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My early life in Whitstone

The Big Interview by Pat Nasmyth February 2010

Jeanne came to live in Whitstone at the age of 7 in 1952 when her father and his partner Mr Roy Toms took over the family business in the centre of the village.

Frank Hambly ran a cycle shop before expanding into the agricultural contracting world through traction engines. As the business grew it moved into the era of tractors and machinery. The business, started in 1892, is still trading as Hamblys; the original premises will soon be demolished as a new building has recently been erected at Paradise in Balsdon Road.

The family moved into No 10 Meadowside, which was newly built and Jeanne attended Whitstone School and has memories of walking through the field on the left just after Trelawne and coming out at Gratton cottages as a short cut. Most times the children walked along the main road as there were no pavements, passing fields which are now Paradise Park, the houses did not appear until the early 1970’s. The children frequently worked in the school garden, which is now where Broadfields bungalow is built.

The Church had an Organ which needed someone to blow the bellows to play it. The Chapel had pews with doors. Chapel OrganJeanne started to play the organ at chapel when she was 13, Mr George Stanbury, a previous organist, frightened “the life out of her “as he sat nearby, keeping time with his foot as she played. The congregation from Chapel used to go carol singing around the village. One year, Jeanne remembers vividly, they had sung for Mr George Stanbury who lived at ‘Elms’ where Jeanne and John now live. They were invited in and shown in to the front room, where resided “the biggest Aspidistra” she had ever seen. The house-keeper, Aunt Polly, brought in hot peppermint drinks which the children were not very keen on.....the Aspidistra had an unusual Christmas treat!

After 2 years Jeanne had to have a break from playing as she started to attend school in Camborne to study for GCE’O’ level exams and Secretarial subjects, as there was only a bus every 3 weeks to and from Bude to Camborne it was necessary to lodge in Camborne.

The village shop was run by the Pethick family, everything possible that you would need was jammed onto the shelves, if they did not have “it” they would soon get it for you. Two solid wood counters, with a gap in the middle, ran from front to back on the left as you came in the door. The first counter had chocolate bars, behind glass, sweets in jars were kept on shelves. A hand slicer was used to slice the sides of bacon.

Every day Jeanne was sent to fetch the milk in a white enamel can with a lid, from Miss Mabel Dowdle, who lived at Pentecost, the house on the lower side of Hambly’s and milked her cows in a shippon at the side of the house.

Mr Woodley was always there in the butchers shop preparing the meat along with his wife and sister-in-law. The Post Office was on the opposite side of the road from the shop, where the children waited for the school bus to Stratton. Further up the road was Ivy Cann’s shop, which is now the house beside the car-park, where she sold all sorts of household items from wallpaper and paint to hinges, screws, and even mouse-traps.

Fetes, socials, concerts, football matches and various other social events took place enabling the village folk to get together, all were well supported and consequently most people in the village and those in the surrounding area were known to one another.

John and Jeanne Barrett

Hambly's Celebrate 120 Years

Old picture of where the cycle shop opened in WhitstoneFrank Hambly could not have imagined in 1892, as he proudly opened his new cycle shop in Whitstone, Cornwall, that 120 years later the company bearing his name would still be in business, let alone be the largest agricultural machinery supplier in the south west, with five branches and a multi-million pound turnover selling and servicing some of the most technologically advanced agricultural machinery in the world.

Today, Hamblys is still proud to be a family owned business which is dedicated to maintaining the strong reputation that the company has developed for the products, sales and service that it provides to its customers over a trading area that stretches from West Somerset to the tip of Cornwall.

From selling cycles, Frank Hambly soon expanded into agricultural contracting and embraced early agricultural mechanisation running traction engines. Soon after his death, the company was bought by Roy Toms and Eric Billing in 1951, who continued to grow the business, and expanded to a second branch in 1964 following the acquisition of the long established dealer M A Bate and Co in Launceston.

Today the Hamblys management team is headed by Chairman John Barrett, Company Secretary Jeanne Barrett (Eric Billing's daughter) and their eldest son Stephen Barrett, who joined the company in 2003, and is Managing Director. An engineer by training, John joined Hamblys in 1973 and after the death of Roy Toms, went on to become Managing Director in 1985.

It was in the late 1980's that the development of the company as it is today started with the decision being made in 1988 to take on the CLAAS machinery franchise.

The last 10 years have been ones of considerable expansion for Hamblys as their reputation has developed and grown. The first step of this further expansion was the addition of a new branch at Honiton following the takeover of G A Vowles in 2003.

This was followed in 2005 by a further expansion northwards with a new branch being built at Bishops Lydeard near Taunton, whilst coverage in southern Cornwall was improved with the purchase of J C Tractors at Ludgvan near Penzance in 2008. Going back to its roots, the following year, the Whitstone branch was completely redeveloped with a new purpose built building and plans are currently in place for further expansion into west Cornwall.

HamblysHowever, one of the key elements behind this considerable increase in the size of the company over the past 10 years has been the quality of the products it sells, and the sales and service staff employed by the company who have been key to the strong reputation that Hamblys enjoys today.

The 53 staff employed by Hamblys, some of whom have been with the company for many years, are one of the company's most important strengths. Bringing a wealth of experience to the business, in order to maintain the high level of customer service that is expected of Hamblys, over 50% are employed in service support roles, and high priority is placed on staff training throughout all levels of the business.

This commitment to our customers has not only been recognised by CLAAS, who named us 'Dealer of the Year' in 2005, but also in a national competition in 2007 when thanks to nominations from our customers, we were awarded the AEA 'Dealer of the Year' award.

In addition to the full range of CLAAS tractors and harvesting machinery, recent years have also seen us being awarded other prestigious franchises, such as Kramer, Horsh, Simba, KRM, Richard Western, Spreadwise, Hi-Spec Engineering and most recently Lemken.

"Just as our customers businesses have grown and developed, so our business has had to do the same as we believe that looking to the future is essential," states John Barrett.

And just as Frank Hambly could have had no idea how his small cycle business would develop over the next 120 years, according to Stephen Barrett, "one thing is for sure that our aim is to still be 'serving South-West farmers over the next 120 years!".

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