Key adviser to the RNAA, Peter Smith, has died aged 94.

03/05/24

Obituary - Peter Smith (1929 to 2024)

A key adviser to the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association for almost a quarter of a century, land agent Peter Smith, has died aged 94.

As senior partner of Diss-based T W Gaze & Son, he represented the association in developing its showground estate and neighbouring land.

He succeeded John Gaze, who had retired early but became the RNAA’s show director between 1967 and 1973. Mr Smith headed a long-established firm which, although still firmly based around its farming and livestock market roots, was facing significant change as agriculture evolved and Diss saw rapid expansion.

Over the next three decades, Mr Smith advised the RNAA as it expanded its estate and the area of the showground and woodland. In 1966, a further 33 acres of land was bought from Norfolk County Council and four years later a further 20 acres was acquired. In 1980, 34 acres was bought to expand the then red car park.

He had developed a strong practice around farm tenancy advice and was greatly respected for his professional negotiating skills, especially dealing with landlords.

His wider experience in general rural and valuation work came to the fore as the RNAA negotiated leases with the county council, which unlocked valuable sand and gravel on what was then the Norfolk College of Agriculture (later Easton College). In return for allowing access over its car park to these aggregate deposits, the RNAA earned substantial “toll” or wayleave payments over many years.

Further land was acquired from the college in the following years and he also advised as plans were drawn up for the construction of the Norwich southern bypass. Again, as the nearby golf club was established, and later expanded from nine to 18 holes, he was involving in those subsequent lease negotiations.

Mr Smith had joined TW Gaze in 1956. Born in Bradford in 1929, he went to the city’s grammar school and then completed his National Service and flying training with the Auxiliary Air Force. He qualified as an agricultural auctioneer and valuer and was articled initially with Oswald Lister in north Yorkshire and later in the Midlands.

When he became senior partner in the mid 1960s, the firm had already developed its estate agency business, which was given a boost after Patrick Nicholls joined the firm in 1966. In the 1970s, livestock markets were slowly declining, especially in the increasingly arable eastern counties. Even the Diss Heifer Sale each September – always a highlight in his year – disappeared from the calendar as dairy producers, locally, left the sector.

In the mid-1980s, the firm’s main office moved from Roydon Road to 10, Market Hill and the weekly deadstock, chattel and furniture auctions became a growing part of the business. He retired in 1992 leaving Patrick Nicholls, Alan Smith and Jeffrey Bowles, who had also advised the RNAA on land related issues, as the continuing partners.

In the early part of his retirement, he travelled around East Anglia, for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, tutoring and mentoring young rural surveyors who were setting out to get their professional qualifications. He was a past president of the Norfolk Association of Agricultural Valuers.

An early member of Diss Rugby Football Club, he also served on the former urban district council and attended Diss Round Table. He had moved to Eaton, Norwich but later moved to Coney Weston.

His wife, Liz, predeceased in 2013. He died on Easter Saturday, leaving three children, Simon, Helen and Barbara, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A funeral service was held at St Mary’s Church, Coney Weston, on April 23, 2024.

Editorial Credit – Michael Pollitt

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