Tributes after death of champion carriage driver who set up world-famous equestrian yard

PUBLISHED: 13:14 01 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:15 02 May 2018

Susan Townsend-Parker. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAWSON

Susan Townsend-Parker. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAWSON

Contact Charlotte Lawson

Tributes have been paid following the death of a champion carriage driver who established a world-famous equestrian yard.

Susan Townsend-Parker. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAWSONSusan Townsend-Parker. Picture: CHARLOTTE LAWSON

Susan Townsend-Parker was one of the first members of the British Driving Society and was a successful carriage driver in her own right, becoming a two-time National Pony Pairs Champion in the 1980s.

She was also the very first winner of the famous Langdon Dowsett Trophy in 1964, which is still presented to champion young drivers at the BDS Annual Show.

But perhaps her most lasting contribution was establishing the world-famous carriage driving yard, Swingletree Stables at Wingfield, near Diss, with her husband John Parker, BDS vice-president.

The pair had a life-long love for carriage driving and shared their passion in a partnership that lasted 50 years.

Susan Townsend-Parker at the London International Horse Show, Olympia 2004

. Picture: KIT HOUGHTONSusan Townsend-Parker at the London International Horse Show, Olympia 2004 . Picture: KIT HOUGHTON

Born on July 24 1943 and brought up in London, Mrs Townsend-Parker started driving with her beloved Welsh Sec. B, Lass, with whom she would trot to shows.

In their early days together, the husband and wife team would work on film sets, instruct at schools and make harnesses to support their growing business.

They achieved a lifetime ambition with they acquired the London-Norwich Royal Mail coach, which was followed by a long-lasting commercial partnership with Norwich Union.

For more than 20 years together with the coach and Hungarian coach horses, they travelled the length and breadth of the country and abroad to take part in events, parades and help raise money for charity.

In between their commercial commitments, the couple found time to compete in horse driving trials and private driving.

“Such was Sue’s tireless attention to detail and drive for perfection that John was rarely beaten in the presentation phase,” friends said.

When Lass retired, Mrs Townsend-Parker would continue to compete in private driving classes with both horses and ponies, achieving success at every level.

She also competed in horse driving trials with her Connemara ponies and twice won the National Pony Pairs Championship.

However she would give up competitive driving when Mr Parker became chairman of the BDS, in order to support his work with the society.

In later years they cut down their travelling commitments and concentrated on teaching and examining from their home at Swingletree.

Occasionally travelling to the USA, they worked closely with the Carriage Association of America to help set up their examination system.

Mrs Townsend-Parker died on March 31 and her funeral took place at St Andrew’s Church, Wingfield on Saturday, April 21.

She is survived by her husband John and sister Meredith.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Diss Mercury. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Diss Mercury