Keith Gadd’s farming legacy lives on at Duncton

Keith Gadd pictured on his farm in front of a field of barley
Keith Gadd pictured on his farm in front of a field of barley

Duncton farmer Keith Gadd, part of the dynasty who have farmed in West Sussex for more than 370 years, has died at the age of 73.

“It is a huge sadness and distress to us all that having recovered from the surgery which followed his sudden cancer diagnosis in April, Keith succumbed to a catastrophic reaction to the recommended chemotherapy from which there was no way back,” said his sister Diana Rowsell.

He died in the critical care department of Queen Alexandra’s Hospital at Cosham on July 24.

A memorial service is being held at St Mary’s Church in Petworth, today (Tuesday, August 8).

The Gadd dynasty of West Sussex farmers goes back a long way, there are records of Henry Gadd farming in Westergate in 1642.

In the late 19th century Alfred Eli Gadd moved north of the Downs and settled at Heyshott where he and wife Ada raised four daughters and three sons. Then as a family they moved to Fitzleroi Farm at Fittleworth in the 1930s.

Youngest son Leslie acquired the tenancy of Ridlington Farm, Duncton at Michelmas 1944 and moved there with his Canadian-born wife Sybil and ten-month old son Keith. And so began Keith’s life-long career in farming!

Leslie and Sybil started with a small dairy herd and grew some arable crops. By the time Keith was old enough to help out on the farm the herd had grown and so had the acreage and to Keith’s delight they had a Ferguson tractor which he would drive with various implements behind including the binder bringing in the harvest.

In 1968 Keith married Pamela, his childhood sweetheart, and over the next few years they had daughter Louise and sons James and Andrew.

Also in the early 70s and this is in Keith’s own words “The Leconfield Estate needed to sell land to pay the death duties of John Wyndham, Lord Egremont. It was our great good fortune to buy the farm and be owner-occupiers for the first time. It was an enormous thrill for my dad who had been trying to buy it for more than 20 years!”

As well as being a busy farmer Keith was always involved in local life. He was one of those who worked to establish the new Duncton Village Hall as a successful asset to the village. He served on the parish council for many years, always looking out for the interests of others. He was an active member of the National Farmers Union and followed his dad in being involved in the Petworth and District Ploughing Match Association, organising events, judging classes and winning his share of prizes! With Pam he shared a great love of hiking with a walking group.

Younger son Andrew joined him on the farm just as he had joined his dad but with no stock, less staff and much bigger machinery!

“His legacy at Ridlington Farm will live on through Pam and Andrew. And his pride in the many achievements of James, Louise and granddaughters Georgia and Daisy knew no bounds. God bless him,” said his sister.

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