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Location, Location, Location host Phil Spencer and siblings remember parents David and Anne Spencer who died in Littlebourne accident

The family of a much-loved and respected couple who died in a tragic accident on their Kent farm say they have been overwhelmed by the kindness and support of well-wishers.

David and Anne Spencer - parents to television property show host Phil Spencer - were in a car that toppled off a narrow bridge into a stream on the access road to their home in Littlebourne, near Canterbury, on Friday.

Beloved parents David and Anne Spencer died when their car toppled off a bridge
Beloved parents David and Anne Spencer died when their car toppled off a bridge

The Toyota Hybrid C-HR overturned into the water and, despite valiant efforts by their other son Robert to free them, the grandparents of eight could not be saved.

Phil later said on Instagram the pair “would have held hands under the water and quietly slipped away”.

Speaking to KentOnline from his parents’ farmhouse, the Location, Location, Location presenter, 53, and his three his siblings say they have been overwhelmed by messages of sympathy and support.

The TV personality, alongside brother Robert, 56, and sisters Caryn, 51, and Helen, 48, also remembered the idyllic upbringing their parents provided, and the couple’s many passions and contributions to the community.

In recent years, David, 89, had been impaired by dementia and Anne, 82, was suffering with mild Parkinson’s disease, but both continued to enjoy life at Upper Garrington Farm, which had been their home for almost 60 years.

TV presenter Phil Spencer pictured with his mum, Anne, who was a keen horse rider and school governor. Pic: Twitter
TV presenter Phil Spencer pictured with his mum, Anne, who was a keen horse rider and school governor. Pic: Twitter

David and Anne first met at a New Year's Eve party in Canterbury in the early 1960s.

He was the son of a bank manager who studied engineering at Loughborough University, where he also excelled at hockey, and she was the daughter of a GP and a teacher at Waltham Primary School.

After a spell in finance in London, David followed his heart and bought Lower Garrington Farm.

“It was a step into the unknown for him,” Helen said.

“The farmhouse was a bit of a state back then but Dad apparently showed it to Mum before asking her to marry him.

“It clearly didn’t put her off and they were married at Canterbury Cathedral on November 4, 1964.”

And so began their varied and productive life, both off and on the farm, while raising their four children in a setting redolent of the picturesque TV show, The Darling Buds of May.

Robert, who took over running the farm when his father retired, said: “It was a mixed farm back then with a bit of everything going on, so Dad had very little downtime and was grateful for all the help he got from fellow farmers when he was starting out.

“His passion was growing hops and he was very sad to have to give that up in the 90s because it was no longer viable.

“But he was also passionate about wildlife, especially birds. It was something he had been inspired by ever since a teenager.

“He even went to Iceland with the British Schools Expedition Society. So quite large areas of the farm were left natural to do their own thing.

“His engineering skill also came in very useful around the farm, not only for fixing machinery but in also in designing and creating outbuildings.

David and Anne loved their life on their farm in Littlebourne
David and Anne loved their life on their farm in Littlebourne

“He also continued his enthusiasm for hockey and was vice-president of Canterbury.”

Robert says his parents loved life on the farm, and while his mum had her hands full with four children, she still found time to bake a cake every day.

He went on: “They gave us an idyllic life as kids growing up on the farm. They would have never left the farmhouse, which will always be the hub of the family.”

Younger brother Phil, speaking of the response to the tragedy, said: “We cannot thank everyone enough for their kind words and thoughts about our parents at this difficult time.”

Both David and Anne were dedicated supporters of St Vincent’s Church in Littlebourne, where she was a member of the parochial church council and he a sidesman.

Elsewhere in the village, David was president of Littlebourne Scouts and provided camping opportunities for youngsters on the farm.

Anne’s passion was riding horses – something she had only very recently given up following a fall.

But for many years she was a member of the East Kent Hunt and a volunteer for the Cobbes Meadow Riding for the Disabled Group at Chartham.

Group trustee Catherine McCulley says Anne joined the charity in the 1970s when the stables were at Waltham.

“She was a hugely popular instructor of our disabled children; a perfectionist who was always cheerful and smiling,” she said.

The couple on their wedding day in 1964
The couple on their wedding day in 1964

“When the group found a new permanent home in Chartham and Princess Anne came to open the centre in 1984, she helped to organise the riding displays for the event.”

With her background in education, Anne also became a governor at Littlebourne Primary and then Northbourne School before stepping down in 2015.

She also had a love of singing and was a member of Canterbury Choral Society for more than 30 years.

David’s best friend, Stephen Twyman, who was his best man and runs the farm next to Lower Garrington, said: “I have known David since we were boys and he was just a lovely man, quiet and considerate.

“I shall miss seeing him about the place and our many chats about everything. Like everyone who knew them, I am in just complete shock and sadness.”

David was a regular at the Haywain pub at Bramling, where the couple had booked a table for lunch on Friday.

“We were a bit surprised when they didn’t arrive or call us, which was unusual,” said landlord Kevin Costello.

“It was actually a member of staff who heard what had happened the following day and we were all totally shocked.

“David used to come in at least once a week. He was a very nice man and would order a pint of real ale and something to eat.

“He kept himself to himself and would just sit in the corner and read his paper.

The tragic accident occurred on Garrington Farm in Littlebourne, near Canterbury. Pic: Google
The tragic accident occurred on Garrington Farm in Littlebourne, near Canterbury. Pic: Google

“A lot of customers knew him and it’s an absolute tragedy. We shall certainly be raising a glass to them in their memory.”

On the day of the tragedy, the devoted pair had just left the farmhouse shortly after 12.30pm, with Anne intending to drive them to the Haywain pub.

But she is believed to have misjudged a narrow bridge across a stream on the access road to the farm – a crossing she would have made countless times – which led to the vehicle toppling over into the water

A carer who was travelling in the back managed to escape unharmed.

Emergency services attended the scene and police have referred the deaths to the coroner, who is expected to open an inquest in due course.

The family is planning a private funeral service at St Vincent’s but will also hold a celebration-of-life gathering where the Spencers can be remembered by their many friends and associates.

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