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Lil Bedford - Obituary

page created DATE; updated Friday, 16 July 2010

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Lil Bedford died on 1st June 2004, aged 89.

The following obituary was first published in "Welney News" issue no.40

Ainse Lille Oxburgh was born in Swaffham on the 15th October 1914. Her parents were Frederick and Catherine Oxburgh, and her name was chosen to commemorate the wartime experiences of one of Frederick's brothers; stationed in Lille during the First World War, he served on a battle cruiser on the Ainse River. ln return for choosing this unusual set of names, Catherine was promised that she would have a brand new pram for her new daughter; so Ainse Lille the little girl became.

Frederick worked on the land, and his family became used to moving house after many a Michaelmas as he was constantly searching for better work and pay to support his family - Lil was the ninth of ten children. Most of Lil's schooldays were spent at Ten Mile Bank, as many of their temporary homes were within a reasonable distance of the school there.

When Lil was in her twenties the family was based at Dairy Houses where Frederick worked for Mott's. At this time Lil met Joseph Lionel Bedford, of Grange Farm in Welney. They were married in 1941 and lived for a while in one of the then council houses on Wisbech Road. Children Pam and Peter were born in 1941 and 1943 respectively; Pam remembers that from a very early age Peter was addressed as 'Peter Pop' and then simply 'Pop'.

The young family moved into Grange Farm when Joseph's mother began to lose her sight. ln 1946 Joseph's father died, followed in 1949 by his mother, and from then on Joseph and Lil took over completely at Grange Farm. This was no easy work, on a farm of more than sixty acres with cattle, sugar beet, wheat, potatoes and other crops, for a young couple who at the time had little money to spare to employ help. But work they did, and their two children beside them; Pam remembers coming home from school with Pop each day and going straight out to work alongside their parents, usually with their tea in picnic basket. One of their more tedious tasks was to help in the butter making; with Pam and Pop on a handle each they would endlessly churn away while their arms ached and they longed for the butter to be ready so that they could get some time off to play.

Despite the monumental task of running the farm with Joseph, Lil found the time and energy to be involved in the community and to be a regular chapel goer. Twice every Sunday she would be at the Methodist Chapel on Main Street, and hers was the job of cleaning the chapel too. Lil found the time to be involved with the WI and also to care for a number of elderly neighbours - on a long-term basis she cooked meals for one or more of them as well as for her own family. She always kept an eye in particular on her near neighbours in the Almshouses and they became like an extension of the family, often visited by Pam and Pop. There was one disastrous Christmas time when the Almshouses were badly damaged by fire, and Pam remembers all the residents sheltering in the farmhouse.

For adults and children alike then, leisure time was a much rarer commodity, and when it came was made the most of. An important holiday in the village was the Chapel Anniversary each June. The children would ride around the village in horse-drawn carts, singing songs, while the adults walked or cycled alongside collecting donations for the Sunday School. On these occasions Lil, as usual, would be found working hard helping to prepare the Anniversary Tea with other village ladies, in Mr Kent's bam opposite Grange Farm.

The years of hard work paid off, and in the heyday of Lil and Joseph, Grange Farm looked very different from today. There were many outbuildings, including a stable for the farm horses, a large barn for rearing calves, and several other buildings in which chickens and pigs were kept. There was a vegetable garden and strawberries, and fruit trees. The farm employed several village men, including Mr Sid Carter and his son Lionel, Dobber Loveday, and a number of seasonal workers at different times. When Pam and Pop left school they both worked full-time on the farm, Pam staying for a short time and then working in various local nurseries before finding steady work with Morris Crouch until her marriage to Terry Roberts in 1974. One of the large buildings on the farm was also used for some years as a workshop by the partnership of Dennis Booth and Roland Singleterry, and later by John Loveday in the early years of his business.

Despite the constant demands of the farm, Pam remembers that the doors were always open for anyone who came to Grange Farm. There were always children coming to play and staying for tea. The many aunts, uncles and cousins often visited, for Lil's home was something of a focal point where members of her large family could get together. And always Lil found the time to think of her neighbours - for instance on Shrove Tuesdays Pam and Pop were kept busy delivering pancakes to all the residents of the Almshouses in turn before the family enjoyed their own.

Life at Grange Farm changed when Joseph retired in 1979, and Pop took over the running of the farm. Only two years later, in 1981, Joseph died. Lil continued as vigorously as before, caring for Pop, the house and her chickens and vegetables, and helping on the land and with the expanding cattle herd. Finally this indomitable woman was brought to bed with Pneumonia in the winter of 1988. She was then eighty-four years old and had never seen a doctor until that time. The doctor left some pills and instructed her children to ensure that Lil got plenty of rest.

Though Lil recovered to some extent, she was also now suffering from heart trouble. Still she continued in her accustomed role until her heart condition deteriorated further and Pam, who had been living in Liitleport with her husband Terry, moved back to Welney in the winter of 2000-2001 to help in the house and on the farm. Lil's health suffered much further with the tragic death of her son Pop in 2001, after which she gradually became more dependent on Pam's care.

Lil lived very quietly in her last months, largely withdrawn from the many roles she had once filled. But when the time came for farewells to be said to Ainse Lille, at St Mary's Church on Thursday 10th June 2004, the church was full of people whose lives she had touched and who will never forget the tirelessness and acceptance with which she carried out the great work that was her life.
Related pages on this website
Grange Farm
Methodist Chapel
Peter "Pop" Bedford
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