Lucillia Reeve was born in March 1889 and began her working life as a domestic servant. She was committed to self education and with the encouragement of her mother she went on to work her way through agricultural college. This in turn led to her becoming the land agent for Lord Walsingham’s Merton Estate which covered a great tract of Breckland. She was possibly the first women to hold such a post. Her spirit of independence and honesty came to the fore in the wake of the First World War. She campaigned for a proper war memorial for the dead of the area, instead of just a small wall plaque in the local church. She raised the money from the villagers and on Armistice Day 1919 unveiled a fitting memorial to the sacrifice of a generation.

As agriculture declined in the 1930’s tenanted farms on the Merton Estate fell vacant. At her instigation new enterprises were introduced to make use of the land such as large scale rearing of ducklings for the table. In 1935, she noticed an advert. for a Mosley meeting in Swaffham. She decided to attend with the intention of heckling. Although this is how she began the evening, by the time Mosley had explained his case, she was entirely won over. She joined the Blackshirts and by 1937 was adopted as British Union candidate for South West Norfolk.

The following year she took on one of the estate farms. One of her farming methods was to twice plough in the weeds with a covering crop as a cheap way to sustain soil nutrients (surely an early example of “green” farming).

Writing in the Blackshirt she drew attention to the men “clad in corduroy trousers and open necked shirts returning from the harvest fields-who were in fact the unemployed miners and factory workers who should be employed making the farm implements needed to restore the land; and who eat meat from the Argentine and eggs from China, because international finance must flourish. My prayers for myself were stopped by a wave of anger that these things should be, and I vowed anew that never should my labours for British Union slacken until we had a restored British agriculture, and all the men should be employed. We have the land, and we have the men, and we must see to it that something is done”.

In May 1940 her house was surrounded by men with guns. An all day interrogation followed. Despite her campaigning for the Mosley Peace Campaign she was not regarded as a threat to national security. As a result she was allowed home. Her pet dog, to which she was much attached, had been stolen by one of the armed guards, no doubt because he thought, that where she was going she would not need it. In 1941 her land was requisitioned for military manoeuvres, and all her work must have seemed in vain.

After the war she had hoped that all would be returned to her. It was not to be. The government decided to make her home, now the Stanford Battle Area, a permanent fixture. The compensation offered by the War Ministry was that of pre-war values, which were derisory. This was the final straw for Miss Reeves and at the age of 61 she took her own life

Gordon Beckwell

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