Obituary: Norfolk farmer Rob den Engelse dies aged 86


One of Norfolk’s largest farming businesses covering more than 10,000 acres was run by Rob den Engelse, who died at the age of 86 in his home in Wroxham.

During a career spanning four decades he has managed large farms in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire.

As a well-respected farm manager, he addressed the Oxford Farming Conference in 1973 and was the former chair of the UKF (United Kingdom Fertilizer) discussion group.

He was a founding member and first chairman of the highly influential (Norfolk) Mardlers discussion group, which first met on May 19, 1965 at Charles Wharton’s Winsford Hall farm.

For three years from 1985 he was secretary of and remained a member of the Stalham Farmers’ Club, the oldest in the country.

Always passionate about sailing, he decided at the age of 60 to become an instructor and obtained a diploma from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

In a brief funeral address, Reverend Neville Khambatta, who had known him for over 20 years and ran the RYA training school, said Rob was “a gentle and calm man without pretension.”

Born June 4, 1935, he was educated at Taverham Hall and St Edward’s School in Oxford. He did his national service in the Royal Artillery at Plymouth and was appointed second lieutenant in 1956.

He went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read natural sciences, then also graduated with a two-year degree in agriculture in 1960.

Mr den Engelse then worked overseas to gain additional experience before starting his career in farm management in 1961 at two of East Anglian Real Property (EARP) farms in Paston, near North Walsham, and in Southrepps, near Cromer.

He became Managing Director of EARP in 1969 upon the retirement of his father, Adriaan, who came to Norfolk in 1925 from his native Holland.

Industrialist Van Rossum, who was instrumental in starting Britain’s first modern beet sugar factory in 1912 at Cantley, had started buying land to grow the crop from 1923. As more land was purchased, in 1936 the East Anglian Real Property Company was formally established, which was then run by his father.

By 1978 when he left EARP he owned farms across Norfolk from Palgrave and Sporle, near Swaffham, Guestwick, near Reepham, and also had one of the county’s largest dairy herds with 600 cows in Cantley. Later, the EARP was bought by the National Coal Board pension fund, sold and dismantled.

He was one of the founding directors of the Aylsham Grain Store and Marketing cooperative and also served on the Anglian Water Authority’s land drainage committee in Norfolk and Suffolk between 1974 and 1989.

He has held a succession of managerial and agronomist positions in Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire.

He was Farm Manager for David Johnson Farms, based in March, until 1981. He also worked for Smiths Woolley Land Agents in the Farms Department in Norfolk, advising on estate management.

He held several positions for six years, including recruiting members and being an agronomist at Anglian Produce, based in Loddon, which became the largest potato growers cooperative in the country, until 1991.

Passionate about tennis, sailing has always been his first love. He bought an Ernest Woods river cruiser, Will o ‘the Wisp in 1998 – built in 1935 – corresponding to his age.

Determined to help people, especially young people, learn to sail, he encouraged so many to share his passion. He taught visitors renting boats at Hoveton and Upton yacht stations to learn the skill of keeling on the Broads.

Married to Ann in 1962, he leaves behind two children, Annalisa and Anton, and four grandchildren. He died on August 31 and a funeral was held.

Former Norfolk farm manager Rob den Engelse has died aged 86
– Credit: Ann den Engelse

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