David Norfolk

DAVID NORFOLK, former headmaster of Ashville College, Harrogate, has died after a long illness, aged 82.

As one of the country's youngest independent school headmasters, the 33-year-old embarked in 1960 on a 27-year journey which reshaped the fabric of two leading Methodist schools: first Kent College, Canterbury, and then, from 1977-1987, Ashville.

He led both single-sex boarding schools at a time when their financial stability was threatened by the Labour Government's destruction of direct-grant education.

At each, Mr Norfolk's controversial decision to admit girls laid the foundation for survival and future prosperity. At Ashville, he also introduced the now-flourishing junior school.

It was a strong, modern educational vision, underpinned by age-old Christian values and supported by the staff he appointed to help him steer both schools along a path to economic and academic success.

The future public-school headmaster had a tough but loving upbringing in the East End of London. As a young teenager, he was evacuated during the Second World War, finally arriving in the sixth form at Harrogate Grammar School.

There, he met, fell in love with and – in 1947, when both were aged 20 – married Olive Bellerby, a farmer's daughter from Killinghall.

By then a junior officer in the Royal Navy, he later read Modern Languages at Magdalen College, Oxford, and taught at Truro School and Malvern College before gaining his first headship.

Throughout his career, Mr Norfolk preached the virtues of a rounded education. Academic excellence was always the goal, but music, drama and sport played major roles at all his schools.

He was a talented all-round sportsman, excelling at cricket and football – he played for the Oxford University 1st XI and in the FA Cup – before turning in his later years to the golf course. He remained to his death a passionate – and generally disappointed – Tottenham Hotspur fan.

Retirement brought a move to Scarborough and then, 12 years ago, to Kirby Hill, near Boroughbridge. He died peacefully at home, 16 months after the loss of his beloved wife ended their 60-year marriage.

Mr Norfolk, a Methodist local preacher for 50 years, is survived by four children, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Wesley Methodist Church, Harrogate, at 2.30pm on Monday.

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