It is with deep sadness that we have to report the death of Alan Smith, former Senior Partner at TW Gaze, following a very short illness.

Alan was born and educated in Spalding, Lincolnshire and joined TW Gaze as a Chartered Surveyor in July 1970, just three days before marrying Carole. He began in the Rural Department and was made a Partner in the late 1970’s. As time went by, he took to the rostrum and became increasingly involved with chattels. Eventually his passion and enthusiasm for art, antiques and collectables, estate valuation work and the thrill of auctions, led him to become fully immersed in the direct management and running of the auctions department, until by the 1990s he was the Partner based full-time at Diss Auction Rooms.

Alan was single-minded, focussed, and driven. TW Gaze auctioneers had already been well-established in the town for over a century, but Alan led the development of Diss Auction Rooms with great energy until it was at the forefront of the profession in the East of England; he ensured that the name of TW Gaze was renowned throughout the UK and beyond for holding a full calendar of exciting sales each year, and for providing a high-quality, good value service for buyers and sellers, near and far. Alan was also creative and forward thinking: he redesigned the presentation of lots during a modernisation of the expansive salerooms and embraced advancements in the methods of working within the industry to ensure a successful transition to computerisation. This included commissioning a bespoke auction website for the department before such concepts were commonplace within auction houses. He began to build specialist sales, such as Architectural Salvage and Rural Bygones, which have since been some of the biggest in the country. H also helped the Norfolk Constabulary pioneer an auction due diligence policy which was later rolled out nation-wide and he linked closely with Norfolk Trading Standards for mutual understanding of auction nuances and the upholding of legal safe-guarding requirements.

Over his years of service Alan became a respected leading light within the Rural profession and he was a well-known figure throughout East Anglia. He was convivial and charming, very much a “people person” and ultimately, the auction environment suited him perfectly. This is probably where many people will remember him. He became a distinctive, recognisable figurehead of the firm, welcoming visitors to the auction ground with his warm smile and engaging them in animated conversation. Likewise, he entertained and enlightened a wider audience via his many appearances as auctioneer and valuer on antiques programmes for both ITV and BBC television, including “Flog It!” and “Bargain Hunt”. Alan’s infectious love for objects meant he was a popular public speaker in Norfolk and Suffolk, and he was very generous in sharing his knowledge on many subjects and providing access to interesting pieces from his eclectic collection, which he took along to illustrate his talks. Among his personal favourite subjects were clocks, Staffordshire figures and music boxes.

Alan retired from TW Gaze in 2006, at which point he became very busy indeed. He and his wife Carole, long-term residents of the village of Hoxne, had always spent much of their spare time designing and tending their large and exquisite garden. It represented teamwork and a labour of love, which again, they generously gave access to for visiting admirers during National Open Gardens as well as on many other occasions. In this ever-evolving horticultural haven were plentiful examples of Alan’s creative imagination and first-hand evidence of his practical design and engineering skills, including architectural follies and unique water features. Retirement gave scope for Alan to apply these artistic aptitudes to his burgeoning interest in mechanical music and fairground organs. If owning more than one of anything constitutes a collection, then Alan soon began a modest collection of fairground organs: he lavished time and energy on them, restoring, exhibiting, and touring with them. He returned annually to accompany late night pre-Christmas auction viewings with carols played from one of his prized machines which was adorned with mechanical figures and illuminated in bright lights, and this became a popular and much-appreciated festive spectacle. Post-retirement, Alan co-founded the Diss Organ Festival which attracts participants and enthusiasts from around the globe, and he served as chairman of the Mechanical Organ Owners Society.

Alan also turned his attention to designing a retirement house for Carole and himself to enjoy, and, practical and hands-on as always, he helped build it, too. They remained in Hoxne, where they had always been integral in village life, serving on committees, and being the life and soul of significant events, such as playing a pivotal role in organising the Harvest Festival every year, a traditional village-wide celebration comprising fun and games for all ages, feasting, and carousing.

Throughout his life, Alan was “mine host” personified; thoughtful and generous. He was also a private family man, father to four sons, James, Chris, Richard and Ed and a proud grandfather several times over, so retirement was significantly enriched by his growing family, all of whom still live close-by in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Alan would pop into the Auction Rooms occasionally, usually accompanied by Carole, full of cheer and bon ami. He remained a great supporter and advocate of the firm throughout, and he will be greatly missed by many.