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28 August, 2013

Norwich civic leader known as the ‘Lord Mayor with the drill’

This article was written by Michal Pollitt for the Eastern Daily Press, Norfolk, 21 August 2013.

A former Lord Mayor of Norwich, George Richards, who has died peacefully aged 87, took part in an historic gathering of the country’s civic leaders – the first for 800 years.

(Photo: Arthur Strong)
(Photo: Arthur Strong)
He was one of 25 Lord Mayors invited to London by Sir Anthony Jolliffe in 1982 to attend the swearing-in and take part in a procession of horse-drawn carriages, five of which were lent by the Queen. It was 'the first time in 800 years that all the Lord Mayors in the kingdom will have come together for such an event'.

Mr Richards, who had travelled in a coach owned by Queen Victoria, had been elected in 1963 for the Eaton ward. He was sheriff of Norwich in 1971 and was also senior partner of the city’s long-established dental practice. Five years later, he became leader of the Conservative group in succession to Jessie Griffiths, who had been Lord Mayor in 1969.
When elected as Lord Mayor in May 1982, he was to carry out more than 500 official engagements during his year of office. He was also probably the first dentist to serve as Lord Mayor since 1909, when a new charter had been granted; a dentist had been Mayor for two years from 1849.

While visiting the new Crown Point train depot, he mentioned that he would like to travel on the footplate. He became only the city’s third Lord Mayor to be granted the privilege of riding on the footplate between Norwich and the capital. British Rail fixed it for him and train driver Terry Wones took the 8am out of Thorpe station with Mr Richards and his wife, Mollie, in the cab.

He also went offshore and exchanged his robes of office for an orange survival suit for a helicopter flight to the Delta gas platform in the Leman field in the North Sea, which supplied four per cent of Britain’s gas.

Born in Gravesend and educated at the county grammar school, the 14-year-old was one of more than 1,000 children who were evacuated in 1939 to Beccles to escape the Luftwaffe raids on London. Later, he returned to study at Guy’s Hospital Dental School. His two years’ national service was spent as dental officer with the Royal Air Force in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

A registrar in oral surgery, while studying as a post-graduate, he met Mollie Horder who was training as a doctor at the nearby Royal Free Hospital. They moved to Norwich in 1951, shortly after their marriage, when he joined a practice at St Mary’s Croft, Chapelfield.

Elected to the city council, he served on many committees including welfare and was chairman of the health committee and social services before local government re-organisation. A governor of Hewett School and an active church member, in 1972 he and his wife spent a month in India as guests of the Moral Rearmament Movement.

He had been made a Freeman of the City of London in 1984, partly for his support of the Livery Club, whose origins go back to the 12th century.

In 1994, he wrote a history of his dental practice, and was known as 'The Lord Mayor with the drill.' The booklet, Lasting Impressions, the history of a dental practice 1843 to 1993, revealed that its original premises had been at St Tuck’s Court, St Giles’ – demolished to make way for the new City Hall.

He had been a former secretary to the Norfolk & Norwich section of the British Dental Association. A collector of dental artefacts, he even had a tool for rolling out gold sovereigns to make plates for dentures.

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