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Tribute paid to ‘larger than life’ Kentwall Hall re-enactor after sudden death from heart attack

PUBLISHED: 16:01 12 May 2020

Fred Rapsey was a re-enactor at Kentwell Hall in Long Melford for 42 years. Picture: PATRICK PHILLIPS

Fred Rapsey was a re-enactor at Kentwell Hall in Long Melford for 42 years. Picture: PATRICK PHILLIPS

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One of the leading re-enactors from Kentwell Hall has died, after devoting over four decades to bringing Tudor history to life for countless schoolchildren.

Fred Rapsey was a re-enactor at Kentwell Hall in Long Melford for 42 years. Picture: PATRICK PHILLIPSFred Rapsey was a re-enactor at Kentwell Hall in Long Melford for 42 years. Picture: PATRICK PHILLIPS

Fred Rapsey was one of the first people to participate in the re-creations of Everyday Tudor Life at the Long Melford site in 1979 - and enjoyed it so much he continued for the rest of his life.

The 71-year-old died on Tuesday, May 5 after suffering from a heart attack and was described as a “rare character” by Patrick Phillips QC, owner of Kentwell Hall.

Mr Phillips paid tribute to his friend and colleague, saying: “He was acutely aware of and sympathetic to the ideals of and experiment that was, Kentwell.

“Somehow he understood and shared that dream and delighted in being part of it.

Patrick Phillips, owner of Kentwell Hall, has paid tribute to his friend Fred Rapsey. Picture: MICHAEL HALL.Patrick Phillips, owner of Kentwell Hall, has paid tribute to his friend Fred Rapsey. Picture: MICHAEL HALL.

“Fred knew better than most from his own experience running his own school the burdens and joys of doing what you want, when the burdens weigh heavily and the joys come infrequently.

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“He was true and constant friend, ever the source of wise counsel.”

Mr Rapsey first moved to Suffolk in 1978 with his wife Gwyneth to teach at Nowton Court Prep School, in Bury St Edmunds. He then moved to Hillcroft Prep School in Haughley, near Stowmarket, in 1981.

The couple became owners and joint headteachers in time and ran the school until 2007, when it was merged with a neighbouring private school due to the financial crash.

Mr Rapsey’s love of education was key to his successful work at Kentwell and the Tudor re-creations soon attracted up to 15,000 school children a year.

He often impersonated a Tudor herald or well-known local characters, such as poet John Skelton, as well as taking part in re-creations of other periods - such as the Second World War where he was an army officer, a French speaker or soldier named Commandant Le Bouef.

His “larger than life” personality played Charles Dickens for Dickensian re-creations and read A Christmas Carol each year to spectators .

The school master helped many through the years as a parish councillor, St John’s Ambulance volunteer and church councillor.

Fred’s passion for history and education drove him to inspire many across Suffolk throughout his lifetime and he will be sorely missed.


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