The history of Agri-Linc/G. Whyles & Sons.
Here in the Marketing Department, we often like to take a moment to reflect on bygone times. They say there is no substitute for experience, and in the 94-year history that Agri-Linc calls its own, experience certainly isn’t lacking. We’ve been leafing through the family albums, gathering memoirs from family members, and now I present to you the fruits of our labours – the complete and unabridged story of how Agri-Linc came to be.
While Lenin had died in Russia, and Hitler was being sentenced to five years for treason in Landsberg Prison, my great-great grandfather George Whyles began farming an approximately 260-acre area of the Grimsthorpe & Drummond Estate, near Edenham, for livestock and arable use. The 1st generation of the farming family operated under the name of ‘G. Whyles’ and lived on the land, in the farmhouse next to where the Agri-Linc offices are now located.
Throughout the depression, George Whyles could not afford to pay George Whyles junior (his son and my great-grandfather) a reasonable wage. Instead, he said George was welcome to as much of the farm’s game as he could catch, and so, George jnr. became a commendable huntsman, with a record of trapping 200 rabbits in one night, which he then sold for his livelihood. He also became a skilled mole-catcher, skinning them and selling the skins to Horace Friend of Wisbech for ‘moleskin’ clothing.
During the 2nd World War, my great-great grandfather was exempt from service because farmers were required to work the land and feed the country. However insignificant our little farm may have been in relation to the world events happening at the time, war-time Britain was a hungry land, and farmers were essential. My great-great grandfather died in 1940, leaving a young George Whyles junior and his brother Tom to continue operations at Randalls Farm. George, (now married to Grace Whyles) lived in a caravan for the first 3-4 years of his married life, as the remaining family lived in the farmhouse, which was divided into two dwellings.
Despite Edenham’s remote location, the war did have quite a profound effect on life on the farm. The farm was host to several German and Italian P.O.W’s, one of whom kept in contact with our family until the 1980’s. They were treated very well and given extra rations of food – in return for this they made toys for nieces & nephews. In my research, those I’ve spoken to emphasized that these prisoners were not Nazis, just conscripts who were glad the war was over for them. They could not comprehend the stories they heard about the concentration camps, they thought the pictures were of victims from the allied bombing raids. One of the prisoners had been on submarines and told how they had caught the ‘Queen Mary’ troop ship in their sights in the Atlantic, but she was too quick for them. The P.O.W said of that incident that ‘Britain’s biggest ship was nearly kaput’. The German prisoners worked very hard and appreciated the way they were cared for.
Other anecdotes of note include the time when Tom Whyles rescued a pilot from the wreckage of a crashed trainer plane. The plane was upside down, (fortunately not burning) and the pilot was tangled in his parachute harness. Tom Whyles used a pocket knife to cut the pilot free. Another time, an RAF plane crashed about a mile away from the Farm and burst into flames. The Fire Brigade managed to get the rear gunner out alive, but he died shortly after. George Whyles recalled the ammunition exploding in the heat, and they were told to keep well clear in case there were any bombs on board. During the Blitz of November 1940, despite Coventry being 65 miles away, from a hill on the farm, the blaze could be seen, along with hordes of fighter planes.
The Agri-Linc Timeline
In the 1950s, George & Grace raised two sons on the farm, the 3rd generation, who still operate in the business today. Malcolm is pictured here as a young boy helping at Harvest time. Photo approx..1958
As well as farming their own land for arable use, the farm was home to sheep and pigs, as well as George and Grace and their family. The farm purchased their very first self-propelled combine harvester in 1963, which is pictured here in this aerial shot taken in the 1960s.
1960s aerial view.
and the 1963 combine at work in 1965.
A new McCormick harvester was purchased for £2,350 in 1968. As George Whyles’ sons grew up and began to learn the business, the business expanded with them
and G. Whyles Arable & Livestock Farmers became G. Whyles Farmers & Agricultural Machinery Suppliers in 1974, laying the foundation stone for what would become Agri-Linc.
Aerial shot taken in 1971 – note the addition of the new grain store.
The Farming business continued to grow, as did the Whyles Family. In the 1980s, Randalls Farm was also home to a herd of cattle. In 1981, after an incredibly wet spring, a helicopter was called to the farm to help with drilling, as the land was too wet to hold up a tractor.
In 1991, with the incorporation of George Whyles grand-sons to the team, we became G. Whyles & Sons – Farmers & Agricultural Machinery Suppliers. 1995 was the last time that we ever had livestock on the farm, with the departure of the sheep, as it was felt that livestock was detracting from the more profitable business of Agricultural Machinery Dealing.
Image approx. 2000, note the new entrance to the side of the grain store.
Aerial shot taken 2005. Since then, the 3rd and 4th generations of the family have established ourselves as a leading supplier of agricultural machinery and nationwide distributers of wearing parts/brackets and haulage and agricultural equipment.
In 2010 our new trading name, Agri-Linc, was launched to drive our trading division forward whilst continuing to contract out the farming of the land under the traditional partnership of G. Whyles & Sons. In 2010, we also launched the ‘PROFORGE’ range of brackets, which has since developed into a hugely successful range of cultivation equipment, handling attachments and parts, see: https://proforge.co.uk/
January 2013 Aerial Image – note the yard expanding to the left.
In October 2017, Agri-Linc became a limited company, and in 2018, two members of the 5th generation of the family joined the Sales & Marketing Team here at Agri-Linc.
Other notable milestones in 2018 included the introduction of the ‘Bison’ hardwearing metal range into the Agri-Linc product offering. This superior collection of ductile and tungsten wearing parts was specifically developed for heavy-duty applications in arable work.
2019 brought exciting changes for Agri-Linc. Many farmers would be familiar with J Brock & Sons of Woodhams Farm, Thaxted, who have had a strong presence in the New & Used Machinery market for some forty years. In latter years, J Brock & Sons developed a wearing parts division, acquiring Avenue Agriculture in May 2017. In Spring of 2019, the decision was made for Agri-Linc to acquire the Brock Parts division of J Brock & Sons, allowing the Brock Family to focus on their core New & Used Machinery business. In the words of Philip Brock, “our two companies have always had synergies, and this is another exciting move for joint benefit.” Thus, the Agri-Linc Thaxted Stores Depot was formed, and has gradually expanded and evolved, taking on more staff and increasing output. The Thaxted Depot has also hosted two well-attended ‘Farmers Open Evenings’, one soon after the opening of the Depot in 2019, and then a more recent event in November 2021.
The last couple of years have brought challenges upon us all. However, with the onslaught of panic buying, perhaps the demand for British food and the need for British producers was recognized more than ever before. Agri-Linc operated throughout the pandemic, growing, evolving, and doing whatever we could to support our farmers when they needed a hassle-free, trustworthy experience the most. Now, our website and online shop have evolved into a go-to resource for many farmers seeking to find quality equipment, at competitive prices, with immediate availability. The team continues to grow, with over 40 members spread across two depots, and further members of the 5th generation of the Whyles’ family joining the team.
Finally, it goes without saying that from our humble beginnings, all progression forward is made possible by the support of thousands of loyal customers, both nationally and internationally. Agri-Linc look forward to serving your farm for at least another 94 years!
Below is the latest aerial image of the ever-changing scene at Randalls Farm – taken March 2022!