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Tom Rolfe

page created 11th October 2010, amended/updated Monday, 11 October 2010

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Based on newspaper cuttings from Mrs Jean Tuson's collection.
Thomas Campbell Rolfe, aged 74, was found dead on Monday 9th February 1987 at his home at 37 Chestnut Avenue, Welney.

Neighbours Keith and Silvia Kent became concerned when they discovered that a light and a TV in his house had been left on all night. When they called they were unable to get a reply and after phoning the local police, Mr Kent broke in and found  the house full of fumes, the glass door of a Parkray fire wide open, and Mr Rolfe slumped dead in an armchair.

Tom was Welney born and bred, and spent his whole working life looking after cattle and horses on 500 acres of the Welney Washes, although in the Wisbech Standard he was referred to as the "last Welney Wash shepherd". His lands had gradually being acquired by the RSPB and WWT, but at the time of his death he still had 17 horses on land at Bedford Bank East.

Mrs Kent said he lived at with his parents at the Cherry Tree pub in Main Street, which they ran. After their death [1961?] he lived in caravans in the village, moving to Chestnut Avenue about 1971. He never married, and his widowed sisted Mrs Ann Malpress lived with him at No. 37 for three years before her death a few years earlier.

At the inquest on 19th February, PC Tom Chapman said he had known Mr Rolfe for 24 years, and he was very independent, keeping himself to himself and having nothing to do with his family who lived in the area.

Mrs Gail Freeman of Wisbech said that she and her husband David visited Mr Rolfe every day to help him with the animals and check his groceries. The day before he was found dead, Mr Rolfe told them of a pain in his knee, apparently the result of being knocked off his bicycle more than a year before. They arranged to take him to a doctor the next day and invited him to spend the night at their home, but he refused.

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, due to carbon monoxide in fumes from the faulty fire.

His funeral took place at St. Mary's Welney on 24th February.

In his will, Mr Rolfe left his horses to Mrs Freeman and cash to Cancer Research.

Tom Rolfe and bike outside the Three Tuns

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