Obituary: Wife of manager and vicar of Norwich dies aged 88

Taking a group of young children on a school trip is often a rewarding experience for any teacher.

But for Margery Ellson, it was a chance for her to beam with pride while caring for the students she taught.

On one such visit to Norwich Market in the 1980s, his ability to teach was boosted when one of his young pupils demonstrated what he had learned.

Shopkeepers in the town reportedly watched in amazement as one of the pupils, aged no more than seven, was quick to point to the “mosaic tiles” on the floor.

Recalling the event, described in colorful detail, Monty Ellson, her husband of 65 years, said: “They couldn’t believe those young kids were using words like that.”

A dedicated teacher: Margery Ellson loved teaching and had a busy career
– Credit: provided by Monty Ellson

And while she was proud of all of her students, she naturally had a soft spot for one in particular – a young man named Jon McGregor.

The Thetford-born novelist and short story writer was the youngest candidate for the Booker Prize with his first novel in 2002. Mrs Ellson first introduced him to reading and writing.

Reverend Monty Ellson added: ‘She taught him at Heartsease First School and taught him to read and value words. He once sent her a note with his book. She really cherished that.

In fact, being a “people person” would be something she carried with her throughout her life.

Margery Prescott was born to parents Albert and Elsie Prescott on 4 May 1933 in Widnes, Chesire, although historically in Lancashire at the time of her birth. Two years later, she welcomes a brother, Norman.

Happy anniversary: ​​Monty and Margery Ellson celebrated their wedding anniversary

Happy anniversary: ​​Monty and Margery Ellson celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were married for 65 years
– Credit: provided by Monty Ellson

She attended Wade Deacon Grammar School and had wanted to go to art college, but was persuaded to read English at the University of Birmingham.

It was a move that led her to meet her future husband, a Birmingham native and also a classmate. The couple met through a theater troupe in 1953.

But her love of art stayed with her, a skill she demonstrated later in life when she painted flowers for her grandchildren.

After graduating in English in 1954, the following year she graduated in education. She began teaching at Castle Bromwich until 1956, the same year she married Reverend Ellson on August 25 in her home town.

Reverend Ellson, from North Walsham, described how their next move would launch a pattern that would cement their relationship as a two-way partnership.

He said: “After we got married, we said we would go anywhere in the country where we would both be offered jobs.

“And it was Norwich Education Community that got us both jobs.

“Throughout our lives, we’ve gone as a couple everywhere we go.”

The couple taught at Lakenham Secondary Modern School, now Hewett Academy, in Norwich. Reverend Ellson taught the boys and Mrs. Ellson the girls. She worked there from 1956 to 1959, leaving before the couple’s first son, Andrew, was born in 1960.

She spent the next 10 years away from education in order to raise the family and gave birth to three more children; Debbie in 1961, Joanne in 1964 and Bridget in 1965.

“She was really the heart of the family,” Mr. Ellson said.

“It’s her role as wife and mother that has always been most important to her.”

When Bridget was four, the family moved to Brentford, Essex. Ms Ellson worked part-time for a year before teaching at Sunnydene, a facility for pregnant schoolgirls, until 1971.

They later moved back to Norwich and Ms Ellson started working at the Norwich Reading Center helping struggling children. She spent five years there before becoming deputy headmistress of Bignold First School, near Wessex Street.

She retired from teaching in 1989, ending her career as Principal of Heartsease First School.

“She loved to teach. She always called herself a teacher and never a director. She loved being with the kids.”

A Vicar's Wife: Margery Ellson

A vicar’s wife: Margery Ellson ‘didn’t expect’ to become a vicar’s wife but she was in her element in the role
– Credit: provided by Monty Ellson

After her retirement, she faced an unexpected turn in her life when Reverend Ellson was ordained.

The couple moved to different parts of the county including Gaywood, King’s Lynn, the Pulhams, South Walsham, Freethorpe, Cromer and Horning where Reverend Ellson worked as a cloth man.

He said: ‘She didn’t expect to be a vicar’s wife, but she has blossomed so much in the role.

“She was so great with all of the parishioners and with all of the people really – universally popular and always saw the best in people. He was a real person and we had a good partnership.

“She loved to entertain and was an excellent hostess. She kept a guest book, a record of all the parties and dinners we’ve had in the past thirty years.

“Not only did she record the names of those in attendance and menu details, but she noted the food and sometimes left comments about the sociability of the gathering.”

Before starting a family, the couple enjoyed being part of the Norwich theater community. They also sailed together for over 40 years and were members of the Yare Valley Sailing Club, and in her spare time Ms Ellson enjoyed doing embroidery.

The couple vacationed in the Greek Isles and visited the Holy Land four times, but they particularly loved Iona on Scotland’s west coast. Their daughter, Debbie – a nun for 19 years – introduced them to the island for the first time before her death in 2005.

Reverend Ellson added, “Our life has just been great. We had great experiences everywhere we went.

Full of smiles: Margery Ellson with her husband Monty enjoying a special meal

Full of smiles: Margery Ellson with her husband Monty enjoying a special meal
– Credit: provided by Monty Ellson

Ms Ellson died on April 5 at the age of 88 after a short illness. His funeral took place at St Benedict’s Church in Horning on 22 April. Besides her husband, children and brother, she leaves behind her grandchildren. A great-grandchild is due to be born this summer.

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