LBG Limited

Extracts from the book ‘The L.B.G. Story’ – Jubilee Edition by C A Binyon

Published by LBG in 1958

LBG is the story of an enterprise by the few, in the interests of many.

For years the market gardening community, beset by problems and always faced with uncertainty, plodded on in near-poverty showing little ambition about trying to improve conditions within it’s own industry.

 C A Binyon CBE

In 1899 when Mr C A Binyon (above) first came to Badsey the change over from farming to market gardening was almost complete. The land was occupied almost entirely by small-holders each holding between three to ten acres.

Market garden produce was marketed in three ways:-

  1. By sending by rail to commission men in Birmingham, Manchester and other large towns.

  2. By sending the produce to Evesham Smithfield Market where it was sold by auction, or

  3. By selling to a local dealer.

  4.  

Much dissatisfaction was caused by high rail charges, low prices, delivery delays, goods lost in transit, etc and in one instance when a truck full of asparagus caught fire, not only did the unfortunate growers not receive any compensation for their losses but were actually charged for the rail carriage.

A feeling spread among growers that there was a need for combining in order to get fair play, to put their case to the Government and to press claims against the railway company – they felt at the mercy of all who handled their produce and had no means of making their grievances known or any method of redress.

No wonder then, that when a definite proposal to start a society was made it was received ‘as rain on parched ground’ to quote the words of Mr R R Smith, one of the originators of LBG.

 LBG Committee 1908

The matter was first publicly discussed at a meeting held at South Littleton on Monday 28th September 1908 with the objective of seeing what could be done to obtain more land for small holdings. A decision was made to form a co-operative which would include growers from surrounding villages and a committee was formed

The first meeting of the committee was held in the small room over the Bidford Co-operatives shop at South Littleton and Mr C A Binyon was elected Chairman –the start of a his long association with the society, which was duly registered as Littleton and Badsey Growers’ Society on December 14th 1908.

By the 1st of February 1909, some 35 members had joined the society but paid up capital only amounted to £11 10s. A week later there were 65 members and the capital had grown to £24 15s.

At this time there was no office or premises and a provisional committee came to the conclusion that a site should be obtained near to Littleton and Badsey railway station.

In the next few years the society had the most utmost difficulty to keep going and on several occasions nearly came to grief – the amount of capital paid was totally inadequate and was insufficient to buy the empties required for the produce, still less for the purchase of stocks and fertilisers. A good salary for a manager could not be afforded and none of the committee had enough experience in managing a concern of this sort. But their enthusiasm was not damped and the committee threw themselves into the task of making a success of the venture.

At a meeting in March 1909 to consider the urgent question of office accommodation, it was decided to take a room in a small house (occupied by Mr Edwin Bell) at a rental of three shillings a week.

When the first year’s work was reviewed at the annual general meeting held at Badsey Old School on February 26th, 1910 the society had a turnover of rather more than £4000 which was considered satisfactory but a loss of £20 meant a serious depletion to the very inadequate capital but the opinion of the floor was that the committee had done as well as could be expected.

It was generally realised that a small warehouse was necessary and a lease for 21 years at a rental of £2 for about one and a half chains was taken on land adjoining the sidings at Littleton and Badsey station but it was not to April of 1910 that the committee could afford to accept a tender for the erection of a wooden warehouse with office for the sum of £47 18s which on completion allowed them to relinquish the room at Badsey.

The society really struggled for the next year and at the annual general meeting held in February 1911 reported a loss of over £64 in the year – the Chairman had been warned that a proposal may be received to wind the society up but the matter was not mentioned.

In 1912 the society reported a profit of £1 11s but it had not turned the corner, membership had not increased and the paid up capital was still inadequate – ‘Kill the wretched thing’ was the cry.

In April 1913 the society returned a profit of £4 4s 9d, much experience had been gained and the turnover began to increase slowly.

The market grower, like the farmer, may assert that it is left to times of war to bring prosperity to agriculture – the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 immediately created an opportunity for starting something new, the production of crops to contribute to the nation’s medicine sources.

A few days after the outbreak of war a dealer in crude drugs, introduced by a relative of the Vicar of Badsey, suggested that the local growers should take up the cultivation of medical herbs, offering to supply the seeds and full cultural instructions and to take the crop at a fair market price.

There was a certain amount of hesitation before the growers would commit themselves to new, untried crops but in April 1915 the society was sent 72lb of belladonna seed, 44 lb of henbane, 22 lb of stramonium, 3 lb of dandelion and 1 lb of digitalis.

The soil proved totally unsuitable for digitalis and very little stramonium was grown – by midsummer one and a half acres of Belladonna were planted, which was increased over the next five years. As none of the land was fenced, it was very necessary to take precautions to avoid poisoning. Children were carefully instructed not to touch the plants and in the five years there were no cases of such poisoning.

Whilst the young plants were getting established, a shed for the drying of the leaves and the young shoots was erected, albeit, due to of lack of capital, on a shoestring budget – it was to have a short life, being burnt down on December 1st.

Fortunately, the society was able to hire a substantial, disused coach house at Badsey and two tortoise stoves were installed. (Incidentally this was where the first motor plough, invented by Albert Wyles, junr, son of L.B.G.s’ one time secretary, had been made).

Although the quantity of leaves produced during the first year was not large it was obvious that more accommodation would be required.

Hops, as a local crop, had by now disappeared and the Society was able to hire three disused hop kilns at Aldington, later on using old kilns at Harvington.

The price received for dandelions caused growers to drop it as a crop but sage being a crop already grown in the district, presented no difficulties and not being perishable was much easier to dry. Rubbing the sage was the worst job and through want of a machine a really satisfactory article could not be marketed.

Up to date equipment was badly needed and Mr Binyon after having been invited by George Cadbury to inspect drying methods at his plant in Bournville was able to learn a great deal. George Cadbury offered to invest £100 in the Society and together with loans from members a half acre site near Littleton & Badsey station was purchased for £50 and after many difficulties a drying plant was installed. This comprised of a Sirocco fan and heaters, a vertical engine and a second hand loco-type boiler, the steam from which furnished the heat. Cold air was driven by the fan through five steam filled radiators and it then entered a duct beneath the cabinets containing the green herbs.

By the middle of June 1916 drying commenced and during the year more than 130 tons of green herbs were dried which realised well over £6000 – Loans were able to be paid back and for the first time the beginnings of a reserve fund were at last possible and the future of Littleton and Badsey Growers was assured.

The rest, as they say..... is history!

 

L.B.G. from the beginning:-

1906

The change-over from farming: local men talk amongst themselves on how to get more land for smallholdings.

 

1907

Messrs. C A Binyon and Lionel Horne, in deputation, meet the Prime Minister, Mr Asquith.

1908

Formation of Littleton & Badsey Growers, Registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. About 100 market gardeners joined the Society in the first year. Turnover £4000. Loss of £20 on first year.

1909

Mr C A Binyon elected L.B.G. president.

1910

Office and Warehouse erected at Blackminster. L.B.G. ordered its first truck of coal.

1912

A profit ( £1 11s on the year) made for the first time.

1913

A profit of £4 4s 9d on the year

1914 -1918

World War 1. L.B.G members grew medicinal herbs to help the war effort.

1915

First transport bought – a horse and dray. Vegetable drying factory built (near L.B.G. premises) by Cadbury Brothers.

1917

Payments to growers exceeded £10000 for the first time.

1918

Telephone installed at L.B.G. Office.

1919

L.B.G. reports turnover of £16,700.

1920

Mr S L Brookes appointed Manager.

1921

L.B.G. buys first Motor Lorry.

1925

Vale of Evesham Asparagus Growers’ Association formed with L.B.G. support.

1926

L.B.G. start fruit canning ... Gold and silver medals won at Imperial Fruit Show.

1927

Vale of Evesham Fruit Canners formed.

1928

British Fruit Canners Ltd. Formed. Payments to growers exceeded £25000 for the first time.

1929

L.B.G. cease participation in fruit canning.

1930

Manager S L Brookes resigns, C A Binyon takes over. Asparagus Pool introduced.

1931

National Mark Asparagus Pack by L.B.G.

1934

L V Smith appointed Manager.

1936

L.B.G. purchase fruit canning factory premises from British Canners Ltd for £5000.

1938

Branch office and store opened at Pershore.

1939 – 1945

World War 2.

1940

Arctic Winter; Avon frozen; crops suffered; prices high.

1941

Payments to growers for produce exceeds £100000 last year. Tractor repair service started.

1942

Over 1000 tons of plums marketed by L.B.G.

1943

L.B.G. take over Welford-on-Avon Grower’s Society. About 4500 tons of fertilisers sold. Over 1250 tons of onions and 300 tons of tomatoes marketed.

1944

L.B.G. bonus to members on1943 reached 1s 5½d in the £ (“If only we had been able to retain some of this as additional share capital!” sighed the management). Sage drying plant installed. Pershore branch premises enlarged.

1945

Machine shop established at L.B.G headquarters.

1947

1000th member enrolled.

1948

Plum trade in the doldrums. Glut. About 150 tons pulped to help absorb the crop, later sold at heavy loss.

1949

L.B.G. founder members – Messrs C A Binyon, R R Smith and Walter Jones – complete 40 years’ continuous service on committee.

1950

C A Binyon awarded O.B.E.

1954

Staff superannuation scheme started.

1956

E Hartley elected L.B.G. president. C A Binyon made life member of both general and executive committees.

1957

A year of disquiet. Petrol rationing because of Suez Canal crisis. Crops poor (particularly asparagus and cauliflower). Trade shockingly bad. Wet summer.

1958

L.B.G. celebrates its Jubilee with a horticultural show for members on August 1st.

 

It should be noted that these are very brief extracts from Mr Binyon’s book and only therefore cover the first 50 years. Binyon's original story is fascinating and full of facts and figures as he re-visits this period of British history. Yes, he was a truly remarkable man.

 

2001

In July LBG acquired GMS Requisites and formed BHGS Ltd moving to new premises at Vale Park, Evesham

2002

Vale Park buildings extended, increasing the warehouse facilities and office space

2008

LGB celebrated its Centenary Year in September

2010

On the 10th June LBG acquired Pure Supplies Ltd T/a JFC Monro - based in Hayle, Cornwall

 

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