Sir Richard Prince-Smith

RICHARD Prince-Smith, 4th Baronet born December 27, 1928, died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, on Thursday, June 28, 2007, after a long period of gradually failing health.

He went to Charterhouse and read Agriculture at Clare College, Cambridge, afterwards becoming a prominent farmer in the East Riding centred on Southburn, where the family owned a considerable area of fertile wold land. He established Southern Estates, which was a dynamic farming arable and livestock business.

He ran it with methodical and meticulous attention to detail and he was renowned as a leader and innovator. The original family business was Prince-Smith and Stells, a textile engineering business based in Keighley, West Yorkshire.

He was given the opportunity by his father to choose engineering or agriculture. He chose agriculture, but it was engineering and all things mechanical which were his true passion and he carried out much of the engineering work for the farming business.

On one occasion when a new tractor was delivered it did not work properly. He complained to the manufacturers but frustrated by their response, set about stripping it down, identifying the design defect and effecting a remedy which a year later was incorporated into new tractors by the manufacturer.

He relocated with his family to Norfolk, where he bought two substantial agricultural estates and set about an investment strategy to improve efficiency. One estate was located in an area known as Breckland where years of continuous arable farming had depleted the natural fertility of the soil. There he grew lucerne, a legume with a deep rooting system capable of withstanding severe droughts and introducing nitrogen "fixed" from the air, to improve soil quality.

A large grass drying plant was installed to convert the lucerne into animal feed stuffs, which was sold to farmers and compounders across the UK.

In the mid-1970s, disenchanted with the high rates of income and capital taxation under the Wilson government, he decided to sell his UK estates and moved first to Jersey and then to California.

He was an innovator, thinker and a man of decisive vision which he applied to whatever took his interest at the time. Whether it was agriculture, photography or his sea-going yacht, which he had built and captained, he immersed himself in the detail essential to master the art and mechanical operation of whatever he confronted.

He was born William Richard Prince-Smith, the only son of Sir William Prince-Smith, OBE.

He married first Margaret Ann Carter in 1955 with whom he had a daughter Elizabeth and a son James. James Prince-Smith pre-deceased him in 2001. The marriage was dissolved in 1975. He married secondly Ann Christina Faulds in 1975 and is survived by his wife. There is no heir to the Baronetcy.