‘Outstanding’ Suffolk farmer dies

PUBLISHED: 08:01 25 July 2020 | UPDATED: 23:40 25 July 2020

Suffolk farmer Stephen Wise has died aged 97. Picture: WISE FAMILY

Suffolk farmer Stephen Wise has died aged 97. Picture: WISE FAMILY


Tributes have been paid after the death of an “outstanding” Suffolk farmer who turned round a 500-acre farm to support the Second World War effort - amongst a litany of other lifetime achievements.

Suffolk farmer Stephen Wise has died aged 97. Picture: WISE FAMILYSuffolk farmer Stephen Wise has died aged 97. Picture: WISE FAMILY

Stephen Wise, who was 97 when he died, and his family were Czechoslovakian emigres who settled in Suffolk in 1938.

After buying Houghton Hall, a derelict 500-acre arable farm in Cavendish, Mr Wise and his father Eugene quickly turned it around to support the war effort - so much so that it was shown off as an exemplary English farm to visitors from Eastern Europe.

With his neighbour Basil Ambrose, he also started up The Agricultural Spraying Company - one of the first firms of its kind. One of their early contracts was to maintain the racecourse at Newmarket.

Described as a “very generous, social man who believed in giving something back into society”, Mr Wise helped draw his farming community together when he founded the South Suffolk Crop Competition in 1953. It remains a firm fixture on the farming calendar.

Stephen Wise with his father, Eugene. Picture: WISE FAMILYStephen Wise with his father, Eugene. Picture: WISE FAMILY

As well as farming, Mr Wise also worked very closely with Lady Sue Ryder for many years after she established her home in Cavendish for much-traumatised victims of the war.

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He was a lifelong and very active member of Amnesty International, joining shortly after it was founded in 1961 - constantly lobbying presidents and prime ministers to try and secure freedom for prisoners of conscience.

He was a one-time president of the Cavendish branch of the Conservative Party, as well as a key fundraiser and member of the executive for many years.

His abiding passion was football – and Ipswich Town. He started watching the club in the 1940s and became intimately associated with it.

He got to know the Cobbold family, who then owned the club, and Bobby Robson well. He also travelled with the team throughout Europe in its glory years.

His ‘second’ team was Chelsea and he also attended many England matches, including the legendary 1966 World Cup final at Wembley.

Mr Wise died in Devonshire House care home on Saturday, July 4 – the site of the first Sue Ryder home, which he had supported for so many years.

He leaves his daughters Eileen and Deborah, son Robert, and four grandchildren.

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