Eccentric owner of historic estate agency dies
The owner of the famous family-run estate agents Field and Sons, on Borough High Street in London – one of the oldest Southwark businesses – has died aged 86.
Duncan Field was the last member of his family to run the estate agency, which was started in 1804.
In 1875, the Field family bought 54 Borough High Street and the business has been based there ever since, despite changing hands in recent years.
Field started working at the agency in 1963 when he was 26. In 1977, he took over the company. Anyone who visited the office would remember its original features – which were reportedly very important to him. “Dad was a huge lover of history and he was all about preserving it,” his daughter, Vanessa, said.
Reminiscing on her father’s fun yet eccentric ways, she told Southwark News that he used to carry a cane “with a sword in it”.
“Once there was a burglar and Dad chased him across the roof of the office and the thief managed to get away, luckily,” she added.
Field carried on his family tradition of also being active in the community and he contributed a lot of his time to the Southwark Chamber of Commerce, organising numerous road show meetings to help startup businesses in the borough, as well as working with United St. George the Martyr Charity and the Surrey Dispensary Charity.
In 1999, Field sold the business but continued to work as a consultant for years after, sharing his wealth of knowledge with the new owners and staff. He retired in 2005.
He continued to live upstairs in a bedsit, having dinner at The Bunch of Grapes pub in the evenings, until 2014 when he moved to Sussex full-time.
Nigel Gouldsmith, director at Field and Sons today, told the press Field was a “tough negotiator” and said the borough had lost “an absolute figurehead”.
“I can remember the first time I walked into his office and it was like stepping back in time,” he said. “There was paperwork everywhere.”
“When Duncan would walk in with his big bushy beard – younger agents might have thought he would be easy to walk over at first but he was the opposite.
“He was the absolute Don of the Southwark market.”
Gouldsmith added that in 2015, the business was briefly sold to Dexters. But then around a year later Nigel and Ben Locke acquired the Field and Sons business back and kept the name.
In light of Field’s passing, Gouldsmith added: “We’re very proud to continue that name – he was very happy that we kept it.”
Simon Hughes, former MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “Duncan was a larger-than-life character, based in one of the historic business buildings in Borough High Street, fount of all knowledge about properties and their history in Bermondsey and Southwark and a great contributor to our Chamber of Commerce and greater respect for our business community.
“I was very grateful for his friendship and robust advice over many decades.”
Field leaves behind his wife, Shirley, his brother, Brian, his sisters, Trisha and Mary, his children Richard, Anyta, Vanessa and Katie, four step-children, Kate, Alex, Buzz, and Gavin, and all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His funeral is to be held on Thursday 25 January, 12pm, Wealden Crematorium. Horam, East Sussex, TN21 OFX. Afterwards at the Wellshurst Golf Club, at BN27 4EE.