the machines have to be very reliable. The owner was so impressed he invited the engineer out to lunch. My husband described what a pleasant old gentleman Mr Winfrey was and how much he enjoyed the meeting.

Unfortunately he didn’t go into details about the menu but said the press owner was a little eccentric. But then, so was my husband.

Despite or because of disability Duncan worked his way up from apprentice to vice-president of a multinational company making and installing paper and textile machinery all over the world. Their nearest rivals were German but largely due to Duncan’s efforts Mount Hope Machinery led the world.

In retirement Duncan was delighted to find some of his machines were still running smoothly after 25 years. The industry saw many changes: ironically the largest paper factory in Europe is German, Palm, at King’s Lynn.

Joan Woolard 

Fleet Hargate I

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