Flamboyant funeral for well-known formal hire specialist

PUBLISHED: 18:00 27 September 2015

John Field when he retired in 2011, after many years in formal hire fashions. The company carries on, but without him at the helm. Picture: James Bass

John Field when he retired in 2011, after many years in formal hire fashions. The company carries on, but without him at the helm. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

John Field, Gorleston's flamboyant formal hire specialist, is to be given a fitting wedding-style send-off complete with buttonholes, colourful outfits and top hats.

The 71-year-old’s attention to detail and unrivalled personal service ensured that thousands of Norfolk couples tied the knot without a hitch.

His sudden death, seven months after his wife Elizabeth succumbed to cancer, has shocked and devastated family and friends who have been quick to pay tribute and to share their memories on social media.

Daughter Samantha Shorten, who lives in Singapore, said her father had only just returned from three weeks with her and her family and was due to visit them again next month.

He died at home in Gorleston, after the alarm was raised when he missed a doctor’s appointment. He had lived with an on-going heart issue for some time and had struggled with asthma.

Mr Field was the backbone of Gorleston trading in busy Bells Road during its shopping heyday, whose name became synonymous with mens’ suits and formal wear.

Known for his energy and with a reputation for getting things done he was instrumental in setting up the Gorleston cliff top gala with Bruno Peek and was behind themed shopping nights that boosted footfall in the run-up to Christmas.

One of five children he came from a well-known Gorleston family, headed by his publican father Percy who ran the Ship Inn and was also a councillor.

The family ran a guest house in Avondale Road - as did their neighbours - and he went on to marry the girl next door.

It was Mr Field senior who set up the menswear shop that passed to John who added the formal hire element that became his signature.

He and Elizabeth, who gave up teaching to concentrate on the business, made a success of the shop and opened two more branches in Kings Lynn and Norwich.

Today the Norwich shop remains busy in St Benedicts Street, where the couple’s two sons James and Tim will continue with all bookings still firmly in place for the coming season.

Having nursed his wife of 45 years single-handedly in the year before her death, Mr Field continued to embrace life with enthusiasm as he always had, taking great joy in his seven grandchildren.

He recently cut the ribbon on new children’s swings on Gorleston’s cliff top, provided with money raised in memory of his late wife.

The family plan to continue the caring legacy adding more fun apparatus for children, having already raised around £20,000 boosted by a borough council grant.

Mrs Shorten said the family were hugely comforted by the hundreds of messages from people expressing their shock and offering condolences, as well as some amusing tales.

“One of the ways we have coped is because people have been so unbelievably kind and supportive.” Mrs Shorten said.

“Some have told us some lovely stories and we have the swings as a tangible legacy.”

A service for family and close friends will take place at Gorleston crematorium on Wednesday September 30 followed by a fitting, wedding-style tribute for all at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Gorleston, at 10.30am. The wake will be at The Boathouse, in Ormesby.

Around 400 people are expected at the celebration.

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