Ken Oldroyd

Janet Oldroyd Hulme

Neil Hulme

Lindsay Hulme


The Oldroyds History

Originally the Oldroyd family were fruit growers in the Wisbech area. Their close connections with the rhubarb industry began with John Richard Oldroyd, who although the son of a prosperous Cambridgeshire farmer, John Oldroyd, decided to branch out on his own, and became a very successful market gardener and business man; unfortunately during the depression he lost everything, and decided to move to Wakefield to be close to his daughter Martha Neal who owned a fruit and vegetable shop in Northgate Wakefield.
John found a farm to rent at Lofthouse Wakefield, and began growing fruit and vegetables at Pymont Farm.
He became friends with a local rhubarb grower and in exchange for passing on his skills at growing strawberries, John was taught secrets of forcing rhubarb.  As Johnís reputation for quality produce grew, his eldest son Ernest came to Yorkshire to assist his father in 1933.

Ernestís young son John Kenneth (Ken) not only bore his grandfatherís name, but also his interest in rhubarb production. Kenís first encounter with forced rhubarb began at the age of 10 when his Grandfather took him by the hand to show him finally what lay behind that secret door.  As he gasped with wonder at the sight before him, he knew instantly that this is what he wanted to do with his life.
John eventually returned to Wisbech leaving Ernest to continue at Pymont farm. The business of E.OLDROYD was formed supplying the local area with fruit and vegetables by horse drawn floats.Ken was made a partner of E.OLDROYD and SON in 1942 and by 1943 they had made enough money to purchase Pymont Farm. Unfortunately Ernest died in 1949 never to see the next generation born.

A partnership was formed between Ken and his brother-in-law Jack Proud, who marketed the produce, allowing Ken time to concentrate on crop production.
At a time when confidence and financial commitment was lost to the rhubarb industry, Ken took the bold step of expanding his operation, searching the area for suitable land, and when the ear-marked farms came
on the market, his determination won through, enabling the company to expand rapidly and in 1965 the partnership became a company- E.OLDROYD & SONS (Lofthouse) Ltd.

The next generation began their training when in 1966 Kenís eldest son John Graham, and in 1969 Neil Hulme joined the company.
At the birth of Neil and Janetís first son Lindsay Richard in 1979 Janet returned to her Ďrootsí on giving up her position as a Medical Scientific Officer at St James Hospital Leeds, and joined the family company.

Ken was determined to hold together the remaining growers, certain that the way forward was to form a cooperative and market collectively. In 1967 the Yorkshire Rhubarb Growers Ltd formed, operating initially from a Porta-cabin at the Oldroydís Carlton Farm, moving later to a custom built packhouse on land owned by John Dobson a co-director. The remaining growers either maintained their independence or marketed through the company of another leading light of the Yorkshire rhubarb industry Norman Asquith (NAP). YRG was disbanded*** in 1996 as more growers ceased trading.

Still more remained to done to save the dying industry, and from work done by the Director of Stockbridge House Experimental Station at Cawood Yorkshire, The late Mr F G Smith the outstanding varieties of Stockbridge Arrow, Stockbridge Harbinger and Cawood Delight were developed. His work was continued by Mr J.D.Whitwell and finally by Mr M R Bradley from 1950 -1992.
All aspects of crop production were closely examined to improve both yield and quality, to off set increasing costs of production and falling prices, and prepare the industry for future customer demands in quality, and presentation, thereby hopefully the industry might be saved.
Ken was invited to join the Advisory Committee at Stockbridge House in 1981 and was re-elected for 11 years until its re-organization in 1992. For his services to the rhubarb industry Ken was awarded the Northern Horticultural Societies highest award, The Harlow Carr Medal in 1995. Previous recipitants include Peter Seabrook, Geoffrey Smith and Herman Baarda.

1983 Kenís co-directors his sister Sheila Proud and her husband Jack retired and were replaced by his children J.Graham Oldroyd, Janet Oldroyd Hulme and her husband Neil Hulme.

1998 In recognition to their contribution to tourism and economic regeneration within the Wakefield District, the Mayor of Wakefield and the Leader of Wakefield Metropolitan Council held a civic reception for Janet Oldroyd Hulme, Neil Hulme and Wakefield Tourism Officer Philippa Ventom.

2002 Kenís Grandson Lindsay Richard gained a Bsc in Agriculture and became Production and Technical manager, the fifth generation was in place

Work today continues not only maintaining and improving crop quality, but adapting to todayís customer demands, with advances in marketing and packaging.