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Littleton & Badsey Growers – interview with Charles Binyon, 1957

Les Grinnell of Badsey, whose father used to work at Littleton & Badsey Growers (LBG) has donated to the Society an LP record of a recording of a 1957 interview between John Bird, Editor of The Evesham Journal, and Charles Binyon, the outgoing President of LBG.  Some time ago, Will Dallimore had copied this LP on to a DVD and this is now made available for all to hear.  The nine-minute recording begins with an introduction by John Bird, followed by the interview.  Listen to the recording here:  

Transcript of the LP recording

It was on a very pleasant day in the autumn of 1957 in Badsey in the Vale of Evesham that I interviewed Mr C A Binyon.  Mr Binyon was one of the founders of Littleton & Badsey Growers and in that co-operative organisation of market gardeners that you will hear, plots were already turning to the approach of its 50th anniversary.  Mr Binyon, now in his eighties, recalls the early days.

JB:  We are approaching the Jubilee of Littleton & Badsey Growers.  When is it?

CAB:  Next year.

JB:  Next year – you will make the 50 years?

CAB:  We will make the 50 years in the winter of next year.

JB:  You were there at the beginning.

CAB:  I was there at the very beginning, yes.

JB:  Was it about 1899 you came to Badsey?

CAB:  1899, yes, and the [?] were very unorganised.  They were very helpful to one another in lending tools or helping a man in the field, but that was the only form of co-operation in the whole district.

JB:  I see.  And they were increasing in then weren’t they with the farming system?

CAB:  Yes, the farming system was going out and being replaced by smallholders, perhaps 5 or 6 acres apiece.

JB:  Called market gardeners?

CAB:  Market gardeners, yes.

JB:  You can not only look back to the beginning, you were part of the beginning, weren’t you?

CAB:  Yes, it came about in rather a curious way.  I was on the Board of Guardians and I was at a meeting at Littleton at which they decided to start a Society, but they felt that Littleton alone was not strong enough to put the Society on a foundation and therefore they invited people from all the other villages.  And he came to me and said, “Now look here I want you to promise me to come to a meeting at Littleton.”

JB:  Was that Mr Smith?

CAB:  Not, that was Mr [??]  And then, so I came to it and they asked me to be Chairman, I don’t know why, so I did.  We had a lot of very technical, legal things to decide first of all.  We had great help from the Agricultural Organisation Society, without whose help we should have been rather at sea.  But we persevered, but the difficulties were.  First of all, that the grower, not being used to anything of this sort, looking entirely at everything from his own individual point of view   …. [?].  That was the first thing we had to come back to.

JB:  That was one of many problems really, wasn’t it?

CAB:  Many problems.  But perhaps the chief problem was to ensure that the best stuff got the best price, and then it was easy.  But anyway we tackled it to the best of our ability and now, as far as the future is concerned, I should like to say that I hope that we shall always keep to the ideals that we started with.  That is to say, that we got to build up a business in which fair dealing and good service were the two watchwords and we hope we have been successful.

JB:  Well, you have been, haven’t you?  There have been lots of ups and downs, haven’t here?

CAB:  Oh, yes, lots of ups and downs.

JB:  Days when you nearly packed up?

CAB:  Many days when I thought, “What is the good of going on?  Kill the wretched thing!”  And all sorts of things like that.

JB:  So in the dark days when you hesitated …

CAB:  No, we didn’t hesitate.

JB:  You didn’t hesitate.

CAB:  No, we never intended to kill it.  [Laughter.]

JB:  You recall the other day when I was talking to you, you recalled the gentleman who told you about it was Briggs.

CAB:  Oh, yes, that was Mr Bubb.  He was a very great help, but he was very despondent if things went wrong.  And he used to say to me, “I know the good old Book says that no man can serve more than two masters, and here you are …”

JB:  And now you come to the Jubilee.  Is there a little message you would like to give to those that follow?

CAB:  I only hope that those who follow will stick to the ideals and objects that we started with.  That is to say, to give good service, to supply the gardeners with all their requisites that they want, at reasonable prices, we don’t intend to cut prices, that’s not good at all because it’s their business, and any profits are given back to the members.  So that’s the great thing:  service and …..

JB:  Marketing their produce.

CAB:  Marketing their produce.  Service comes in there, too, and I think that’s what really built us up.  And then we’ve been very fortunate  in having a very good manager.

JB:  Mr Victor Smith?

CAB:  Mr Victor Smith, and we’ve got some very good men on the managing committee.

JB:  Is there more than one of the pioneers still with you on the Committee?

CAB:  No, there’s no one.  Except, yes, on the General Committee there’s one, Mr R R Smith, who’s been a great standby throughout the whole years.  He’s never faulted a bit and always backed me up in everything.

JB:  And now it’s his son, Victor, who is the manager now?

CAB:  Yes, that’s it!

JB:  And your successor as President is?

CAB:  Mr Ernest Hartley who is shaping exceedingly well.

JB:  He used to have the [?] village and things?

CAB:  Yes, yes, and thoughtful.  

JB:  Splendid.

CAB:  He has a bit wider outlook than some of them, than most.

JB:  That’s good.  Mr Binyon, just one little point.  There have been great changes during the 50-60 years since you came here and today, of course, may BE cast a tremendous …..

CAB:  But I’ve never been despondent about the future of the smallholder.  I’ve seen them ruin so many [?].  [Laughter]

JB:  That’s very good.  But they’re still able to smile and do a hard day’s work.
CAB:  Yes, yes.

JB: Yes, you found them, as one who came among them from the town, you found them hard-working people?

CAB:  I found them hard-working people and yet they were very, very good insomuch that they gave me, quite a stranger to them, every help in regard to conservation.  I mean I’d only got to look over the hedge and ask, “What are you doing?  How do you do that?”  And they’d tell you.  That’s the right spirit.  Not like the people nowadays.  Some of them say, “I know the secret of so-and-so.”  “What is it?”  “Ah, I’m not going to tell you!”  [Laughter.)  Ten to one they didn’t have a secret at all.

JB:  But the outlook has changed all the way round.

CAB:  Yes, but even in the early days I remember I had a letter from a man, the author of that book, you know, The Manor House.

JB:  Oh yes, Mr Savory?

CAB:  Mr Savory, and he said that market gardening was paying if you used your intelligence and you were not afraid of hard work.  And that’s about the truth of the thing now.

JB:  You’ve done that too.  Well that’s very nice.

Before my interview ended, Mr Binyon did tell me a little more which indicated that the Society today has a worldwide reputation and the Ministry of Agriculture and other governmental departments and organisations send along overseas representatives to Blackminster, midway between Littleton and Badsey, just to see how it’s done.

At the end of my talk, you will notice that I did say it was very nice.  I don’t know what that was intended to refer to at the time but it was very nice, I will say, to find Mr Binyon so well and so happy about the future of the Society which he has done so much to build up and make a big success in the interests of market gardening.

Transcribed by Maureen Spinks, February 2023.