Diana Wrightson – Farewell and thanks to a coastal heroine

Taken from the 4 January 2013 edition of the Eastern Daily Press – written by Ed Foss:

Farewell and thanks to a coastal heroine

An unlikely but highly effective campaigner and eventual media personality, Di Wrightson has died aged 81.

In other circumstances Miss Wrightson would have enjoyed her 70s peacefully, running her Beach Road guest house in Happisburgh and playing a busy community role in the village. But instead Cliff House and its occupants were to become synonymous with the battle against coastal erosion and the campaign for financial recompense for those faced with losing their homes to the North Sea.

Regional, national and international television reporters, broadcasters and newspaper journalists were to become regular callers at the guest house, where Miss Wrightson became the human face of a worldwide story. Dutch, German, French and Japanese media were among those who came to see her. All received warm hospitality from the team at Cliff House, which was run by Miss Wrightson and her business partner Jill.

After many years there was significant success for the coastal campaign in the form of a ‘pathfinder’ project, one aspect of which featured the provision of government cash to buy back several threatened houses on Beach Road, including Cliff House, at a percentage of their value.

Without Miss Wrightson’s efforts and those of fellow members of the Happisburgh based Coastal Concern Action Group, the same results would never have been achieved.

And during these years of campaigning, it was Miss Wrightson’s generosity, determination and dignified manner which continued to draw people to speak to her about the subject.

Born in Hertfordshire, Miss Wrightson had a lifelong knowledge of Happisburgh which started as a young visitor to an aunt’s house.

She worked for the NFU in London and as a teacher, rising to be deputy head. Later she moved to her first house in Happisburgh, slightly inland, before taking on Cliff House around 1970.

Miss Wrightson also played a crucial role with the Friends of Happisburgh Lighthouse, some of the time as chairman, meeting on separate occasions both the late Queen Mother and the Princess Royal when they visited the iconic candy striped building. She was also the driving force behind the Happisburgh Singers.

Along the way Cliff House has provided employment to scores of young Happisburgh people making their way into the world of work with a part time job, helping create their work ethos and a sense of pride in earning their own way.

Miss Wrightson has a younger sister who survives her.

A service of remembrance to celebrate what Miss Wrightson referred to in her papers as “a very happy life” will be held in St Mary’s Church, Happisburgh, on January 23 at 1pm. She asked those attending not to wear black.