Renowned Norfolk farmer Alan Alston dies aged 85

A cocktail party. (Right to left) Alan Alston, the late Tom Scott and his wife, Jill Scott

The 21st Norfolk Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution anniversary cocktail party. (Right to left) Alan Alston, the late Tom Scott and his wife, Jill Scott. Taken in 2006 at the Norfolk Showground. - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

One of the youngest members to serve on the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association’s council, Norfolk farmer Alan Alston has died aged 85.

He was just 24 when he was elected to the ruling council in 1959 and went on to serve through six decades.

Alan Lang Alston, who stewarded at the Royal Norfolk Show for half-a-century, began his long association shortly after the RNAA opened the permanent Costessey showground in 1954. 

He retired in 2005 with a grand ring send-off having served as a head steward, latterly responsible for “ancillary activities” for more than 15 years. He was later made an honorary vice-president.  

And in 2019, he was among the dozens of stewards honoured by the RNAA for a total of more than 2,700 years’ service. 

Mr Alston died on March 26 at Park Farm, Silfield, near Wymondham, in the same house where he had been born 85 years earlier. 

When he left Unthank College, in Norwich, he chose to complete his National Service in the Army as the Korean War was coming to an end. Returning from the Far East and Hong Kong, he went on a one-year course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. He came back to the family’s mixed farm in July 1957 where the horses, mainly Percherons – the pride of his father James – were gradually being replaced by tractors. 

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Mr Alston was a chairman of Wymondham Young Farmers’ Club and in 1961 became chairman of the Norfolk Federation of YFCs, a year after his friend, David Richardson. 

Elected to the RNAA’s council in 1959 to fill a vacancy, he held many varied roles over the decades. In 1967, he started a long stint as a steward of stockjudging and stockmanship but had a break in 1969 taking charge of shoeing and wrought iron work.  

In 1984, he judged the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club’s new idea competition before becoming head steward of “ancillary activities for almost 20 years. This involved responsibility for sections ranging from dairy goats and even small livestock but his involvement with NORMAC was long-standing and greatly appreciated. 

In fact, NORMAC even made him an honorary member for his years of support as he also hosted training and demonstration events on his farm. 

The dairy herd was dispersed in 1983 as dozens of Norfolk farmers quit milk production. Mr Alston, who became a founder member of the Maize Growers’ Association, had seen large-scale production on his study tours to the United States in the 1970s. He helped to pioneer growing forage maize, especially for feeding dairy cattle. Over the years, he expanded the farm with a major expansion in 1999 when neighbouring land was acquired.

A founder member of the Norfolk Mardlers discussion group, he supported the group’s tours and meetings. A keen shot, he also enjoyed skiing. 

He leaves a widow, Anne, a daughter Marion and son James, and six grandchildren. 

A private family funeral will be held on April 15 at Fairland United Reformed Church, in Wymondham. 

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