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Norfolk farmer’s son was grain-handling innovator

PUBLISHED: 11:08 03 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:08 03 May 2017

Urban Curson holding the Sandringham Royal Warrant to The Queen at Sandringham which was presented to the company in 1989. Picture: Ben Burgess & Co

Urban Curson holding the Sandringham Royal Warrant to The Queen at Sandringham which was presented to the company in 1989. Picture: Ben Burgess & Co

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Norfolk farmer’s son Urban Curson, who has died aged 91, was a leader in the grain-handling revolution on farms across eastern England.

For more than 40 years with Norwich-based agricultural engineers Ben Burgess & Co, he installed state-of-the-art grain storage and handling systems.

An only child, Urban George Curson was born in 1925 at Great Dunham, near Dereham, just as farming’s fortunes hit an all-time low.

As the industry slowly recovered from this and with the growing interest in mechanisation, he joined a milking equipment specialist, Boddy’s, then based in Norwich.

Later he worked for agricultural engineers including J & J Wright of Dereham, and finally the rapidly-expanding Nuffield tractor dealership, Harstons of Fakenham.

After it collapsed, he was recruited by the firm’s founder, Ben Burgess, in 1960 and threw himself into the newly-formed grain storage division.

Over the years, dozens, if not hundreds of blue tower silos for either grain or grass silage were erected on farms in the 1960s and 1970s.

During his career, grain moved from handling by hand in coomb sacks of 18 stones of wheat or 16 stones of barley to bulk movement into bins and then flat storage.

He also successfully promoted the firm’s damping worm used to add moisture over-dry grain, which improved the milling process.

Mr Curson, who became joint managing director with Malcolm Fuller in 1985, retired in 2001 aged 76 after 41 years’ service.

Another highlight of his career was the first grant of a Royal Warrant in 1989 to agricultural engineers Ben Burgess & Co. This sealed the firm’s long association with the Sandringham estate, which had been initiated by Ben Burgess in 1932 when a Marshall tractor was demonstrated and sold to King George V. And the firm was to supply tractors to King George VI and latterly John Deere models to the Queen’s estate.

He was also instrumental in planning the move out of the heart of the city from Rose Lane and King Street and designing the new headquarters on Europa Lane, Trowse, which was opened in 1992.

For many years, he held various branch posts in the East Anglian branch of Institution of Agricultural Engineers.

He played golf at the Royal Norwich, where he was a member, and also at Bawburgh.

After the death of his wife, Grace, several years ago, he married Reva, who survives him.

A funeral will be held on Friday, May 19 (11.15am) at Earlham Crematorium.

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