Clifford Foster 1933-2020

Clifford Foster

We regret to report the death of Clifford Foster. He died quietly at home on Friday, October 15, after a brief illness.

This review cannot do justice to his memory and many many people will have their own memories and tales to recall.

Clifford was the guiding spirit behind Adams Stationers in the High Street, printers and sellers of newspapers, greetings cards, homewares and children’s toys and stationery. He could be found most early mornings behind the counter reading a railway magazine, before retiring to his ‘Foreman’s Office’, never too busy to oblige a customer by getting out the scales and weighing a letter or parcel post. He was always ready for a chat with customers, with usually a dry comment or two. Under the counter was a tin of dog biscuits which came out unfailingly at the right moment.

He was a quiet person, modest and benevolent but quite firm in his views. His life revolved around the shop and the Methodist church, where he played the organ on Sundays (and made sure the heating system was working). As a Methodist, he was a practical man and a teetotaller, not given to ceremony or embellishment. He would rise each morning regularly at 4:30am to get ready to receive delivery of the morning’s papers. He held that Sunday is a day of rest, as well for the staff as for the business, and the shop remained closed that day, until more recently, when it now has limited opening hours in response to demand.

Under his management, and with the flair and expertise of his son Ian, the old fashioned letter press printing machines gave way to electronic typesetting and printing, with a wide range of applications. The old machinery is still there in the back room, a veritable museum. The shop too reflects the character of its owner. Around the walls are signs from each railway station platform on the Marshlink line from Ashford to Hastings. If railways were his first hobby with a special interest in track layout and signalling, the English canals and organ-building and repair came close after. His knowledge in all three areas was extensive. He made a collection of signal box instruments from all over the country.

Born in 1933 to Jim Foster and Dorothy Padgham, he attended Rye Grammar School, and was evacuated with the school to Bedford during the war. The food rations apparently left the pupils hungry, because he used to buy a loaf from the bakers on his way to school. On leaving school, he joined his father’s business of printers and stationers. Purchased before the war from John Adams, it moved to its present premises in the High Street in 1959.

Clifford did National Service with the Royal Air Force, learning radar and electronics, but he only flew once, practising circuits and bumps (pilot training in landing and immediately taking off again). Almost the next flight in that plane after he got off ended in a disastrous accident with the aircraft exploding; he never flew again all his life.

After National Service, he rejoined the business. He did not travel much. Apart from friendship with a Belgian family, with exchange of visits, his life centred in Rye. He never got himself involved in local politics, but his knowledge of local affairs was enormous.

To end with a touch of Clifford’s dry humour, some ten days before he died he remarked: “I’m feeling pretty good, I think I’ll live a little longer.” His memory will be held with affection by all who knew him.

Image Credits: courtesy of Adams .


  1. A true gentleman. Will never be able to thank Clifford enough for playing the organ at the Methodist church for our wedding in 2018, it help make the service special for us. I remember going to Sunday school at the church in my childhood, we were regularly trying to catch him out by pressing buttons on the organ, it never worked!! And if we did manage to sneak a press on the keys there was always a stern look followed up quickly by a smirk! My condolences to Cliffords family

  2. I saw Clifford nearly every Sunday in his large green car on his way to play the organ always stopping off at Iden Stores to buy the Sunday papers. It seemed odd that he did this as he must have had dozens back in the shop. He also gave me a guided tour of the organ in Rye Methodist Church. This was a great labour of love for him. He has been a part of Rye so long -I will miss his quiet, sometimes lugubrious look which was at the same time so kind and interested.

    • Adams don’t sell the Sunday papers which is strange as with their higher cover price the newsagents commission would reflect that

  3. Clifford Foster – a legend! As a child growing up in Rye I became aware of him on visits to Adams, where the first floor was an aladdin’s cave of treasures. As a teenager at school, thanks to Clifford, I used to enjoy playing the Wurlitzer which he provided, and so he helped to inspire a shared love of music. After decades away, earning a living in the big, wide world, I retired back to a Rye which had changed in many ways, but Clifford was still there, a constant, benign and reassuring presence, a pillar of the Church and the community. Rye won’t be the same without him.

  4. Lovely man, remember him and his fabulous shop from growing up in Rye. My children also knew the shop well and a visit to Rye was never complete without a visit. Condolences to Ian and the rest of his family.

  5. Clifford welcomed us to Rye over 30 years ago. Always a lovely smile and chat when we shopped in Adams or met in the street. He will be sorely missed by us all. A true gentleman.

  6. Clifford was a stalwart of Rye Methodist Church and Rye Town. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him.
    Condolences to his family.

  7. My condolences to the family at this sad time. Mr Foster, was too young to die. I loved this wonderful shop, with its amazing stationery department, climbing the central staircase with its creaking floorboards, railway signs, lamps and its homely atmosphere; belonging to a much loved and bygone era. Whenever I have travelled to Rye, for over 35 years now, I would visit the shop, drinking in, its atmosphere. The staff, always welcoming and with a smile. I do hope the shop will find a way to continue; a jewel in Rye’s crown, one that shines out like a beacon, amidst the gloom of a fast changing world.

  8. My memory of Clifford he was my boss at adams he could be very mischievous at times adams was my first employment when I moved to rye in October 1968 my pay was approx £3-00 a week my job was downstairs in the glass department still the same now as it was then and the creaky stairs he was a wonderful man to work for.
    Only 2 weeks ago I spoke to him and he still remembered me and we spoke about when I worked for him what a lovely man
    My condolences to Ian and his family

  9. Clifford was a gentleman and I shall miss his friendly face in Adams . He would always make time for you . It is always sad when we hear that special people pass over . I feel privileged to of known Clifford .

  10. As well as being involved with installing the Wurlitzer in what is now Rye College, Clifford enjoyed adding to the organ at the Methodist Church. He was a high-church Methodist in musical taste, and we often enjoyed reviewing the last Choral Evensong on Radio 3, or even better Vespers with plainsong – not a common accompaniment to buying the daily paper!

  11. A few years ago I was invloved with the music for a service at the Methodist Church at which Clifford played the organ. I remarked to him that one of the hymns was ‘happy, clappy,’ to which he replied, ‘Oh,I don’t do ‘clappy,’ I only do ‘happy!’ A typical Clifford riposte! He was a fine organ builder/restorer and performer. He wiil be sadly missed. My condolences to all the family.

  12. A very sad day, he used to visit the signal boxes I used to operate in the 1970s and always appreciated a go at working the place to which he was very good, always had an interest in the railway and when introduced to the then Collectors Corner at Euston ended up buying half of it, will be greatly missed

  13. We have known Cliff for many many years and it has been a great pleasure to have been friends. We would like to thank him for everything he did for us and he will be sadly missed by us all. RIP Clifford.


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