Obituary: Wife of former owner of heritage railway’s Black Prince dies 

All smiles: Avril Shepherd with her husband, the late David Shepherd

All smiles: Avril Shepherd with her husband, the late David Shepherd - Credit: David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF)

The wife of the late David Shepherd, the previous owner of the beloved locomotive The Black Prince, has died. 

Avril Shepherd has been described as an “extraordinary family matriarch” and praised for her work behind the scenes, including her support of the famous train now housed in north Norfolk.

Paying tribute to Mrs Shepherd, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), thanked her for enabling her husband to achieve much of his success. 

A statement shared on the foundation’s website on April 30 said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Avril Shepherd, wife of the late David Shepherd and extraordinary family matriarch, who enabled much of her husband David’s success as both an artist and conservationist. 

“Avril worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure David’s work, clients and foundation were looked after with grace, kindness, and quiet determination.  

“Avril was a trustee of DSWF for over 12 years between 2003 and 2015. She was a lifelong friend and guiding light to so many of DSWF’s wonderful conservation partners, friends and supporters. 

“Whilst Avril dazzled internationally at prestigious art galleries and events alongside David, she was just as much at home in nature and the wilderness of Africa. She calmly entertained the often wild and wonderful ideas which took her, David, and their family to far-flung corners of the world.  

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“She was a fierce advocate in her own unwavering way for conservation and for all those who fought for the places and species she loved. Many of us remember her for her warm welcomes and generous hospitality as she supported the work of DSWF.”  

Weybourne Station, WeybourneWildlife artist David Shepherd OBE with his steam engine the Black Pri

Weybourne Station acts as the backdrop for wildlife artist David Shepherd OBE with the steam engine, the Black Prince in 2007 - Credit: Archant

The Friends of Black Prince group, which supports the running and maintenance of the British Railway’s standard class 9F number 92203 owned by the North Norfolk Railway, said: “We’re sorry to hear of the death of Avril Shepherd, wife of the late David Shepherd. We send our condolences to the Shepherd family.”  

Friend Ian Crowder added: “When locomotive 92203 Black Prince was based at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, David and Avril visited often and I had the privilege of firing the locomotive with them on the footplate on a few occasions.”  

As well as being a heritage railway enthusiast, Mr Shepherd was a British artist and one of the world's most outspoken conservationists. Despite an adventurous life together, the couple, of Hascombe and Godalming in Surrey, treasured quiet family time above all else. 

Mrs Shepherd leaves behind her four daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who she "inspired to respect and fight for the natural world”.  

Born Richard David Shepherd, Mr Shepherd died on September 19, 2017. Mrs Shepherd died in late April 2022. 

Locomotive The Black Prince pictured in 2007

Locomotive The Black Prince pictured in 2007 - Credit: Archant

Norfolk and The Black Prince  

The Black Prince was built for British Railways in 1959.  

David Shepherd bought the engine in 1967, after a sell-out art exhibition in New York.  

He owned her for just under 50 years, and when the time came the North Norfolk Railway became the new custodians.  

Mr Shepherd first brought his beloved Black Prince to Norfolk more than 15 years ago. He loved the railway and the staff and volunteers loved him.  

He has previously been described by staff at the NNR as "a great man who will forever be credited as one of this country's greatest pioneers of railway preservation”.  

The arrival of the Black Prince was a turning point in the railway's fortunes and with Mr Shepherd’s support and the immense popularity of both him and the engine, visitors came from all over the country to see them.