Leading farmer and former Aylsham Show president dies aged 94

Billy Hammond with his rare Ransomes combine harvester

Billy Hammond, a former president of Holt Farmers' Club and the Aylsham Show, has died aged 94. He is pictured with his rare Ransomes combine harvester - Credit: Antony Kelly

Leading north Norfolk farmer Billy Hammond has died peacefully five days before his 95th birthday.

He was president of Holt and District Farmers’ Club for 17 years and was only the second to serve since it was founded in 1948.

He succeeded one of the club’s founders, Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe, in 1993 and stood down in 2011.

George William Hammond was born on July 20, 1926, into a well-known north Norfolk farming family. His uncle, Prof Sir John Hammond, who farmed at Briston, helped to revolutionise livestock farming by pioneering artificial insemination in the 1940s, initially in cattle and then across all the major species in the following decades.

Richard King at the wheel of a 1930s Case tractor, and Billy Hammond on a 1940s Ransomes combine, September 1993

Richard King at the wheel of a 1930s Case tractor, and Billy Hammond on a 1940s Ransomes combine, September 1993 - Credit: Archant Library

When Mr Hammond started farming at Aldborough, near Aylsham, horse power was still supreme and his farm didn’t have electricity.

He kept pigs, sheep and beef cattle for many years which became a significant arable enterprise, Aldborough Farms, now run by his son, Jack and grandson Will.

He built up a significant collection of vintage and veteran farm machinery and tractors, which was used at practical events including the Tunstead Trosh.

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A keen supporter of the Starting Handle Club, he drove some of his vintage tractors, always standing up, including a 1942 Case at ploughing matches.

As club president, he supported Holt’s long-running ploughing match, which was staged until the early 2000s.

Elected president of Aylsham Show for 2005, Mr Hammond recalled that he had not missed the annual event in more than 30 years. He brought machinery to the show including one of his three vintage steam traction engines, which he sold in the early 1990s.

Another rare survivor, an early 1950s Ransomes trailed combine, was given a new lease of life in September 1999 at an impromptu harvesting demonstration with his grandson Will driving the tractor. A great friend, the late Roger Beck, of Brunstead, who was president of Stalham Farmers’ Club, had invited enthusiasts into the 10-acre field to harvest wheat.

Billy Hammond at Stalham vintage combine day in September 1999, with grandson Will driving the tractor

Billy Hammond at Stalham vintage combine day in September 1999, with grandson Will driving the tractor - Credit: Archant library

He was an early member and later chairman of Aylsham Growers for four years, when the group was growing seven crops including peas and beans. For 22 years, he was chairman of the Upper Bure Internal Drainage Board and did a six-year term as chairman of his local rabbit clearance society.

Mr Hammond, who was a member and former chairman of Aldborough and Thurgarton parish council for 12 years, lived at Manor Farm – almost opposite the village green.

It enabled him to support another love of his life, Aldborough Cricket Club. He was a former chairman and later president. In 2005, he hosted a special match, and stood at the wicket as an umpire when his Show President’s XI played the home team.

A stalwart member of Holt Farmers’ Club, he attended almost every meeting possible. His presidential address, which became a feature at the first autumn meeting, was not to be missed. Delivered with humour, it was a good summary of the farming year with some topical and retrospective insights and some historical background.

Billy Hammond (right) with Nick Steed at Holt Farmers’ Sixth Form Student Day at Hall Farm, Wickmere

Billy Hammond (right) with Nick Steed at Holt Farmers’ Sixth Form Student Day at Hall Farm, Wickmere, where students from schools and colleges across Norfolk learned about farming, food and the environment - Credit: Archant library

When Holt Farmers’ started the Norfolk Sixth Form Students’ Day in 1998, which enabled dozens of schools and colleges across the county to learn about food, farming and the countryside, he was always to the fore.

Again, when Aylsham Agricultural Show Association launched the Norfolk County Farm Business competition in 1978, he encouraged fellow farmers to take part in what has grown to become the premier farming award.

He was a keen golfer and a very good hand at bridge.

Mr Hammond, who married Anne in 1952, was a farmer’s farmer, who took enormous pride in helping to feed the nation. From the days of farming’s recession in the 1930s, through 14 years of food rationing to July 1954, he saw massive changes during his lifetime from the horse and cart to a combine able to cut almost 40ft.

His wife Anne predeceased in 2011, and he leaves three children - son John, daughters Susan and Jane, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Mary's, Aldborough parish church, on Wednesday, August 4 at 2.30pm.

Billy Hammond, president of Holt Farmers’ Club, driving his 1942 Case tractor at Tunstead Trosh

Billy Hammond, president of Holt Farmers’ Club, driving his 1942 Case tractor at Tunstead Trosh - Credit: Archant library


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