Dedicated businessman and award-winning gardener has died

David Cox often opened his garden to the public. Picture: ARCHANT

David Cox often opened his garden to the public. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

One of Huntingdon’s longest-serving businessmen has died at the age of 82.

David Cox had been active in the family outfitter's business James Cox for 65 years - having been born over the High Street shop in 1937 before joining the firm straight from school at the age of 15.

He was so dedicated to the business that his wedding to late wife Pauline had to be held on a Wednesday because it was half day closing in Huntingdon.

The business, believed to be the oldest of its kind in the town still run by its founders, was started in 1893 by Mr Cox's grandfather, James, as Cox County Clothiers and then run by his father Cyril.

Mr Cox's sons, Andrew and Graeme, and daughter, Sarah, have also been involved in the shop over the last four decades.

Former Prime Minister John Major was a regular customer and drew lots for the shop's centenary prize draw in 1993.

David and Pauline were keen gardeners and gradually developed and expanded their garden in Great Stukeley to include two fields, adding a wild flower meadow and a spinney.

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In 1997 the garden was named as one of the top 10 private gardens in the country by Garden News magazine.

For 25 years it opened once a year for the National Garden Scheme, raising more than £20,000 for charity, with enthusiasts occasionally arriving by the coach load.

David's enthusiasm for gardening was boosted by the garden behind the shop, where he had been born in the same room as his father and where both his parents and grandparents lived.

After the severe winter of 1947 there was a rapid thaw which flooded the town centre and led to the 77-year-old James hitching a lift on a lorry to take supplies to the family who were living above the shop, having been cut off by the rising water.

One of his first memories of work was being startled by the huge queue which had formed outside at the start of the sale.

In those days the clothes were kept folded on shelves which lined the walls of the shop, in boxes and in drawers, a traditional layout which was gradually updated to keep up with the times and, in the 1970s, Mr Cox decided to upgrade to higher quality clothing in order to compete with the arrival of cheap national chain stores.

Generations of school students bought their uniforms from the shop.

In the 1980s Pauline joined him in the business, opening a ladies' department.

In 1962 a half-acre plot in Great Stukeley was bought and the family home for David and Pauline was built there. The couple married in February 1963 - another severe winter, during which a path had to be dug to the church door.

The garden at the house was planted over the next five years, setting the scene for what it would become and the children were born there.

David, who had been a keen badminton player, photographer and lifelong football and cricket enthusiast, became an award-winning dahlia grower, taking a large new cup, which Ely had put up on the promise that it would go to the first person to win it three times, in just four years.

After the children left home, David and Pauline were able to put their full attention to developing the garden, adding two fields behind, and changing its layout and style.

After Pauline died in 2002, David learnt to cook, flew for the first time and was able to indulge his passion for new cars.

He is survived by his three children, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

A service to celebrate the lives of David and Pauline took place at St Bartholomew Church, in Great Stukeley, on July 15.