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Obituary: Leigh Webb – ‘wonderful character’ owned Lymington chicken factory Webb’s Country Foods

Leigh Webb
Leigh Webb

THE former owner of Webb’s Country Foods chicken processing factory in Lymington, Leigh Webb, died age 82 on Christmas Eve.

The father-of-three lived for 18 years in a large house, called Tukal, situated on the Beaulieu River.

Leigh took over Webb and Webb Poultry from his father Percy and uncle Charles.

The business was then at Winnall Farm in Winchester, and Leigh went on to expand it hugely, buying up several sites and many chicken farms around the south of England, including the Bridge Road site in Lymington.

At one time it was the town’s largest employer, supplying Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and other large food stores.

Leigh sold the business (by then called Webb's Country Foods) through a management buyout funded by the venture capital firm 3I’s at the end of December 1997.

Leigh was born in Winchester on 30th June 1938 and attended Nethercliff Preparatory School before going on to boarding school in Truro.

After this he studied chemical engineering at Bristol University and went on to work for Distillers Co. and then Esso Fawley, before taking on the very small family business.

“The children of both our families went to the same school,” remembered Carol, Leigh’s wife.

“Our fathers had shops opposite each other during the war. Leigh’s family had a butcher’s and my father had a chemist and opticians on Andover Road.”

Leigh and Carol married in April 1962 and after living in Kent moved to Shawford near Winchester to be near their families and the business. They stayed there for 20 years, very happily when the children were young.

Carol added: “Everyone who knew him would say what a wonderful character he was, always making jokes and teasing the ladies who loved it. He was a loving, family man.

“We have been extremely lucky to have travelled extensively since Leigh sold out, and have made friends all over the world.”

Leigh and Carol enjoyed boating, even managing to get out around the Solent during the past year between lockdowns. They were members of various yacht and sailing clubs in England and New Zealand.

While Leigh was well known for his links with Webb’s and sailing clubs, his charitable work was kept very much under the radar.

Trish Bates, who knew the couple for many years, said he gave generously to many local charities and Beaulieu Abbey Church, Solent Dolphin, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, and the Honeypot Children’s Charity in Blackfield, being a few of them.

He never wanted anyone to know about this.

Neville Caffyn, a former director of Webb’s, said Leigh was a “hard business man but always a fair one”.

He added: “We worked together for 30 years and he was always very kind to me. When I retired he and Carol both gave generously to Shepherds Down School in Compton near Winchester.”

Leigh and Carol moved from the Tukal first to Sway for 13 years and then in March last year to Bishopstoke retirement village near Eastleigh.

They have eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

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