Business profiles: Charles Hinchliffe of Hinchliffe's Farm Shop
Nov 30 2010 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Charles Hinchliffe’s lifetime in farming
WHEN veteran farmer Charles Hinchliffe saw his 100-year-old Yorkshire family business – and one of the UK’s first farm shops – go up in smoke this year, he was determined that it would rise from the ashes.
The notion of “true Yorkshire grit” might have become something of a cliché, but there’s no better way to sum up the determined personality of 86-year-old Charles Hinchliffe.
Charles works seven days a week to oversee the day-to-day running of his Sunnyside Farm at Netherton.
That might seem more than enough work for any octogenarian – but up until this summer, the beef and poultry farmer was also heavily involved in running the farm shop which his father built up in the 1920s as well as butchery and restaurant complex.
Then in July this year, the unthinkable happened. A fire tore through the farm shop complex and burnt everything to the ground. Charles and the family could only stand and watch as the farm, representing the efforts of four generations of the Hinchliffe family, went up in flames.
“Many people cried that day,” says Charles. “I shed a few tears myself, but it’s just one of those things in life that you just have to get through. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved and this gives me the kick to get up in the morning. We will get through it; we have to.”
The tenacious Hinchliffe spirit started with Charles’ father, Allen. Having served unscathed in the First World War, he lost a leg falling from scaffolding while working as a plumber and spent the rest of his life with a peg leg.
Despite this, he set up a successful butcher’s shop in the centre of Huddersfield. When slum clearances threatened the shop, the family moved across the road to another shop – and then bought a travelling shop to reach the displaced population.
“We could have started trading from a market hall or on the street, but this wasn’t our scene,” says Charles. “Eventually my father and mother moved out of the town altogether and began farming poultry – an easier form of farming for someone with one leg. In 1929, he set up one of the UK’s first farm shops selling fresh eggs and chickens.”
Eleven-year-old Charles, the eldest of four children, was already showing hints of his father’s business acumen.
“I’ve always been a wheeler-dealer,” says Charles. “From three years old I kept bantams and at 11 I used to sell sweets to my grammar school friends out of my school bag.
“I wasn’t allowed to, of course, and they chucked me out in the end because they had to shut up the tuck shop: I sold them at half the price and practically put them out of business!
“When my father died in 1940, I was only 17, and there were three other younger children to bring up. At that stage, I was already into growing my own; I had a nursery growing tomatoes and vegetables. Everything has always been home produced and the Hinchliffe name has grown up with that.”