The man who steered the Suffolk Show during the 1980s and early 90s - and who hosted Princess Diana at the event in 1986 - has died at the age of 90.

East Anglian Daily Times: John and Margaret Hargreaves in the garden of their Suffolk home.John and Margaret Hargreaves in the garden of their Suffolk home. (Image: Hargreaves family)

John Hargreaves became secretary of the Suffolk Agricultural Society in 1983 and retired after the 1994 Suffolk Show.

The secretary of the association is the top administrator in the organisation - and running the show is the main job of the year.

When Mr Hargreaves took over as secretary the show attracted average attendances of 63,000 over its two days.

His last show attracted a two-day attendance of 93,000 - and the visit of the Princess of Wales attracted the largest single-day attendance in its history.

East Anglian Daily Times: The visit of the Princess of Wales to the Suffolk Show in 1986 brought out the biggest crowd in its history.The visit of the Princess of Wales to the Suffolk Show in 1986 brought out the biggest crowd in its history. (Image: Archant)

The visit of the Princess was highly successful and she received so many gifts from visitors that she was unable to fit them into the Royal helicopter, and Mr Hargreaves ans his wife Margaret were asked to drive them down to London to deliver them to her office.

During his period as secretary hr transformed the fortunes of the Suffolk Agricultural Society. It sold some land for development in a deal that secured its financial future and allowed the development of the showground itself - which eventually became Trinity Park.

Shortly before he retired, the then Environment Secretary John Gummer asked Mr Hargreaves to organise a special show to promote agriculture and rural life at his home near Debenham during a visit of European farm ministers.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mr Hargreaves showed the then Prince of Wales Suffolk Horses during a visit to Debenham in 1994.Mr Hargreaves showed the then Prince of Wales Suffolk Horses during a visit to Debenham in 1994. (Image: Archant)

The then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, was the guest of honour at the show where Mr Hargreaves introduced him to a parade of Suffolk Punch horses and Red Poll cattle.

A Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Mr Hargreaves was a co-founder of Suffolk’s Top Attraction Group, past-chairman of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations, past-secretary of the Suffolk Grassland Study Grouppast, past-secretary of the Deben Farm Club and past-president of the Framlingham Horse Show.

He was also a leading figure in the Suffolk Horse Society.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Hargreaves was also a leading Freemason.John Hargreaves was also a leading Freemason. (Image: Hargreaves family)

Mr Hargreaves' grandson Ben Goldsmith said he would also be fondly remembered for his accomplishments in Freemasonry.

He said: "His proudest Masonic achievement came from his charitable work - serving as a trustee of the East Anglian Mark benevolent Fund and on the Board of the New Masonic Samaritan Fund.

"The latter is one of the largest charitable organisations in the country, providing specialist medical treatments for adults and children across the world where governments are unable to provide the specialist care needed and which has also supplied many ambulances in Suffolk today."

The show director for Mr Hargreaves' last as secretary in 1994 was local farmer David Barker, who was this year's president of the Suffolk Show.

He said: "John was secretary to the Suffolk Agricultural Association and organised 12 shows from 1983 to 1994.

"The 1994 show was my first and we paid full tribute to the remarkable role he had played in taking the Suffolk Show to new heights. 

"The sale of part of the Ipswich car park around 1987 helped transform the finances and enabled significant investment in the show and facilities which John oversaw."

He added: "After John retired I continued to seek his advice and we have kept in close contact these past 28 years, it was a great pleasure for John and Margaret to join me for the President's Lunch on the first day of the 2022 show."

Mr Hargreaves is survived by his widow Margaret - they were married for 64 years. They had two daughters: Susan, who pre-deceased him, and Sarah. He also leaves four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with a fourth on the way.