Tributes paid to former Axminster Carpets boss

The late Simon Dutfield

The late Simon Dutfield - Credit: Archant

Town remembers Simon Dutfield who lived his life with ‘compassion and humour’

Simon Dutfield

Simon Dutfield - Credit: Archant

Axminster Carpets has opened a book of condolence in tribute to former MD and chairman Simon Dutfield, who died from a heart attack on Thursday, aged 69.

Apart from being at the helm of the town’s largest employer at its peak, he was known for his compassion for the town and its people.

Axminster Carpets has opened a book of condolence in the company reception, for all to sign during office hours this week.

Tributes have been pouring in since news of Mr Dutfield’s death broke.

Speaking in his capacity as a member of Axminster Heritage, Dr John Church said: “We had a meeting on Thursday evening and we mentioned the gratitude to Simon for making it possible for Axminster Heritage to buy Thomas Whitty House.

“He was very generous to organisations in the town, there was always a rug or a carpet for a raffle.”

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In a tribute on social media, Axminster Carpets northern sales director Ian McDee wrote: “RIP to this wonderful man who gave me a chance with Axminster 31 years ago and the reason I stayed so long.

“A true inspiration to me and many others.”

Town councillor and former Mayor Mervyn Symes said: “He was a great supporter of the town, be it Christmas lights or supplying carpets.

“It was all sorts of things. For example, he was most instrumental in supplying a mini-bus for Axe Valley Community College.

“He was very supportive of the town.”

Mr Dutfield followed in his father Harry’s footsteps, holding positions of works manager and managing director, taking over the chairmanship of the company when his dad died in 1999.

In that time he built the company from having a turnover of £5 million to £30 million with more than 1,000 staff. But the firm was hit hard by the recession and a slump in carpet manufacturing and went into administration in 2013. A new company emerged to retain Axminster’s long association with carpet manufacturing with the Dutfield family retaining an interest through son Josh, who succeeded his father as MD when Mr Dutfield senior became chairman.

Mr Dutfield gave generous support to many Axminster projects, including the Cloakham Lawn sports centre and the Axminster Heritage Centre.

Whilst an Axminster boy born and bred - he was last baby to be born at Axminster Hospital - the funeral service is being held at Colyton St Andrews Church, due to large expected numbers. The service will start at 11am on Thursday, April 28.

Those who do wish to attend are more than welcome and the family ask that unless people are more comfortable doing so, not to wear suits, ties and formal dress as Simon was not one to enjoy wearing them!

For details of donations please contact J F Clarke and Son on 01297 32686.

Mr Dutfield is survived by his wife Nerys, eight children and seven grandchildren.

SIMON JOHN DUTFIELD: 14/10/1946 to 14/04/2016

Simon John Dutfield, was a beloved grandfather, father, uncle, brother and husband. A character who was larger than life with and with a large heart.

Born in Axminster 1946, to Harry and Bobbie Dutfield. He was one of two children with his sister Sue, growing up at Cloakham House or affectingly known as the ‘Big House.’ School life was not Simon’s major passion in life, going through two schools, Sherborne and Blundells- being expelled from the former for blowing up the greenhouse and the latter for running a bar, known as the Low Low Dive under his room and being the local school bookmaker! This made the national newspapers and was shown to his father whilst he was on a flight to Fiji. The Australian who showed Harry was so impressed he bought everyone on the flight a drink!

Much of his childhood was spent in Portscatho (Cornwall), where he was able to indulge his passion for fishing with crab pots and nets, a passion that he carried with him with him throughout his life.

His career was based around Axminster Carpets ltd, the world famous carpet manufacturer in Axminster, Devon. As Managing Director and latterly Chairman, he oversaw the increasing of production throughout the plants making it one of the worlds largest woven carpet manufacturing facilities from fleece to floor. More than trebling its size during his tenure.

It is at the factory where many will fondly remember him; helping many staff with loans for their first home, first car or simply helping a fellow human being in need. His compassion for the welfare of staff was often to his own detriment, but he simply wanted to help those in need. He considered staff friends rather than employees, and whilst he had many professional achievements to boast of, including being awarded the Royal Warrant (for carpeting Buckingham Palace), the family feel his compassion for staff was what he would most like to be remembered for.

It is well documented that he had an affection for horses....not always a profitable hobby but one which gave him, staff, customers and his wife, Nerys so much joy, fun and happiness.

A man with so many stories ranging from dinner with a Cannibal on a remote and unexplored island off Papua New Guinea to countless stories at work and with friends and family. He truly saw life as something to be lived and enjoyed with compassion and humour.