Tributes paid after death of flamboyant ‘Mr Southwold’

PUBLISHED: 14:01 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:35 10 June 2019

Dudley Clarke, pictured in 2011. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Dudley Clarke, pictured in 2011. Picture: SIMON PARKER

A flamboyant character known as “Mr Southwold” for his colourful attire and dedication to the Suffolk town has died, prompting a wave of heartfelt tributes.

Dudley Clarke, pictured in 2007. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYDudley Clarke, pictured in 2007. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Dudley Clarke, who died on June 4 aged 81 with his beloved wife Marion by his side after a short illness, became well-known in the coastal resort while managing the iconic Swan hotel.

Often seen walking around dressed in brightly coloured, smart dress, he would eventually look after all the hotels in the Adnams group and help to put Southwold on the map as a tourist destination.

"His brief was to make Southwold a year-round resort and not just the 12 weeks it was then busy for," said family friend and former business partner Carol Ryland.

"Affable and avuncular, professional and poised, he chatted and charmed his way right to the heart of the town - this helping put Southwold on the national and international map."

Dudley Clarke, seen here in 2007, was always known as a smart dresser. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYDudley Clarke, seen here in 2007, was always known as a smart dresser. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Mr Clarke was born in Romford, Essex and was described as a "flamboyant dresser from the cradle" - attributing his flair for style to his mother, who was a model and window dresser.

He travelled all over the world during 20 years of service in the RAF and first came to Suffolk when he joined the John Lewis Partnership after his military service, as the company seconded him to open a new Waitrose branch in Newmarket.

Mr Clarke soon took over a derelict pub in Charsfield and turned it into an award winner. That led to Adnams approaching him initially to manage The Crown, before he went onto other roles with the brewer.

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He would later help found Southwold's literary festival and took on a wider regional role as chairman of the East Anglian Hospitality Association, lobbying the government on behalf of restaurants and hoteliers.

Even when he retired from Adnams in 2000, he was back helping to promote Southwold firms - serving on the summer theatre management committee and Christmas Day swim organising group.

He even stripped naked for a calendar in 2008 with other Southwold businessmen.

"In recent years Dudley and his wife Marion moved to Ipswich," said Ms Ryland.

"He endeared himself to everybody he met. He treated everyone with the same respect and courtesy.

"He experienced a fantastic life with so many different roles which he truly fulfilled with as much love and excitement and flamboyancy as he could muster.

"A true gentleman who will be sorely missed by everyone lucky enough to have met him."

Mr Clarke is survived by two of his children from his first marriage and Marion, his second wife.

His funeral will be held at St Peter's Church, Wenhaston at 11am on Thursday, June 27, followed by a burial in the local cemetery and finishing at the Queen's Head in Blyford.

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