Bernard Matthews

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Bernard Matthews
Born Bernard Trevor Matthews
(1930-01-24)24 January 1930
Brooke, Norfolk, England
Died 25 November 2010(2010-11-25) (aged 80)
Residence Great Witchingham
Nationality English
Occupation Poultry farming
Years active 1950–2010
Organization Bernard Matthews Farms
Net worth £40 million[1]
Spouse(s) Joyce Reid (m. 1952–2010, his death)[1]
Partner(s) Cornelia Elgershuizen
Natalie McCray
Odile Marteyn[1]
Children 2 daughters, 2 sons

Bernard Trevor Matthews CVO CBE (24 January 1930 – 25 November 2010) was the founder of Bernard Matthews Farms Limited, a company that is best known for farming turkeys and producing turkey products.[2]

Early life[edit]

Bernard Matthews was born in 1930 in Brooke, Norfolk, the son of a car mechanic and his housekeeper wife. Skilled at mathematics, he won a scholarship to the City of Norwich School, but found it difficult to settle. As a result of this, he failed his exams. The headmaster refused to let Bernard Matthews' exam failure reduce the school's pass-rate and so Bernard Matthews left school with no qualifications.[3]


Matthews worked as a trainee livestock auctioneer at Waters & Son between 1946 and 1948. During an auction at Acle market, he saw 20 freshly laid turkey eggs for sale, which he bought for a shilling each, and then acquired the same day a paraffin-oil incubator, which he bought for £1 10s. The venture to raise them in his future mother-in-law's back garden didn't pay off, as he had not calculated for the additional cost of feed for the birds.[4]

After serving his two-year National service in the Royal Air Force,[5] Matthews became an insurance clerk to earn an income, and started his company in 1950, buying more turkeys. He was only able to join the business full-time after spending £3,000 buying the dilapidated Great Witchingham Hall and filling its 35 rooms with turkeys. While Matthews and his wife lived in two unheated rooms, turkeys were hatched in the dining-room, reared in the Jacobean bedrooms and slaughtered in the kitchens.[6]

In 1964 he met Nikita Khrushchev to discuss the modernisation of the Russian poultry industry. In 1980 the company launched its first TV commercial featuring Turkey Breast Roast, with Matthews himself introducing the famous "Bootiful" catchphrase in his thick Norfolk accent, and becoming part of what has been described as the "national consciousness".[7][8]

Matthews was appointed a CVO in the New Year's Honours List December 2006, for his service with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, a scheme for which he had also previously been awarded a CBE. However, in view of the H5N1 outbreak in late January 2007 at his Holton, Suffolk, plant, Matthews asked for the investiture on 9 February 2007, at which he had been due to receive the CVO, to be postponed.[9] In January 2010, he retired from the position of Chairman of Bernard Matthews Ltd at the age of 80.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Matthews married Joyce Reid in 1952 with whom he adopted three children Kathleen, Jason and Victoria[11] but by 1990 the couple were living apart. Matthews also had a son, Frederick Elgershuizen, by Dutchwoman[6] Cornelia Elgershuizen (died 2004), whom he lived with for eight-years from when he split from his wife in the mid 1970s until the early 1980s.[1] Both Matthews and his wife lived in the grounds of Great Witchingham Hall, and had a villa in St Tropez.[citation needed]

Bernard was known for helping projects at Norwich Cathedral, Norwich Hospital, University of East Anglia, True's Yard Museum, Norwich Castle Museum, USAAF Memorial Library and others across Norfolk.[12]

Matthews was a multi-millionaire with a fortune estimated at over £300m. His possessions included a motor yacht (sold by the time of his death), a Cessna 550 Citation II private jet,[13] and a Rolls-Royce motor car. He died on 25 November 2010, aged 80.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Son from love affair is left in control of Bernard Matthews' £40m turkey empire
  2. ^ "Bernard Matthews: company history". Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2007. 
  3. ^ Prince, Rose (31 December 2006). "Bernard Matthews: Life is still bootiful". The Independent (London). Retrieved 3 February 2007. 
  4. ^ "Is Bernard Matthews stuffed?". Belfast Telegraph. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Lee, Jeremy (14 February 2007). "Profile: Time to talk turkey, Bernard Matthews chairman, Bernard Matthews". Marketing Magazine (Haymarket). Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Profile: The bootiful dreamer: Bernard Matthews dislikes fame. He wants to be left alone to devise more ideas for turkeys. Chris Blackhurst reports". The Independent. 27 December 1992. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "Company history: The 80s". Bernard Matthews. 
  8. ^ Chittenden, Maurice (4 February 2007). "The 'bootiful' empire takes another hit". London: The Times. Retrieved 9 February 2007. 
  9. ^ "Official: H5N1 may be in human food chain", James Sturcke, Guardian Unlimited, 9 February 2007.
  10. ^ "Turkey boss Matthews, 80, retires". BBC News. 24 January 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Daily Mail news article Retrieved 28 November 2010
  12. ^ Local obituary Retrieved 2 December 2010
  13. ^ "Cessna 550 Citation II, VP-CBM, Bernard Matthews Plc". Retrieved 26 November 2010. 

External links[edit]