December 6 will mark 90 years since the death of George Edwards, a Norfolk pioneer for the wellbeing of farm workers who became the MP for South Norfolk. In this piece - which originally appeared in the Fakenham Beacon based on research fro the Fakenham Archive - writer and former Fakenham town mayor Gilly Foortse recalls his life and legacy.

When I moved back with my son to Fakenham in 1988 it was into the second of four houses in a terrace on Queen’s Road overlooking the playing field.

The fourth of those houses bears a plaque to one of Fakenham’s most remarkable men, that is George Edwards OBE.

Fakenham & Wells Times: George Edwards in 1922George Edwards in 1922 (Image: Public domain)READ MORE: Bells to ring out in memory of post-First World War fallen

Although George Edwards was not a Fakenham man by birth, his association with our town is something to be proud of and apart from the plaque he is remembered in a road name and also on our town sign.

Born in Marsham in 1850 into the acute poverty of the time, Edwards at the age of six went to work for a shilling (5 pence) a week scaring crows.

This meant that he never attended school and only learnt to read and write when taught by his wife whom he married in 1872.

Fakenham & Wells Times: George Edwards speaking at East Rudham in 1918 (fourth from left)George Edwards speaking at East Rudham in 1918 (fourth from left) (Image: Library image)READ MORE: New documents set out where 16,500 extra Norfolk homes could be built

Having converted to Primitive Methodism he used the money saved by giving up smoking and drinking to buy books.

Conditions for farm labourers were dire in that era and in 1889 George became secretary of the Norfolk and Norwich Amalgamated Labour Union which sadly folded in 1896.

Ten years later in 1906 George reformed the Union under its new name Eastern Counties Agricultural Labourers and Smallholders Union - wow, did they love long titles in those days - George’s commitment was sincere, he cycled over 6,000 miles in the first year, increasing membership to over 3,000.

In him at last farm labourers finally found a voice. Wensum house in Hempton was acquired as head office to where he moved and then later to the house mentioned above.

By 1920 George was already a veteran local councillor and, in that year, he won a by-election and became an MP representing South Norfolk for Labour.

At nearly 70 one of the oldest ever by-election winners.

In 1922 his book From Crowscaring to Westminster was published and in 1930 he received a knighthood.

He died in 1933 at his home overlooking the playing field for which he had campaigned. His grave is in Queen’s Road Cemetery and is surmounted by a monument to him.

So next time you walk through the cemetery, why not take a moment to pay your respects to this remarkable man.

The grave is easily found as it is at the side of the cemetery closest to his home.