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The Rise and Demise of Egg Farming in Kempshott



The Rise and Demise of
Egg Farming in Kempshott

 

 

A brief overview by Jane Hussey

October 2018




Egg consumption late 19C/early 20C


It wasn’t until the late 19th century that eggs began to be promoted for eating rather than just cooking.  At this time keeping hens was localised and consumption was limited to the family home.  Any excess eggs were taken by housewives to local town markets to sell.  The railways transported eggs to the cities but there was no real organization of this.

 

In Basingstoke, the ironmonger T.M. Kingdon & Co. sold egg boxes for the despatch of eggs by post or rail and he advertised this service in 1901 in the Hants and Berks Gazette



                                                                                                                                        8.6.1901


The government by this time was advertising the food value of eggs to the general public stating that they were 3 ½ times more nourishing than milk, contained half the fat of milk, were more nourishing raw (often given as a pick-me-up), the yolk was more nourishing than the white, and that they should be part of the daily diet.  At the same time it was promoting homesteading as being a suitable way of earning an income from the land, and as the soil throughout the Thames valley and this part of southern England was eminently suitable for chicken farming, it was obvious that this was the ideal combination, i.e. purchase a plot of land, build a house on it and farm chickens for eggs.

 

However there was no official support from the government:  chicken farmers lacked experience and often failed as they were not given any government funding.  As hens chiefly lay eggs in the warm, sunny weather of summer, there was no effort made to produce winter egg supplies.  There was a lack of co-operatives to co-ordinate a central collection of produce, arrange customers and delivery to them, and above all there was no quality control.

 

Egg farming methods were primitive and inefficient.  At this time the trapnest box was in use, made of mahogany and expensive to produce, it only housed one brooding hen.  Chicken feeders such as the one illustrated could feed 14 hens at once from the metal container with 7 pecking holes each side in the roof-shaped top.


 

Trapnest box & Egg feeder for 14 hens

Exhibits in the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading.    

 

As the market for eggs and the sale of hens opened up, suitable housings were needed not only on the farms themselves but at the markets and below is a photograph of the plans made in 1907 for the improvement of those for Mr. Hugh Raynbird of the private market on Station Hill, Basingstoke suitable for this purpose.  All such constructions and edifices required planning permission from the council.



These poultry pens were to have corrugated iron inter-framing and painted gutters.

Evidence of the increased demand for eggs is shown in the advertisement placed by the Basingstoke Co-op in 1904:


                                                                                                    Hants & Berks Gazette 9.3.1904


Other outlets such as Ewhurst Dairies in Wote Street, Basingstoke also sold eggs in 1901.

 

The Stag & Hounds public house on the edge of Kempshott were agents for the sale of prize-winning laying hens: 



                                                                                                                    Hants & Berks Gazette 18.3.1905

 

And Mr. Arthur Vandervell of Leslie Lodge, (Homesteads Road) sold both chickens and eggs:



                                                                                                    Hants & Berks Gazette 9.4.1910.

 

Both these latter outlets were happy to replace or refund any infertile hens.

 

Sale prices as quoted in the press from farms around the Basingstoke area:

 

Eggs:               1904 3s.0d. per doz.

                         1910 5s.0d. per doz.

 

Chicks:             1922 Day old chicks (Leghorns) 1s. each

                        1922 Hatching Eggs 5s. per dozen from Hatch Warren Farm, [Ashe Warren]

 

Small improvements in distribution

 

The Reading Mercury reported in 1911 that a certain Dr. D.H. Scott, F.R.S. had come to Oakley to live in a former farmhouse which had been sold off in plots and although knowing nothing about farming had taken an interest in the smallholdings in the area.  Two years prior to this a batch of smallholdings had been created in Kempshott (from Old Down Farm Estate - which was sold for Homesteads development in 1908).  These were sold to encourage people away from the manufacturing towns which were overflowing with substandard housing and back to the country where they could live a healthier life and contribute to the agriculture and food provision for the growing towns. 

 

However he noticed the difficulties the smallholders had to contend with.  Some plots were not even cultivated at all.  In order for them to survive it was important for these plots to be worked successfully and remuneratively.  Start-up purchases were only able to be made on a small scale through lack of assisted funding.  There were difficulties in finding suitable markets.  He attended a local meeting and as a result the Oakley and District Co-operative Society was set up which would remove these difficulties.  Smallholders could become members by paying a levy of 3d. for every 30 cases of 30 dozen eggs and the society would find them markets for their eggs, but without actually doing the physical job of delivering the goods themselves.  At this time, the price of eggs was not regulated at all and it was up to each of the suppliers to fix a price with their customers and to make arrangements either for their collection or delivery.  This was the first attempt at improving the business.


 

The revolution in egg farming methods

 

In 1908 Old Down Farm came up for sale from the governors of the then Queen Mary’s school in Basingstoke.  This consisted of 103 acres of prime chicken farming ground in Homesteads Road complete with farmhouse and outbuildings which remained empty until 1911 when a certain Mr. S.G. Hanson became its occupant.


Sydenham George Saumarez Wallscourt Hanson was born in Jersey in 1869 and went to Vancouver, Canada working on poultry farms there until the downturn in this industry in British Columbia.  In 1911 he returned to England and bought Old Down Farm in order to work it as an egg-producing business.  It was he who revolutionised the egg market when he published his book “Commercial Egg Farming” in 1913 from his own experiences and this work became the authority in its field, being republished in 1921, though some egg producers were sceptical about his methods. 

 

He challenged the current supply of eggs to the cities which came from as far away as Russia and were obviously no longer “fresh” by the time they reached our shores and the expense of these imports to our economy.

                                                                                                The title page from his book published 1913

 

 Not only did he advocate much improved methods of farming, but also the types of hens suitable for laying.  His preferred stock was the White Leghorn because they were prolific egg layers and very adaptable, sturdy birds.  Broody hens could nest 12-15 eggs at a time.


  Illustration from his book.

 

And here they are on his farm – free range and housed in this field in two 180ft. long poultry houses where the eggs would have been laid:




In his book every aspect of production is covered from the rearing of chicks, the types of feed they needed, design of hen houses and much more.  One of his premises was to ensure best use of the land, the hen houses were moved from the north side of his farm to the south side.  North side in summer and south in winter and whenever the ground was rested, he planted kale to put back the goodness so that his free-range hens had the best pecking ground.  His hen houses were equipped with heating and lighting to encourage egg laying in the winter months.  Some producers put coal fires at intervals in their long sheds, but this was labour intensive and less efficient than his method which was to have one source of coal-fired heat which pumped hot water through pipes the length of the buildings. 




Some designs of Hanson’s hen houses in 1913 [photographs from his book]

 

He also favoured the new Mammoth incubator, developed in America, which could be heated by gas, electricity, oil or coal, with incubating and hatching compartments for anything from 900 to 70,000 eggs.   The claim of the Mammoth was that one machine could do the work of 1,000 hens or that 10 years would be needed for the hen to achieve the same result.  Trays of eggs placed in the compartments were rotated in the constant heat of the machine at regular intervals to ensure hatching of chicks.


                                                                                        Advertisement in his book for such an incubator.

 

A report entitled “Profitable Egg Farming in the Basingstoke District” appeared in the Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture of 5.8.1922 citing Mr. Hanson and his excellent methods, a full copy of which is contained in the appendix.   Egg farming in Basingstoke and surrounding districts became better organized and more profitable after this time.  These methods became slowly adopted all over the country.

 

Additional factors influencing egg production

 

Another factor which greatly influenced the increase in egg production was the insufficient supply of piped water which was not available at the outset of the homesteading venture in Kempshott.  Many premises had 6,000 gallon tanks on their land with water having to be delivered.  There was no supply pipeline to the majority of the new houses in Kempshott.  This subject has been discussed in the author’s article about the Water Supply to the village already on this website, suffice it to say here that George Hanson was one of the residents who pressed the local council in Basingstoke for an improved water supply in 1912 in order to be able to carry out his business.  The council saw no need and wanted Homesteads Ltd., the housing developers, to link up to the mains which was in situ along the current A30 up to the foot of Kempshott Hill or homesteaders to purchase their own tanks.  It was not until 1926 that the council agreed to run a main along Kempshott Lane with offshoots into Pack Lane and Homesteads Road as more houses were being built.  In the interim some farms drilled wells into the chalk and pumped water from below ground.



Some other significant egg producers in Kempshott

 

Although many inhabitants of the village kept hens, by no means did all of them see this in the same way as Mr. Hanson.  Large plots of land were purchased when offered and businesses started and gradually developed over a number of years.  Claude Farnworth Rivaz was one such who not only produced eggs on his land at Beech Corner in Pack Lane from 1915-1941 but also had a nursery there run by his son.


 

                                                                                                            Claude Farnworth Rivaz

Arthur Vandervell of Leslie Lodge, Homesteads Road, also listed himself as a poultry farmer and market gardener and although established there in around 1906, died in 1921.  His wife assisted in the business but it is not known at this time whether she carried it on with their son.

 

Albert Gale at Mayfield (now No. 162), Pack Lane from 1914-1958 and Robert Henry Cann at the Gables (no. 130), Pack Lane from 1918-1941 were two early settlers producing eggs, along with ex-army sergeant Charles Henry Bell of Dorchester (301), Kempshott Lane from 1915 and William Henry Willet of Fairhaven (221), Kempshott Lane from 1918-1966, although he was also a civil servant.  Of these four Robert Cann had 500 hens on his 3 acres by 1941 and was the largest.  Charles Bell’s property was passed to one of his sons on his retirement and continued in the family until 1961.

 

When the Crossways farm land was divided up into plots in 1926 land purchasers often bought more than one adjacent plot with a view to starting egg production.  A builder from Cardiff by the name of Dai Raymond did this, purchasing what is now 196 and 198 Kempshott Lane for his two sons, David and Montague.  These became Romandene and Picardy respectively and were the two largest poultry farms in Kempshott village.  The farm survey of 1941 cites Picardy’s livestock as 2,700 hens on 58 acres and Mr. Raymond employed 2 men.  They both farmed there until the early 1960’s, only giving up when fowl pest struck and they were forced to slaughter all their stock.



Plan for Mr.Raymond’s poultry houses and corn store on Picardy 1931 – walls of match boarding wooden roof and rafters underlaid with felting.



                                                        Mr. Raymond’s chicken sheds on Romandene. (Photograph courtesy of Owen Blisset.)


The same fate was met by Major George Lynton Edsell’s flock when the disease spread.  His chickens were housed on his Highland Farm, just a little further east along Kempshott Lane.  He had bought this property (latterly 170 Kempshott Lane) in 1935 from the original poultry farmer George Wheatley.  After the cessation of his business, the council purchased the land for the construction of Kestrel Road and its houses, but kept one small plot upon which he built a home for his daughter.   The family was distraught at having to slaughter all their hens, as their own were not infected.

 

Highlands Farm 170 Kempshott Lane



Feeding the hens 1955-1961



Benjamin Ashman Foote farmed 2 ½ acres at Orwell (119 Pack Lane) with 663 hens from 1935 - 1964.  This house was demolished to build the houses in Ennerdale Close.  On the 1941 Farm Survey he does not state that he has help.

 

Arthur Gibbons of Wigwam on Kite Hill farmed from 1927 to at least 1941 and had 1,000 hens by then.  He employed one man to assist him on his 3 1/4 acres. 

 

The 1941 Farm Survey was made by the War Government to establish what land was being used for what purpose, as food supplies were needed to feed the fighting forces and those at home.  The declarations of the Kempshott farmers have survived and although sometimes incomplete, do at least give a snapshot of their day.  A table of the results has been produced and is in Appendix 2.

 

The other farm of considerable size was the North Hants. Poultry Farm on Kempshott Lane and farmed by Mr. Vickers, who kept 900 hens on 7 ¾ acres of land in 1941:


                                                Aerial view of the North Hants. Poultry Farm (photograph courtesy of Graham Watling)

 

Ralph Vickers purchased the already established North Hants. Poultry Farm in 1935 the lands of which now form part of Buckingham Parade and part of the “Bird” estate on the opposite side of Kempshott Lane.  Up until WW2 Mr. Vickers could choose where and to whom he sold his produce, but at the outbreak of war his sales were controlled by the Government.  All eggs had to be sold through the Egg Packing Station (see later) and it was only cracked eggs which could be sold at the door.  Prior to sale all eggs had to be cleaned by hand by the family, although it is believed he did employ one or two local people.  At the time of the 1941 Farm Survey none was mentioned.   Initially the farm didn’t have any incubating facilities so eggs were taken to a farm in Andover that had the necessary equipment.  At a later date an incubator was introduced on the farm itself to produce chicks for replenishment of stocks and sale.

 

The farm didn’t suffer fowl pest in the 1960’s but again he was a victim of having to have all his stock destroyed because of the proximity of the infected farms, which was for him and his family a devastating blow, which resulted in the closure of the Farm and its compulsory purchase by the Basingstoke and Deane council for development.  The land on the opposite side of the road was sold to the developer of the “Bird” estate. 

 

 Hen houses

 

Colony houses in Kempshott appear to come in various designs and are built of varying materials.



                                                    Plans for Mr. Gibbons’ incubator houses 1927 – breeze blocks and boards with felt and board roof.  


                                                Mr. Gibbons of Buckskin Farm – showing the position of his incubator house which he placed in the chalk pit on his land.

                                                                Mr. Welding’s hen houses 1935 – The Dell, Kempshott Lane. (Now no. 248).  


He farmed there from 1941-1958.

 

The earlier wooden structures used by Mr. Hanson, were now becoming longer and stronger with floors of concrete which could be more easily cleaned, hygiene being of utmost importance to healthy bird farming.

 

Further regulation of the egg industry

 

In 1928, the Government and the Farmers’ Union set up a voluntary scheme to try to provide a quality guarantee for a range of home-produced goods, including eggs.  “The National Mark Scheme” was the first organised attempt to provide the market with reliably-graded, high quality, home-produced eggs.  The industry was becoming better regulated and egg packing stations were being set up in various areas around the country and Kempshott had its own, situated on the land of Old Down Farm in Homesteads Road.

 

In January 1937 The Fowl Pest Order came into operation to protect the spread of avian diseases.  Hens suspected of Fowl Pest had to be notified to the Laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture and carcases supplied to them for examination and diagnosis.  During this time the farmer was not allowed to bring further hens into contact with his flock nor humans, except for the immediate attendants.  He was not allowed to move his hens from the farm either.  All feeding utensils and surfaces had to be disinfected.  Vets had to be vigilant and also report anything they found.  Restrictions were put on the import of farm birds, eggs and day-old chics.  However the writer has found no evidence so far to suggest that Kempshott egg farmers were affected by the ensuing outbreak at this time.  The Great outbreak of Fowl Pest occurred in 1947, but again there appear to be no reports of it affecting our area.

 

The 1941 Farm survey reports 1 failed egg farm, but whether this was due to disease, bad husbandry or lack of funds or even diminishing health of the owner to be able to continue is not known.  Thomas Burton of Fairview (Homesteads Road) had had 6 acres and 500 hens when his farm failed after 7 years of being there.

 

 The Egg Packing Station


                                                                                                   Appeared in the Daily Herald 12.12.1931


Sited on the former Old Down Farm plots in Homesteads Road, the property was purchased by Mr. John Gilbert de Jetley Marks in 1930 and he, ever the entrepreneur, saw an opening for an egg packing station to assist the market and marketing of eggs in the Kempshott area.  There were already other such stations in the country, all of which had to be registered.  His was No. 251 of the Hampshire Producers National Mark.  However he lacked capital to keep the business going and it was taken over by United Egg & Poultry Packers Ltd.  De Jetley Marks was then made Managing Director of the business.

 

He purchased an innovative egg grading machine which was shown off at the grand opening of the station in 1933 to which the mayor of Basingstoke and other dignitaries and clergy were invited. 

 

The Grand Opening of the Egg Packing Station was reported in the Hants & Berks Gazette, Friday Sept. 15 1933


“The chief event in local annals which we have to record this week is the opening on Tuesday afternoon of a new model egg-packing station at The Old Down, Kempshott, which has been built by the United Egg and Poultry Packers, Ltd., a newly-formed company which has taken over the business hitherto carried on by Mr. J.G. de Jetley Marks under the title of Hampshire Producers.  The ceremony was performed by the Right Hon. Lord Greenwood (formerly Sir Hamar Greenwood) in the presence of a large gathering representing the municipality of Basingstoke, the professional and commercial classes and the poultry farmers.  It is interesting to note that the construction of the new building was begun only ten weeks before the opening day and was carried out by direct labour, most of which was obtained through the local Employment Exchange, while most of the materials were purchased in the locality.  The entrance which faces the drive leading to the managing director’s office, and on the side of the corridor is the staff dining-room and next is the packing-room, at the far end of which the eggs are unpacked then passed on to the candling cabins, thence to the grading machines and, finally to the stands where they are packed, labelled and got ready for delivery in the Company’s own motor-vans.  The bulk of the eggs, we understand are despatched to London.  Mr. de Jetley-Marks is the managing director of the new Company, which was formed about three months ago.

 

Prior to the opening ceremony the visitors were right royally entertained at a buffet, the centre of which was adorned with a handsome group of palms, foliage and flowering plants.  The guests helped themselves from a bountiful supply of viands, salads, sweet morsels, bowls of grapes and other luscious fruits and jugs of cider-cup.  There were 285 at the luncheon, and among those present in addition to Lord Greenwood were – Mr. Oscar Rowntree, JP (ex Lord Mayor of York), CRV Gino Cesta, Mr. J. W. Dalimore, CC, Alderman F. Hillary (Deputy Mayor of Basingstoke), Alderman T.C. Chesterfield, Alderman C. Bowman, Councillor Mrs. Weston, Councillor K. Jordan, Lieut-Col. Nugent, Major Baker (chairman of the Executive Council PPU), Major-Gen. Browne, Mr. & Mrs. P.D. Hoddinott , Miss Frankham, Rev. W.J. Huntley, Major Halifax, Major-Gen. Isacke, Sir Samuel Gluckstein, Major Milne, Colonel Nisbett, Rev. A.W. Sansom, Mr. R. Haworth Booth, MD (Shenly Poultry Products, Balcombe), Mr. T.G. Underhill (chairman National Mark Egg Central Ltd,), Major Herbert Cook, MC, Mr. H.M. Emery MBE, Mr. A. Dootson, Lady Fitzgerald, Mr. G.C. Frampton, Mr. & Mrs. Atkins, Mr. W. Elkington, Mr. & Mrs. Bliss, Mr. Francis, Mrs. Wills, Mr. O.J. Bishop, Mr. P. Keevil, Mrs. James, Mrs. Cannell, Dr. H.P. Hamilton, Mr. J.W. Woollven, Mr. Kynoch, Mr. H, Littlejohn, Mr. W.G. Manthorpe, Major and Mrs. Oliphant, Mr. & Mrs. Robin, Major R. Stanley, Mr. C.C. Tollitt, Capt. Washington, Mr. W.A. Wallis, JP, Mr. J. Arthur Smith.


The company having assembled outside the new building, Major Cook said:  Before asking Lord Greenwood, whom we are all so pleased to see here to-day, to formally open our new building, I as Chairman of United Egg and Poultry Packers Ltd., take this opportunity of welcoming you to this packing station.  We greatly appreciate your company and hope you will find much to interest you before you leave this afternoon.  We have invited you to see what we believe to be the most up-to-date egg-packing station in this country fitted with all the latest appliances and we want you to take the opportunity of seeing the various stages the eggs pass through before being finally packed for marketing.  About two years ago this packing station, under the name of Hampshire Producers, commenced business, and owing to its immediate success, and the demand for its eggs greatly exceeding the supply, it was decided a few months ago that new premises must be built with comparatively unlimited capacity.  Today you see the result of that decision, and we are now in a position to turn out twenty-five million eggs a year.  Once we have reached this figure a stroke of the pen will enable us to double this output as the building has been constructed with this object in view.  Attention in the near future will also be given to the supply of graded poultry for which there is a definite demand.  Such results as we anticipate will be due in no small measure to the loyalty of the poultry farmers, who from the moment this expansion was first suggested readily agreed to support us.  The poultry farmer on his side insisted, and rightly too, on a fair price for his eggs;  while we demanded that he should supply quality goods;  and we are convinced that this mutual co-operation is in the best interests of all concerned.  We are glad to say too that we receive the fullest support from the Minister of Agriculture;  Hampshire Producers, which is incorporated with United Egg and Poultry Packers, being National Mark Station No. 251, and is already well known in the trade as a station with a reputation.  I should like to take this opportunity of saying that I consider the National Mark Scheme has done much for the poultry farmer in this country.  This scheme not only created a better demand for a British egg, but by its testing and grading policy has convinced the consumer that graded eggs show far better value than ungraded and that they give greater satisfaction.  We shall continue to give our support to the National Mark Scheme, but at the same time, to meet certain demands, we shall pack tested and graded eggs under the registered brand of “Lady Rhode”.  Our machinery is most modern and our organisation so carefully arranged to save all unnecessary expense, that we are in a position to meet any competition;  but we are not relying on price to secure increased business.  It is the intention of this Company to build up their connection on quality, and when you have seen for yourselves the care taken to determine that best eggs are packed I feel certain you will agree that we are taking every precaution to ensure success….


 Lord Greenwood then gave a speech:  “Major Cook, ladies and gentlemen, - I feel rather embarrassed having to stand here to find myself graded and tested and candled (laughter), and finally, I suppose, having the National Mark put upon me.  I hope so, because it is a good mark.  It will be a moment of pride when I have the pleasure of breaking the flag and of opening this new packing station in connection with one of the most successful ventures of its kind in our country.  First of all it is a pleasure to me to accept the invitation of this energetic board of directors to declare this factory open…  I come down also because I am now in business and in some of the companies I am chairman of I am compelled to buy millions of foreign eggs because England and Wales have not got the eggs to supply.  That is the tragedy.  This country imports twenty millions sterling worth of eggs.  There is no reason for it, and I am glad to think that in spite of the decline at the moment in poultry farming there had been a steady improvement in the production of eggs both in quantity and quality during the last few years, and I believe that steady improvement is maintained.  Everybody admits that the English and Welsh eggs, as far as quality is concerned, is the best but there are two points in which it does not meet the demand first in the number produced week in and week out throughout the year, and, secondly, in getting the eggs to the market, London, of course, is the greatest egg market in the world.  I often feel that one of the hopes of agriculture is to develop this egg industry and the allied poultry industry, and to pick up some of that twenty millions now paid for imported eggs.  England has imported eggs for 250 years at least.  The hen has been looked upon as the Cinderella of farming.  Like Cinderella, she is coming into her own and will more and more take a ruling and reigning position in the domestic economy of the farm and of the poultry farmer.  It is an extraordinary thing that this country is far behind many other countries in the production of eggs.  Even as consumers we do not consume as many eggs per head as countries like Canada, Holland, France or Belgium.  And yet the doctors tell us that two or three eggs a day will keep any man or woman going....yet it is difficult to persuade English people to adopt any change of diet but the habits of the people of England in reference to eating and drinking are changing, and more eggs are eaten and less beef is consumed than there used to be.  I believe that is going to continue.  I believe that the egg will become one of the most common as it is one of the most nutritious of fares for every man, woman and child.  Why should not the English farmer get the benefit of this increased demand!  We are importing a little more than 50 per cent of our total egg supply.  That leaves out of consideration eggs that come in in all sorts of forms not in shell.  And yet we have here a country peculiarly

fitted for the production of poultry and eggs, and a great demand on the part of the people which makes the necessary price element more or less certain.  I still further hope this factory will be the forerunner of a still further development because whilst the quality is good there is sometimes wanting a certain element in the grading, packing, and distribution of eggs.  It has been said that the man who makes two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before is a benefactor;  and surely the man who by breeding and feeding can get a hen to lay twice as many eggs per year as she lays now will be a benefactor to the country.  This benevolent fowl works hard all her life and is never too old to boil.   I am sure I carry you with me in wishing United Egg Packers every success and I hope they will work in the best accord with the farmers.  I wish the directors and the personnel generally every success and as a believer in the Empire producing more it is a great pleasure to me to declare this factory open and to unfurl the flag which we all revel in.   Lord Greenwood then pulled the cord which unfurled the Union Jack on the flagstaff.  He was then presented with a gold key with which to open the factory.”

 

“Mr. H. Bliss of the Bradley Egg Farm, said he had been asked to say a few words from the farming side.  He had been a poultry farmer too many years to be an optimist, but without being an absolute pessimist.  He would confine his remarks to what the poultry farmer had been and still was up against.  The first thing he saw here was a van on which there were little rays.  He took it as a ray of hope that they had here a building, the first, he believed, that had been constructed for this business.  It was the first time they had had the opportunity of seeing eggs really marketed.  The second ray of hope was the promise that there was going to be a Reorganisation Committee for the poultry industry.   Some might not agree with that, but there was no alternative.  He was expressing the wish of many farmers, when he said that the people appearing before the Committee to give their views should be producers and not professional people representing just their own academic views.  They had a poultry Committee of whom 95 per cent had never picked up two thousand eggs or had a hundred dead birds to sell off their farms.  These were the people in whose hands were to be put the destinies of the poultry farmers.  He was not denying the good that the National Mark Scheme had brought about by the grading of eggs, but speaking from the purely commercial side he felt that it was a scheme worked by idealists and it had not benefited the producers themselves in hard cash.  It had been running approximately six years, but notwithstanding the expenditure on advertising and posting it did not yet control twenty per cent of the eggs were produced in England.  He thought the percentage should be very much higher.   He hoped that any gentleman here who had any influence with the Board of Agriculture would see to it that when the promised organisation came about, the producers themselves should be heard.   He would go a little further and say that as regards the subsidy the poultry farmers felt that they had been completely sold by the Government.  Eggs were coming in free from Australia.  These eggs were put on board in cold storage and were brought here and sold as new laid eggs.   Could one imagine a bigger farce?  Many home producers put their eggs into cold storage but they had to be marked as such.  Why should the Government carry on like that?”

 

“…Lord Greenwood then unlocked the door of the new packing station and the company passed in and became greatly interested in the processes of unpacking, candling and grading of eggs which were being operated by the staff.  They were particularly fascinated by the “Robin” grader, a patent machine which drops the egg into the grooves appropriate to their grade, whence they are carried on by the operation of the machine to positions where members of the staff stand ready to pack them.  Eggs which on examination in the candling cabins are found to contain blood spots or to be otherwise not up to standard are cast aside.  Thus every care is taken that the eggs sent out are of the desired quality.”

 

So the Station was innovative in using the first automated egg grading machine, instigated a once a week collection of eggs from as far away as Oxford but also locally.  George  Wheatley of Hillview Kempshott Lane (predecessor to George Edsell) was one farmer who signed up to provide eggs as the advertisement in the Gloucester Journal of 8.6.1935 shows. 



Eggs were mainly sent to London using the company’s own vans.  Employees drove the vans but most of the hard work was done by the ladies in candling, grading, packing and loading the lorries.  Each crate contained 36 dozen eggs.  In 1955 Maurice Beaver of Kempshott was a self-employed van driver working for the firm.


                                                                                                    The new egg grading machine in operation


The Board of Directors, however, had noticed that Mr. de Jetley Marks was not at all competent in running the Kempshott business.  The accounts were in chaos and not showing any profit so in danger of being sacked he resigned in 1935, moved to Yorkshire and set up another business of his own.  But not before taking the company to court.  He did not win the case.


       

    Plan showing the extent of the egg packing station and its buildings in preparaton for the conversion of the barn to offices  in 1934 as per the drawing below.





The elevation plans for the offices.

 

The walls were to have expanded metal fixed to existing weather boarding and be rough casted.  The roof of existing slates was to be augmented with asbestos tiles over the new bays. 

 

The company provided its own water supply.

 

At the same time bicycle sheds were erected as many of the ladies who worked at the station cycled to work – one even cycling over from Chineham.



Identified on this photograph of the staff so far are

Back row from left to right:  Ernie Wildish, Kitty Strange, Mabel Anderson, ? Woods, Kath Sallows (from Cumberland Avenue), ?, ?, Eve Smith (Battledown Farm), ?, Mr. Lock (Foreman), + 2 office staff.Front row from left to right:  ?, ?, ?, ? Ayling (a driver from Roman Road), Mrs. Lock, Ken Lock.

 

In 1946 Mabel Anderson went to work on the Egg Packing Station to pay for her daughter’s school uniform, according to her daughter.  Another known employee was Tilly White, wife of Horace White of Tilsdown (no. 230), Kempshott Lane.  She had previously helped Mr. Wheatley on his Hillview poultry farm, but here she graded the eggs and worked there from the 1930’s until 1945.  Her husband classified himself in the directories as “Poultry Director” and his farm was directly opposite the entrance to what is now the Buckingham Parade of shops.   He farmed Tilsdown from 1951-1968. Trevor Jenkins was also employed at the station in 1958.  Elsie Ruggles of Buckskin Lane was also an egg grader in 1939. 

 

By 1955 United Dairies (London) Ltd.  owned the Egg Packing Station up until 1970 from whence Thames Valley Eggs appears to have taken over.  The 1969 Guildford telephone directory shows United Dairies still there at this time, though it may well have changed hands during this period as in the 1970 directory Thames Valley Eggs appears in its place.  It is still there in 1974 but the exact date of its quitting is not yet known.


How the Second World War affected availability of eggs

 

Eggs became rationed in 1942.  Consumers were given vouchers with which to buy eggs.  A new organisation, the National Egg Distributors’ Association Limited was set up to supply eggs.  As the war progressed a lack of availability of feed was the prime reason for reduced production.  America had discovered a way of using dried egg powder as a substitute and this could be reconstituted. Packed and sent from Chicago, Britain adopted and promoted the use of supplementary egg powder.  A poster campaign issued by the Ministry of Food extolled the view that dried eggs were real eggs in all but name:  Dried eggs are the complete hen’s eggs, both the white and the yolk, dried to a powder.  Nothing is added.  Nothing but the moisture and the shell taken away leaving the eggs themselves as wholesome, as digestible and as full of nourishment and health-promoting value as if you had just taken the eggs new laid from the nest.  So put the eggs back into your breakfast menus.  And what about a big, creamy omelette for supper?  You can have it savoury, or sweet, now that you get extra jam. In wartime the most difficult food for us to get are the body-builders.  Dried eggs build muscles and repair tissue in just the same way as do chops and steaks, and are better for health protection.  So we are particularly lucky to be able to get dried egg to make up for any shortage of other body builders such as meat, fish, cheese and milk.” 



Each person was allowed the equivalent in egg powder of 3 eggs per week.  One tin of egg powder was the equivalent of 1 dozen eggs.

 

Egg farmers were forced in these times to sell many of their hens for food and in return they received a grain allowance from the Government.  Egg rationing was not revoked until 1953.

 

Some Kempshott residents, used to fresh eggs, have said that the taste was no way like the real thing but they worked well in baking.  It is not known how the Kempshott farmers fared during this time as the Government’s Farm Survey was taken in 1940/41 immediately prior to this course of action.  Nor has it been discovered how our Egg Packing Station was affected.


Second quality eggs


The aim for top quality eggs was always paramount in the industry, but not always achievable by producers.  The summer of June 1956 was very hot and the Hampshire Egg Producers’ Society Newsletter of June reported:  With the summer weather we are getting a very much greater proportion of 2nd quality eggs.  A lot of these deteriorate in quality because of the bad storage.  In their own interests producers are urged to make sure that their eggs are stored in a cool place.  The number of air cells, watery whites and yolk faults is far too high, and there is little doubt that bad storage is the main cause.”  The writer has not found evidence of this in Kempshott, nor whether or how, if prevalent, it was overcome.


The Introduction of The British Egg Marketing Board


December 1956 saw the introduction of the British Egg Marketing Board, set up with the aim of bringing stability to the market so that egg producers could get the best possible returns and consumers could be provided with a regular supply of high quality, home-produced eggs at reasonable prices.  It obtained its funds from three sources:  egg sales, Government subsidy and income from taxes which egg producers had to pay.  First quality eggs were required by law to be stamped to show their grade and with a number that could be used to trace the packing station from which they had originated.  The Board added its own trademark – the lion which became a popular symbol with consumers and appeared regularly on advertising and promotional material throughout its lifetime.  British egg producers with more than 50 hens had to be registered and the Board was obliged to accept all eggs offered to it for sale.  This would have encompassed many of Kempshott’s egg farms at the time.


The Board helped promote British Eggs by operating a national price structure, disposing of surpluses by processing them into egg products (such as dried egg used in food manufacture), helping distribution through movement of regional surpluses, ensuring national quality standards for packing stations.  They chose the famous advertising slogan “Go to work on an egg” which featured on TV ads with comedian Tony Hancock  and other notable thespians and it became one of the most popular and memorable advertising campaigns of all time.  This advertising saw egg consumption increase by about 14% between 1957 and 1970, although the government removed the requirement to stamp eggs in 1968.

 

In later years a problem arose as improved methods of production meant that yields began to increase.  Although the Board was obliged to buy all eggs offered to it, producers were allowed to sell their eggs elsewhere and thus it became a dumping ground for those eggs not able to be sold in this way.

 

Both United Dairies and Thames Valley Eggs of the Kempshott Packing Station would have come under these jurisdictions, as would their egg suppliers.  The Board itself was closed down in 1971 after failing to achieve its objectives.  Many small egg producers wanted a free market and housewives were quoted as preferring to buy fresh farm eggs according to a BBC report in June 1968.

It is thought that the Egg Packing Station closed sometime during the early 1970’s but the exact date has yet to be discovered.  If anyone has details please let the Kempshott History Group know.

 

 The eventual demise of mass egg farming in Kempshott


Ask any long-term Kempshott resident what caused the demise of egg farming in the area and he will say “Fowl pest”.  This undoubtedly was a large contributory factor as has been demonstrated by the outbreak of 1964 which affected several large farms along Kempshott Lane.  How many of the local farms were affected is not known, but as farmers came to retirement age farms were either sold off or compulsorily purchased by Basingstoke Council, as in the case of Mr. Vickers of North Hants. Poultry Farm, to enable Kempshott to expand as a residential suburb of the town of Basingstoke, with such amenities as shops, more housing estates, a school and church.  Interestingly some of these former farmers were allowed to build a house for themselves on a part of their property in which to remain, or they moved to another smaller property in Kempshott in order to remain within the community which was rapidly developing.  Egg farming was never resumed in this area.  Land was being sold off for building as plots became unmanageable to workers in other trades and professions and supermarket supply took over during this latter period.

 

Whilst this report is a brief overview, the author would welcome any further information on the subject which could augment the study.


Sources


Newspaper articles as cited

Trade Directories

Electoral Registers Dummer with Kempshott, Basingstoke

1939 Register - Kempshott

1940/41 Government Farm Survey at TNA

Building Applications Basingstoke HRO 58M74/4/BP…

1901 and 1911 census Dummer with Kempshott

“Commercial Egg Farming” – S.G.Hanson, publ. 1913 & 1921

Museum of English Rural Life and Archives, Reading.

Newsletter of the Hampshire Egg Producers’ Society 51M76/P/10/8  June 1956



Appendix 1


Some poultry keepers in Kempshott from Trade Directories

[Dates may not be accurate due to availability and printing dates of directories]

 

Pack Lane

1915-41           Claude Rivaz                                       Beech Corner

1918-41           Robert Henry Cann                             The Gables

1914-68           Albert Gale                                          Mayfield (162)

1929                E.D. Smith                                           Stanley Lodge (140)

1954-64           D.A. Foote                                           119 (now Ennerdale Close)

 

Kempshott Lane (also part of Old Kempsott Lane)

1935-58           Frank Mitchell                                     Collinton (109)

1935-41           Arthur Mason                                      Fiveways (125)

1941-58           Albert William Haskett                       Kenilworth (169)

1941 - ?           John Edward Paine                              Oakdene (211)

1918-66           William Henry E. Willett                     Fairhaven

1955-58           John D. Hegerty                                  247

1945                John Woodward                                  295

1930-31           Thomas R. Derham                             Clynder (140)

1941-58           William Harfield                                 Mount Pleasant (180)

1930-41           William Wheatley                               Hill View (170)

1948-61           Maj. G.L. Edsell                                   Highlands Farm (170)

1925-30           G.A. Morris                                         Poultry Farm (190)

1935+              G. Raymond                                        Romandene Poultry Farm (210, 212,214)

1951-68           R.W.G. Vickers                                                North Hants Poultry Farm (190)

1927-58+         David Raymond                                   Ty Gwyn (196)

1938-61           Montague Raymond                           Picardy (198)

1951-72           Horace J. White                                  Tilsdown (230)

1941-1954       William Welding                                 The Dell, (248)

1926-68           Arthur Seal                                          Longfield (270)

1958-72           Peter J. Berry                                      Clanfield (358)

1954-55           R.A. Ralph                                           360

 

Fuzzy Drove

1938-54           Geoffrey S. Hiscott                              Furzy Grove Farm

 

Homesteads Road

1911                Margherita Aikman & Helen Wilson  Merrileas

1911-21           Arthur Vandervell                               Leslie Lodge

1911-24           Sydney George Hanson                       Old Down Farm

1929 – ?          M. Finelli                                             The Old Down

1955-58           George Burton                                    70

 

Eggs were also produced on Buckskin Farm, Buckskin Lane, Down Grange Farm, Winchester Road, and many other  Kempshott residents kept chickens for eggs for their own use.


Appendix 2                              


1941 Farm Survey statistics









 













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