July 19, 2020|

W. Wheatley and Son – New Premises in 1977

Very shortly, the new premises at Wheatleys will be complete.  The main contractors, Prince of Southampton, began work in September 1975, and once the forecourts has been completed, including some landscape gardening, a modern lean-to cover attached to the early 19″` c. wall, a relic of the original Malthouse, the considerable operation will be over.  A new, modernised, purpose-built plant will stand to serve what is a three generation family firm, in the changed conditions of the 1970’s.

Mr Teddy (Edward William) Wheatley’s grandfather, William Wheatley, began the firm in 1890 on the site of what is now Whispers hairdressing salon.  There is a photo of him at Wickham Fair, complete with a stock of late 19″` c. implements, in his grandson’s office.  He began the firm as a small foundry, making parts of rolling stock for the railway, and gratings and gully traps. You still see them, by the way, in use.  Watch for the W.Wheatley sign.  As his foundry grew, he branched out with a machine shop in Mayles Lane, and plough-shears and agricultural implements at the old Malthouse in Fareham Road.

After the first war, he added steam ploughing and road rolling to his business on a contract and hire basis.  One combination of two traction engines and plough operated on the Isle of Wight, the other from Wickham. There were some 20 steam rollers ready for hire to improve the roads.  Mechanised farming was beginning to take hold. On May 24th, 1919, a tractor was sold for E368. Model: Overtime N and running on petrol or paraffin.  Not long ago, the original customer came back to the firm.  The tractor was still running, but as a vintage showpiece. Its modern equivalent costs £5,000.

In 1938, the founder of the firm died, and Mr Teddy Wheatley’s father James Edward ‘Ted’ Jesse Wheatley carried on the business, throughout the war years, selling and maintaining the agricultural machinery for farm-conscious Britain.  In 1947 when Mr Teddy Wheatley was demobilised he returned to help his father, serving his apprenticeship with the firm which still maintained the original foundry, but was increasingly concentrating on machinery apdatractors in particular. Fordson Standards had been the great make of the War.

In 1954, his father died and since then Mr Teddy Wheatley has maintained and expanded the firm, which now covers and area ranging from Lymington, Romsey, Stockbridge, Alton, Midhurst and employs thirty-five people. The plant will be much more satisfactory with covered waiting space for machinery, a large workshop capable of taking very substantial repairs, and extensive spare-parts store, canteen, shop, and offices, and all centrally heated.  Most tractors sold still seem to remain British built, but increasingly other implements and ancillary machinery are coming from Common Market countries.

Holding the right back-up spares is a major undertaking with so many different makes and types.  There are 18,000 cards alone detailing the type of spare held, and maintaining the stock check is an intricate task.  Spare-parts turnover about three times a year, and they come chiefly from Doncaster.  One problem is working out what spares will be needed, when so much depends on weather conditions and seasonal pressures which are difficult to forecast.

It is good that this Wickham family firm is still so very much in business.  Incidentally you may be interested in looking around the shop.  It seems to have a wide range from pedal tractors to torque wrenches to wet weather gear!

Parish Magazine — January 1977

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