Leading agricultural merchant Cyril Adams dies aged 81

Matthew and Cyril Adams, of independent grain merchants, Adams & Howling

Cyril Adams (right), who founded Norfolk grain and agricultural merchants Adams & Howling, has died aged 81. He is pictured with his son Matthew, the firm's managing director - Credit: Simon Finlay

A founding director of one of Norfolk’s largest independent grain and agricultural merchants, Cyril Adams, has died aged 81.

In his six decades at the helm of Adams & Howling, it won a national reputation as a leading malting barley specialist.

As managing director and later chairman, he worked with farmers and maltsters for more than 50 years to revive malting barley’s fortunes, especially in his beloved Norfolk heartland.

Born in October 1939 and raised at Potter Heigham, Cyril Walter Adams was one of four children. He went to the village school and Paston Grammar School, North Walsham.

In 1959 he started work with agricultural merchants Press, Bly & Davey selling animal feeds and fertilisers to local farmers. He rapidly gained the trust of customers at a time of massive upheaval in farming when traditional, long-established firms were going out of business or being taken over.

Then working for RJ Seaman, Catfield, it was a bold decision in November 1972 – just two months before Britain acceded to the EEC (European Economic Community) – to start an independent merchanting business with colleague Tony Howling. Their first office was rented in part of Wroxham railway station.

In the mid-1970s, Adams & Howling purchased the former Eastern Electricity Board’s Wroxham showroom, which became the firm’s base. And a garden centre, which was started in a small corner, became a great success. By 1978, it had expanded three-fold and was later sold to Roy’s of Wroxham.

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By the early 1990s, malting barley had become a key element of the business. In June 1992, it exported a then record shipment of 3,500 tonnes of Alexis spring barley to drought-stricken Denmark from Yarmouth’s East Quay.

Having sold the Wroxham offices, Adams & Howling moved to Little Plumstead, converting a former stables and granary at Manor Farm. In the firm’s silver jubilee year, the then Mid-Norfolk MP Keith Simpson officially opened the £300,000 investment in offices and laboratory in January 1998.

The business expanded – by providing a first-class service to farmers and by developing long-standing partnerships with maltsters F&G Smith (Crisp Malting Group), fertiliser suppliers like ICI and J & H Bunn, of Great Yarmouth, and Parkers Seeds, of Bramerton. In May 2004, the seed specialist joined Adams & Howling.

A transformational malting barley initiative, the ABC grain group comprising Adams & Howling, H Banham, of Hempton and Crisp Malting Group, was launched in June 2006. It was welcomed by specialist growers keen to capitalise on the Norfolk barley theme for Norfolk maltsters.

Adams & Howling marked its 40th anniversary in 2013 by handling a record grain tonnage.

Mr Adams' sons are both running the business which now handles around 150,000 tonnes of grains, fertiliser and seed each year – a far cry from when their father was pedalling around Broadland selling bags of animal feed, always with a cigarette in hand. And typical of his steely determination, he just quit his 60-day habit in May last year – to the amazement of his friends and colleagues.

In his six decades at the helm of Adams & Howling, it won a national reputation as a leading malting barley specialist. As managing director and later chairman, he worked with farmers and maltsters for more than 50 years to revive malting barley’s fortunes, especially in his beloved Norfolk heartland.

On the sporting field, he made his mark as a footballer with Potter Heigham and became a Norfolk County FA referee, running the line at Arsenal against West Ham reserves.

A mainstay of Ingham Cricket Club, he kept wicket and scored several hundreds with the bat. Later, he organised the Ingham Summer Ball, which was a successful sell-out event for years.

When Ingham and Norwich Barleycorns formally merged in January 1999, he was elected chairman.

He served as a captain and president for North Walsham Indoor Bowls Club, when a team won national honours – the English Indoor Bowls Association’s Denny Cup in 1986 and 1996.

He leaves a wife, Ann, sons Matthew and Paul, and seven grandchildren, and younger brother Donny, and a former companion to Betty Rossi predeceased.

A private family funeral will be held, with a memorial cricket match planned at Ingham CC on Sunday, August 29.

Cyril Adams, founding director of independent grain merchants, Adams & Howling

Cyril Adams, who founded one of Norfolk’s largest independent grain and agricultural merchants, has died aged 81 - Credit: Simon Finlay


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