Peter Smith 1929 – 2024

Peter Smith    1929 – 2024

Peter Smith passed away peacefully, at the age of 94, on Easter Saturday.

A former Partner, then Principal and – latterly – Senior Partner of Thomas William Gaze and Son he retired, after 36 years with the business, in 1992.

Born in Bradford, and educated during the war years at Bradford Grammer School, he came to Diss to join the late John Gaze at the firm in 1956. This followed National Service and flying training with the Auxiliary Air Force and qualification as an Agricultural Auctioneer and Valuer, by the then traditional route of being articled, initially in North Yorkshire, with Oswald Lister, and latterly in the Midlands.

John Gaze retired, relatively early, in the mid-sixties, and Peter was then at the helm of a firm which, although still firmly based around it’s traditional farming and livestock market roots, was facing significant change as agriculture evolved and Diss saw rapid expansion. Estate agency continued to develop strongly after Patrick Nicholls joined the firm in 1966. Throughout the 1970’s the firm continued to grow still with agricultural connections at the centre of activity. As well as general rural and valuation work Peter developed a strong practice around farm tenancy advice where he was known for his tenacious approach to rent negotiations, not shying away from taking disputes to arbitration. He was known professionally as being “firm but fair”.

Whilst Peter still valued the traditions of, and need for, “market day” by the time the 1980’s came round, as farm enterprises had grown and become more centred on arable activities, the livestock market had declined as stock numbers reduced. Even the Diss Heifer Sale each September – always a highlight in his year – disappeared from the calendar as dairy producers, locally, left the sector. By the time of the mid 1980’s Peter and his Partners, as well as moving the main office from Roydon Road to 10 Market Hill, made the decision to operate weekly deadstock, chattel and furniture auctions when Apthorpes sale ground closed. From that point started the development of the present Auction Rooms business with Saleroom 3 being constructed alongside the refurbished and extended livestock sale ring.

Peter continued as Senior Partner until 1992 when he retired leaving Patrick Nicholls, Alan Smith and Jeffrey Bowles as the continuing Partners of a thriving firm with a very different focus to when he arrived in 1956. In the early part of his retirement, he spent time travelling round East Anglia, for the RICS, 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.

Peter was an early member of Diss RFC, a councillor on the old Urban District Council and a keen member of Diss Round Table. Shortly after coming to Diss Peter and Liz (who predeceased him in 2013) purchased Eaton Lodge, on Mount Street, which they revived and renovated creating a marvellous family home and garden. In retirement they played golf avidly, particularly enjoying mid-winter sojourns to Portugal for many years. After a move to Eaton, in Norwich, they finally settled in Coney Weston where another garden was created, and they became well involved in village life. Latterly Peter continued to travel visiting his brother in Australia and South Africa.

A long life, well lived.