The Bamfords' charmed lives – until now

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The Independent Online

Society bible Tatler once ranked Lady Bamford fourth in its list of the world's most-powerful blondes. Her lofty status is not only due to the fact the former air hostess is married to one of Britain's richest men but also because she is the passionate driving force behind Daylesford Organic, "the Harvey Nicks of the Cotswolds" – a must for health-conscious celebrities from Liz Hurley to Kate Moss.

Wealthy, powerful and influential, Sir Anthony Bamford, 63, and his wife's circle of friends include the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Goldsmiths and the Rothschilds, Tony Blair and David Cameron, Joan Collins and Sir David Frost. Sir Anthony, head of the JCB group, is said to have considerable clout in aristocratic, industrial and political circles.

The family's Georgian home and 1,500-acre estate in near Stow-on-the Wold is complimented by a £15m Barbados retreat, a £24m Chelsea bolt-hole and a 3,000-acre property in Staffordshire.

The family's vast wealth is largely due to Sir Anthony's father Joseph Cyril Bamford, who founded the digger business in Rocester, Staffordshire, in 1945. By the time Sir Anthony, then 30, took over as chairman and managing director in 1975, it boasted annual sales of £44m. Under his leadership and entrepreneurial approach it became one of the most valuable private companies in Britain.

Despite a recessionary slide which has seen him slip from 34th to 44th on the Sunday Times Rich List, Sir Anthony still boasts a fortune of £950m. The company website insists: "In every corner of the world you'll find a JCB machine."

His wife, 63, the mother of their three children Joe, Alice, George, has triumphed with Daylesford Organic. With outlets in London as well as Gloucestershire, "Britain's poshest farm shop" sells soups made by Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, fruit and vegetables from the family's estate, cashmere jumpers and yoga mats.

The green lifestyle entrepreneur, whose trips to India inspired her quest for sustainable production, is said to be a perfectionist and a woman of extraordinary drive. In 2006 she was awarded the OBE for her work with children's charities, in particular the NSPCC's Full Stop campaign. But wealth and power has attracted critics, with Sir Anthony, who gave £1m to the Tories before the last election, being accused of using his fortune to garner political and social influence.

Neighbours in Gloucestershire have raised objections to the helicopters ferrying guests about and described the family mansion as "rather Footballers' Wives". Friends insist it is jealousy and call the couple the model of taste and charm.

Lady Bamford's business has gone from strength to strength, multiplying its outlets as it tapped into the middle-class appetite for organic food. While it has endured some controversy, with locals complaining about the increasing traffic caused by customers and a rap on the knuckles from the advertising watchdog when some shot pheasants were used inaccurately in a newspaper advert for organic food, it has a growing number of passionate advocates. One writer enthused: "Calling Daylesford Organic a 'farm shop' is a bit like referring to Karl Lagerfeld as 'a dressmaker'."

The loss of Tony Cripps and yesterday's judgement, however, has left a very dark chapter in its success story.