Tributes paid to the flamboyant Michael Fanthorpe, former Breckland Council member for Dereham who had a “heart of gold”

PUBLISHED: 16:04 14 April 2017 | UPDATED: 19:33 16 April 2017

Dereham's flamboyant former mayor Michael Fanthorpe. Photo: Bill Smith

Dereham's flamboyant former mayor Michael Fanthorpe. Photo: Bill Smith

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Tributes are flowing today to the “flamboyant” former Mayor of Dereham Michael Fanthorpe, who died aged 84 on Monday.

Michael Fanthorpe when he was mayor of Dereham. Picture: Graham CorneyMichael Fanthorpe when he was mayor of Dereham. Picture: Graham Corney

The former Breckland Council chairman was a charismatic and colourful character, known to light up council meetings with his witty sense of humour.

Known for his passion for his hometown of Dereham, Mr Fanthorpe served as a district council member for the town between 1977 and 2011, representing both the Conservative Party and, from 1997 onwards, the Labour Party.

Always impeccably dressed, the former hairdresser was a popular figure in the town where he served as mayor on three occasions.

Phillip Duigan, the current mayor of Dereham, said: “He was a flamboyant character but he had a heart of gold as well. If somebody was in trouble he always tried to help them out.”

He added: “He could always take a joke. You could have fun with Michael, if you made a joke about him he would always enjoy it.

“I think it is a great loss to the town and we are so short of characters in politics and public life. He is a loss to the colour of the town. He will be missed.”

Born to an established Dereham family on November, 7 1932, Mr Fanthorpe was a highly-regarded hairdresser and owned a shop in Fakenham.

He spent much of his life representing the people of Dereham and was the trustee of two charities - the East Dereham Relief-In-Need Charity and the Leslie Potter Memorial Trust - for more than 30 years.

His wife, Avril, 71, described her husband as a “character”.

She said: “He was a kind and loving husband and father of two daughters. He was a civic man through and through with many interests. He was a character, he was flamboyant and at times outlandish.”

Until recently, Mr Fanthorpe still owned an antiques shop at Cuthbert Court, a centre for retail units which he started.


Former Dereham councillor Robin Goreham was good friend of Michael Fanthorpe, who he has described as a “bit of a legend”.

The 57-year-old said: “He was a larger than life character. It is hard to describe him. He was flamboyant and very charismatic. Underneath I found him a very sensitive and kind person. He was just a lover of life.

“He was very loyal to his friends and did a lot of good for Dereham. He worked tirelessly for the town over the years. He had a lot of respect from across the board.

He added: “Michael was Michael and he could stand up and make a speech and entertain you and make you laugh. He was a very funny man and witty at times. He was a real joy to work with.

“He started life as a conservative but he had a wide-spread appeal across the town because he was a local businessman and what I like to call a raconteur. He was a popular chap and he was much-loved.”

Chairman of Breckland Council Bill Borrett said: “He was passionate about Dereham. I sat with him on the planning committee for a number of years and there was nothing he did not know about Dereham.

“He was funny and he was interested in what was going on. He was also quite opinionated. There was never a dull moment when Michael was there. When he came off the council it was a quieter place.”

Mr Fanthorpe’s funeral will be held at St Nicholas Church, Dereham, on Friday, May 12 at 2.30pm.

He will be buried at the town’s old cemetery before the Wake which will take place at the Trinity Methodist Church hall.

All are welcome and people are asked to dress in bright colours to reflect his personality.

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