John Freemantle 1946-2020

John Freemantle joined Prices in 1957 and represented the School in sailing competitions with Portsmouth G. S. and King Edwards.
His wife, Carole has written:

John was unusual in this day and age in that his home for his entire life was either 44 or 46 South Street. He attended Titchfield Primary School and then Price’s Grammar School. After leaving school he worked at Aldermaston the Research Centre and had to sign the Official Secrets Act; he never did tell me exactly what he did! During that time his father, Doug Freemantle, was running the Funeral and Building business which he inherited from his father – Arthur Henry Freemantle – hence AH Freemantle. When Doug had an accident John left Aldermaston to help his father, on the Building side of the business. When I first knew John in 1976 he was involved in the Building firm, occasionally he helped with a funeral, usually by carrying. When his father and mother went on holiday John had to switch to the Funeral side. I think this ability to be able to tackle a very different customer base when planning and executing a funeral and also being able to talk to customers about their extension or whatever work they were planning shows why so many people have been full of praise whether it was John the builder or John the Funeral Director, or just John who helped them at some time or other.

While John was still at Price’s he began sailing quite seriously, in both dinghy and big boat sailing. He had a boat called a Phantom, and won the Phantom World Championship. In big boats he participated in the Fastnet race. John and his father built the current Hill Head Sailing Club and when I first knew him he would be racing a dinghy at weekends, tides permitting, and sometimes there would be an Evening race too. John also built quite a few of his own dinghies and they all started with an ‘S’. I remember Secret and Spirit and there were others.

While John was young the family lived at 44 South Street but when his Grandmother, Mary, died, his Grandfather having died in the war, John, his father and mother, Doug and Pat and John’s two younger brothers moved into 46. No. 44 was then let until about 1976. After that time John helped his father do some renovations and then when John and I married in January 1978 we moved into 44 and it was there that he stayed for the rest of his life and there that our two daughters, Kate and Elizabeth were born. When Doug eventually retired John had to take over the Funeral side of things although he did still keep his hand in with building especially when helping other people in the village. He would think nothing of going out on a Sunday to help someone who had a problem. I remember the night of the Great Storm in 1987 when the telephone never stopped ringing, people who needed help. This of course was in addition to the usual Funeral work.

The time came of course when John had to think of stepping back – he didn’t like the word ‘retiring’. I think he called it ‘Planned Redundancy’. One reason he was able to take a step back was that our elder daughter Kate, had married James Keen and James moved into the business and worked with John to learn the ropes. The building side of things had reduced when John’s youngest brother, Alan, returned home after several years working in Canada and took over the building side until he too retired and it was then that the building side closed. Some people have said that it was odd having such different aspects to a business but In the past it was the builder who made the coffins and they decided if they were making the coffins why not take on the whole service and so they became Undertakers, now called Funeral Directors.

When John was still working he was a member of the Titchfield Bonfire Boys and took on the Presidency for three years which was in the heyday of the Carnival with the village absolutely crowded, people climbing trees to watch, horses in the parade and the most wonderful, huge floats. He was sad when, because of all the Health and Safety provisos the Carnival began to dwindle. John then also became a member of Fareham Meon Rotary Club and was President of that a few years ago. He also enjoyed driving the Titchfield Community Bus for the Lunch Club. Even when John had stepped back from the business he was still looking for other things he could do, most of them involved helping people. When asked how long he’d lived in Titchfield he would always say, ‘All my life, so far’. We did occasionally talk of moving but I knew getting John out of Titchfield was going to be well nigh impossible. I could mention several other projects John undertook purely for his own pleasure, renovating a near derelict cottage in Blandford St. Mary, Dorset and then improving a house we bought in Bourton, Dorset by raising the roof of a single storey part of the house in order to build a new bedroom, ensuite and balcony. This wasn’t work for him but pure pleasure. He began to love Dorset. If he knew of all the tributes that poured in and saw the people lining South Street as his Funeral Bier was pushed up South Street to the Church he would have been amazed. The Victorian Bier was something he had rescued and was then renovated. It’s been used for several funerals of Titchfield residents and it was entirely fitting that John made his final journey to St. Peter’s in that manner.