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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.