Warm tributes paid to shop owner who was at his happiest behind the counter
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:48 06 April 2018
The owner of a Beccles business which has been in the town for almost 90 years has died aged 87.
Raymond Bartram, known as Ray, started work in the family business at the age of nine, sweeping the floor at the former Bartram’s Mill in Fen Lane, Beccles.
He left school early at the age of 13 to look after the books at the mill until the 1960s, when he moved to the family shop working alongside his father William Bartram, his brothers and sisters.
Having opened Bartram’s corn and seed, pet and garden retailers in 1929, the business moved to New Market in 1934, where it stood until a tragic fire forced it to close in 2015.
Ray worked until the age of 85, supported by his son Nigel and daughter Gillian, and put his heart and soul into running the shop.
Nigel said: “It was his life and he loved it. He was in the shop every day except Sundays and even at 85-years-old he was still behind the counter weighing out the seed.”
Gillian added: “Lots of people have told me they remember getting their first goldfish from dad and him telling them how to look after it from start to finish.”
His children said he inherited his dedication to the business from his father, and recalled the story he told about paddling to work in a rowing boat in the floods of 1953 in order to continue his role.
And Ray passed his passion onto his own family, with his children, their partners Julie and Robert and his granddaughter Abigail, all working in the shop at one time or another. They said customers would travel from Kessingland and Lowestoft to see him at the shop.
Ray married his late wife Dorothy at St Michael’s Church in Beccles in 1951, a ceremony which was held in his dinner hour as his father wanted him back at the mill.
The pair were married for 65 years before Dorothy passed away in 2015 aged 83.
The Bartram family also ran the town’s weigh bridge and Nigel remembers helping his dad out before school by sweeping the snow off the bridge.
In 1980, Ray started the Bartram Beccles football team, running two teams in the Lowestoft league for 27 years. In 2001/2002, the team won the Suffolk County Sunday Shield, a proud day for Ray and his family.
Nigel said: “He loved football, being part of the town and part of the community.”
Ray was an Ipswich Town fan, enjoying watching games from his armchair at home, and in honour of his team his coffin will be decorated with blue and white flowers.
He attended church at St Michael’s and organised a sponsored walk which ran for about 10 years, raising funds for Christian Aid and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
He also enjoyed attending local town council meetings, and campaigned to get the paths lowered outside local businesses to help wheelchair users.
“He did a lot for the town,” said Nigel.
“He was a very unassuming man, he just enjoyed what he did and got on with it.”
Bartram’s closed after the fire in June 2015, with the family setting up a market stall in the town to sell off the remaining stock.
Ray died peacefully at Gresham Care Home in Gorleston on March 27, after being ill for a month.
He leaves behind his two children, four grandchildren Victoria, Danielle, Abigail and Eloise and four great-grandchildren Courtney, Taylor, Rowan and Olivia.
His funeral service will be held on Thursday, April 19, at St Michael’s Church in Beccles at noon. There will be family flowers only, with donations in aid of The Children’s Society welcomed. Any donations can be dropped off at Rosedale Funeral Home in Hungate, Beccles.
The Bartram family would like to thank all of their customers who have supported them over the years and everyone for the hundreds of messages of condolences they have received.