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Diddington has a rare mention in “The Telegraph”- a fine tribute to an elegant lady

* Update November 14th – The Daily Mail online carries a superb article about Joan written by Philip Norman – go to:–utterly-extraordinary-auntie-showed-life-worth-living.html


Todays Daily Telegraph carried a fine tribute to the late Joan Furbank who died aged 92 years  on 30th October. Joan had lived at Diddington for many years until 1993 – and right up until her death was still sharing her great  gift of flower arranging – as the article says, she had given St Laurence Church one of her finest pedestal arrangements this Harvest time. Joan was a lovely elegant lady who will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her. The article also mentions her work during the war with the American Servicemen at Diddington Hospital ( mentioned on paxtonvic August 6th)

The Telegraph tribute:

A leading light in the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS), she gave demonstrations up and down the country, winning numerous awards for her signature “pedestal” displays. A woman of boundless energy and generosity, and always immaculately chic, Joan Furbank delighted in creating floral decorations for friends’ weddings and church Harvest Festivals, clambering up ladders in her high heels to add the finishing touches.

Born Joan Ellen Ellerbeck on September 2 1917 at Hurst Green, Sussex, she was the daughter of a farmer who later prospered as a market gardener at Sandy, in Bedfordshire; he also had interests in haulage and property.

Joan attended Bedford Modern School for Girls. After a course at Sandons School of Hairdressing in Bedford, she started her own salon, called McGregor’s. During the Second World War she carried out voluntary work at a 500-bed hospital for wounded American servicemen at the village of Diddington, in Cambridgeshire; many of the patients had damaged hands and fingers, and Joan often wrote their letters home.

In 1946 she married a farmer, Ken Furbank, and they moved to Manor Farm, Diddington, where she was to live for the next 47 years. Despite the pressures of being a farmer’s wife, Joan Furbank was a tireless worker for good causes. She also had an inexhaustible enthusiasm for racing (she had an account with a bookmaker, but bet modestly), bridge, poker and, above all, entertaining. She was an excellent cook and a generous hostess, and her parties at Diddington were famous.

Her passion for flower-arranging developed in the 1950s, and she became an active member of NAFAS, which was founded in 1959 and now has more than 100,000 members. Joan Furbank, who was entirely self-taught, always insisted that it was unnecessary to spend large amounts of money to produce a stunning display; she emphasised the importance of foliage, to which she would add the appropriate flowers and colours.

In 1967 she won, with one of her famous pedestal arrangements, the award for best exhibit at the annual Royal Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire, and was invited to display in the Royal Pavilion.

Her husband died in 1979, but Joan Furbank remained in their large house at Diddington until 1993, when she moved to a flat in Huntingdon.

Despite suffering bouts of ill health, she remained as energetic as ever at the bridge table, in her entertaining and, of course, flower-arranging. Only a few weeks ago, one of her unmistakable creations adorned the Harvest Festival at St Lawrence’s Church, Diddington.

Joan Furbank, who died on October 30, is survived by her son.


November 6, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. R.I.P Joan, I knew the Furbanks family from the late 40s, I spent my summer holidays in Diddington, staying with my Grandparents, and my Aunt and Uncle , There name was Bull, I knew their son Richard, we spent many an hour on the farm playing in the hay stacks, and in the fields, I last saw him in the 70s I often wondered what became of him, Another pal was David Underwood, wow, anyway Joan, Rest in peace x

    Comment by S.Richard Flatt | November 3, 2015 | Reply

    • Dear Richard

      Many thanks for commenting on the Paxtonvic blog and for your memories of Diddington days.
      I have had a look in the book of Diddington history that was written by Dave Dodman from the village a few years ago.

      David John Underwood is buried in the churchyard 8.1.1975 aged 30 years
      Richard G Furbank – his ashes are in the churchyard 1918-1996. Is that the Richard you played with?

      There is a Joseph Bull mentioned, a woodman in 1931.

      We are still collecting memories of old Diddington so if you would like to e-mail me any more, we would be very grateful.
      Thanks again for the contact
      All good wishes
      Annette Reed
      01480 211048
      Vicar of The Paxtons with Diddington and Southoe

      Comment by paxtonvic | November 15, 2015 | Reply

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