Bernard Matthews

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Bernard Matthews

Born(1930-01-24)24 January 1930
Brooke, Norfolk, England
Died25 November 2010(2010-11-25) (aged 80)
Great Witchingham Hall, Great Witchingham, Norfolk, England[1]
OccupationPoultry farming
Years active1950–2010
OrganizationBernard Matthews Farms
Spouse(s)Joyce Reid (m. 1952–2010, his death)[2]
Partner(s)Cornelia Elgershuizen
Natalie McCray
Odile Marteyn[2]
Children2 daughters, 3 sons

Bernard Trevor Matthews CVO CBE QSM (24 January 1930 – 25 November 2010) was the founder of Bernard Matthews Farms, a company that is best known for producing turkey meat products.[3]

Early life[edit]

Bernard Trevor 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 Matthews' exam failure reduce the school's pass-rate and so Bernard Matthews left school with no qualifications.[4]


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.[5]

After serving his two-year national service in No. 617 Squadron RAF,[6][7] Matthews became an insurance clerk, 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.[8]

In 1964 he met Nikita Khrushchev to discuss the modernisation of the Soviet 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 Norfolk accent, and becoming part of what has been described as the "national consciousness".[9][10][11]

In 1989 Matthews was awarded the Queen's Service Medal by the Government of New Zealand for services to the New Zealand meat industry.[6] He was later appointed a CVO in the 2006 New Year Honours List, for his service with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, a scheme for which he had also previously been appointed 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.[12] In January 2010, he retired from the position of Chairman of Bernard Matthews Farms at the age of 80.[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952 Matthews married Joyce Reid and he lived with her, in the grounds of Great Witchingham Hall, until the mid-1970's.[13] They adopted three children, Kathleen, Jason and Victoria together.[14] From then onwards they lived apart, and for eight years until the early 1980's Matthews lived with Dutchwoman Cornelia Elgershuizen, with whom he had a son, George Elgershuizen.[2][8][14] He spent the last 20 years of his life with Odile Marteyn, of whom he wrote "Odile has supported me unfailingly for many years and particularly so during my recent illnesses."[14]

Bernard was known for helping projects at Norwich Cathedral, Norwich Hospital, University of East Anglia, True's Yard Museum, Norwich Castle Museum, 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and others across Norfolk.[6]

Matthews was a multi-millionaire with a fortune estimated at over £300m - he owned a villa in St Tropez,[13] a 160-foot (49-metre) superyacht named Bellissima[15][16][17] (sold by the time of his death), a Cessna Citation II private jet,[18] and a Rolls-Royce motor car. He died on 25 November 2010, aged 80.[1] His death resulted in an inheritance dispute which saw his adopted children evicting his life partner, Odile, from the home he had shared with her for the last 20 years of his life, and which he had wished to leave to her.[14][19][20]


  1. ^ a b Meikle, James (26 November 2010). "Bernard Matthews dies aged 80". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Evans, Martin (28 April 2011). "Son from love affair is left in control of Bernard Matthews's £40m turkey empire". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Bernard Matthews: company history". Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 8 February 2007.
  4. ^ Prince, Rosie (31 December 2006). "Bernard Matthews: Life is still bootiful". The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Is Bernard Matthews stuffed?". Belfast Telegraph. 6 February 2007. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Grimmer, Dan (26 November 2010). "Bernard Matthews obituary". Beccles & Bungay Journal. Archived from the original on 11 December 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
  7. ^ Lee, Jeremy (14 February 2007). "Profile: Time to talk turkey, Bernard Matthews chairman, Bernard Matthews". Marketing Magazine. Haymarket Media Group. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  8. ^ a b Blackhurst, Chris (27 December 1992). "Profile: The bootiful dreamer: Bernard Matthews dislikes fame. He wants to be left alone to devise more ideas for turkeys". The Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  9. ^ "Company history: The 80s". Bernard Matthews Farms.
  10. ^ Chittenden, Maurice (4 February 2007). "The 'bootiful' empire takes another hit". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 February 2007.
  11. ^ a b "Norfolk turkey boss Bernard Matthews, 80, retires". BBC News. 24 January 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  12. ^ Sturcke, James (9 February 2007). "Official: H5N1 may be in human food chain". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  13. ^ a b Rainey, Sarah (7 September 2012). "How a bootiful life led to bitterness for Bernard Matthews". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d "Bernard Matthews' villa legacy thwarted by children". BBC News. 6 September 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  15. ^ "The fate of superyacht Lea". 27 May 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  16. ^ "Passion". Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Passion". Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Cessna 550 Citation II, VP-CBM, Bernard Matthews Plc". Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  19. ^ "Bernard Matthews' Will - French law has the final say". Kingsley Napley LLP. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Can a 'bootiful' life turn ugly? Bernard Matthew's case highlights the importance of making intentions clear in your will". Birkett Long LLP. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2021.

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