BOCM Experimental Development Farm, Stoke Mandeville, Aug 2009 Revisit (Full report)

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Landie_Man

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This site has been explored several times in the past, one occasion by me. The
Farm has been mocked, laughed at and labelled as “just an old pig farm”.

This place was my first urbex, and I want to prove people who have labelled this fascinating place as “just some old farm”; wrong. So I am re-writing my report on British Oil and Cake Mills’ Experimental Pig and Poultry Development Farm.

It might not look much but it was my first urbex, so I went back with my A300 to re-doccument it.


In 1947 we were a country recovering from war, building up our food supplies so we could be a rich nation once again, with a high demand for food. Simply farming pigs and poultry would not do anymore, and we needed to produce meat at a much faster rate, so experimental procedures had to be put into place to ensure a good, healthy amount of food.

So during 1947, British Oil and Cake Mills, known as BOCM Ltd, opened up an experimental poultry farm in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. “BOCM Stoke” as it was called, bred and fed Hens in various different conditions, similar to today’s “Intensive” and “Battery” conditions, which in my opinion are terrible and should be stopped, but enough of that for now.

Stoke was spread across a 14.4ha piece of land, which included a pig development section, where various different methods of breeding and feeding would take place, to ensure higher quantity and quality of bacon and pork meat.

Some of the methods and experiments can be seen in these two videos, the first being from 1953, the second from 1958.

https://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=47468 - Piglet Feeding and Breeding

https://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=197 - Pig Living Conditions


By 1961 the pig testing station was largely devoted to competitive trials with pig breeding:

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Picture taken from the 1961 BOCM LTD annual report.

At this current time, the question of the UK's entry into the Common Market was still unknown. However it was, it had to be resolved; and the farmers were going to face increasingly challenging economical conditions in the future, meaning that they would have to specialise in a much greater range of livestock, than they had done in the past.

Meanwhile at the sites poultry development section, a ten week cycle begins, in one of BOCM Ltd's three huge 240foot 5000 bird broiler houses.

Chicken1.jpg


Picture taken from the 1961 BOCM LTD annual report.

During the same year, sales of BOCM's "Supermix" range were at an all time high, along with their new “Heavy Pigmix” product, developed with the help of T. Wall and Sons.

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It also appears, that not only did BOCM Ltd study meat from chickens, it also carried out tests on the eggs, here one of BOCM Ltd’s scientists, can be seen colour testing, using the “Heimen Carver Rotor Chart”.

Taken from BOCM Ltds 1963 Annual Report

By 1964, there was an over-production of eggs annually, resulting in lower egg prices to the producer. Throughout England’s egg packing stations, 1,370 Million more eggs than in 1963 were reported.

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More Testing at Stoke in 1964.


By 1976, Stoke was in full swing, and had reached its peak. It had also undergone a recent and extensive renovation. It had been hosting the Annual European Pig and Poultry Fair since 1965, and more and more local people got involved with this.

The site at this point was fully equipped and conducting important research and development work, aiming to improve the scientific performance of poultry feeds. The whole site at this point appeared to be going more in the direction of poultry, but still retained the pig section.

The poultry section was headed by Dr Jean Allen, was staffed by nine people. Dr Jean Allen reported directly to Professor Peter Wilson, at the time the chief agricultural adviser.

Jean.jpg


The farm had no turkeys, the research for these were carried out at the Midland Poultry Holdings Group.

The farm now had two main laying houses for hens, each holding 5500 birds and two broiler houses, with 3,500 animals in each, a slight cutback from the 1961 production rate. The pullet rearing house held 6,600 birds, this was used to supply the laying houses with birds at “point of lay”.

In a laying trial, run by the now named “BOCM Silcock”, was recorded over a period of 56 weeks, but sadly the broiler hens, bred for food, now had only a life of 8 weeks.

Only two laying trials could be completed in one year, as there were two sheds, but 9 broiler trials could be carried out in one year, as these grew at the much faster 9 week period.

The scientific stuff was carried out, on a state of the art Ceres 2000 desktop computer at the Unilever Research labs, located elsewhere.

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Ricahrd Fisher, pictured left, was the Unit Supervisor of the layers section. Here he is, weighing a Stoke Mandeville Hen. Pictured right is Stokes Roger Wesley who is checking the weight of a group of eggs, photographed at Stoke in 1976. Mary Miller, a part time helper at Stoke was not available for photographing.

BOCM Silcock, ensured that the birds were kept in only the very best conditions, although the pen sizes here were smaller than usual. Litter, lighting and fresh air; including temperature and humidty were carefully monitored, to insure the birds were kept in only the best environment.

Guys.jpg



If you had visited the 1977 fair at Stoke, you will have had an insight into the work, which is carried out 365 days of the year in the “secret” buildings in the background to Stoke Mandeville and Terrick.

Taken from a 1976 Newspaper.

BOCM1983.jpg


This is a snippet from one of BOCM’s internal papers ('The Mill Stone', 'Feedback' and 'Link), showing the whole team in 1983, close to site closure.

The International Poultry fair, every year a success, was down to the efforts of the staff at BOCM. A BOCM Silcock stand, international reception and information kiosks, were all at the 2-day event in Stoke Mandeville yearly.

The fairs 18 year history, welcomed around 180,000 people, to view 3,000 different stands.

The Stoke site started to wind down by 1983, when the poultry fair moved to another site for the 1984 event. Processes slowed down by 1984, with the Research Centres final closing in winter 1985.

The site was lived on by owners until 2004, when it was sold to LandLink PLC, along with the neighbouring LongAcre farm, which had its own small poultry farm.

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BOCM Silcock merged with another company in 1992 to become BOCM Pauls’.

Onto the photos!

August 2009:

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Toilet Block

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One of the old Broiler Houses

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Possibly an old Staff Hut

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I made a return visit as I had to go to work that evening. A tractor had appeared which wasn’t there last visit in March. The bonnet was open, and the engine felt warm, but no one was around

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The remains of the BOCM admin and office building, burnt down in August 2007, along with apparently another broiler shed and another office section and lab.

The site is extremely decayed, you cant really tell what used to be what, and as I say, in the past, its been labelled as bland, which pictures of course show it is, but the report I have done above shows otherwise, It wasn’t just some “pig farm”, it was a research site, which has changed our ways of eating forever, but to very unfortunate consequences to animals, so in a way it’s a good job it has closed. It’s just a shame to see it rotting away, it’s a nice bit of land.

When filming my music video here, with permission from LandLink, in March 2009, we bumped into a local man whose dad used to be a manager on the site, apparently there used to be a social club, billiards room, tuck shop and a football and games section. He said he cant bear to go onto the site as he has seen fires from his windows and the site has childhood memories. He hasn’t been onsite since the 1985 closure, despite his house actually being on the perimeter.

Squatters and pikeys have lived on site several times.
 

Misstee

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Thanks Landie_man - an interesting report.

I'm with you, it's definitely more than just a pig farm - certainly makes you think about your bacon and eggs...!

I can totally understand the bloke's feelings about not wanting to go back in and being upset as he watches it decay. It sounds like there was a whole community built around the site - must hold a lot of memories.

Thank you for sharing - I enjoyed reading it.
 

smferino

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Awesome report,
love the background history.
So it's not the most photogenic place in britain, but it's an essential part of our history and changed the way food was produced in our country. Not necessarily a good thing, but it's what was needed at the time.
 

krela

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A very interesting write up, it's a shame there's so little of the site left as it does seem to play an important part in our 'food history'.

I spy some sickboy stencils, he gets everywhere!
 

klempner69

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Well done

Very well crafted history which makes the report all the more interesting.
 

Flexible

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Well researched, and thank you for an interesting report. As you mentioned, the reseach and experiments were essential at the time, borne out of necessity more than anything. Nowadays, that sort of work is driven by the requirement for higher margins and lower operating costs. No wonder that Free Range cattle and poultry, given organic feed is becoming a more popular if costly option to consumers.
 

TK421

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Hi Landieman, thanks for sharing this one mate, you are right, I had seen poor reports of this place in the past and discounted it, but you have done your research and took some great photos, well done chief!
 

Landie_Man

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My dad thinks I should send it to the local paper, he says if I write it in third person and remove any opinions of intensive farming, its worth it to go in the paper. I know normally you wouldn't do that, but this site cant get anymore fucked it if it tried
 

krela

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My dad thinks I should send it to the local paper, he says if I write it in third person and remove any opinions of intensive farming, its worth it to go in the paper. I know normally you wouldn't do that, but this site cant get anymore fucked it if it tried

There's a big difference between being part of an article specifically about urbex, and writing up a history of an interesting site for a local paper! I say go for it.
 

Trudger

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Superb write up and in depth research, makes my law essays look like scribbled notes !!
Good work, A+ :mrgreen:

T
 

Landie_Man

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The paper are interested in it! They want to put it on the nostalgia pages.

Incidentally back in August 2007 some Chav arsonist twat decided to torch three buildings, thus taking NINE, yes you didn't misread that nor did I miss type it NINE fire appliances to extinguish the enormous blaze within the three huge sheds.

The Fire at BOCM took

2 Scania P270 fire tenders
1 ERF EC6 Fire tender
1 newer model ERF
1 Volvo FL6 fire tender
1 26-ton Fire engine/water bowser 9,000 Litre Volvo FL6
2 Unimogs, a new one and an old one
1 Merc bus fire command unit
 
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shot_in_the_dark

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Not long since explored this site myself. Amazed by how large the site is, it just keeps going! like you rightly say it has been vandalised badly, but there is still some really interesting detail finds within the site. not sure if it was present when you took these images, but there is currently an old tractor residing in one of the barns at the back.

also whilst i was in the area, came across a derleict farming factory of some kind, an old single storey building that i have found no info or pics of anywhewre and in one corner was a load of old manual farm machinery,set out in an almost museum like fashion, very cool. anyone wanting directions just shout.
 

Foxylady

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Ah, that's another one I missed whilst off DP for a while last year. Superb, Landie. Brilliant research and write-up, and well done for getting it published too. :)
 

Landie_Man

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Did you go onto the unrelated farm nextdoor with the house and small sheds? It is accesible from the main site but is nothing to do with it. The tractor appeared august but was not there in februrary.

Is that the building on the way to coombe hill?
 

smileysal

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Excellent work Landie, excellent write of of the history and old pictures and reports from here. Reminds me very much of Gleadthorpe Experimental Husbandry Farm in Nottinghamshire. They have various sheds for the chickens, ie, battery, barn, free range etc. Plus the other side of the road has cows etc. (didn't go to the cow side, only did the chicken side on my C&G course).

Agree with Krela, get the report and old pictures and new sent to your local paper, it deserves to be in there, as part of the history of the area.

:) Sal
 

GraemeW

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Hi Landie_Man
I remember walking through the broiler houses as a young lad, about 6, in the early 60s. My father was a poultry food sales manager for BOCM based in Erith, Kent. He took me there a few times. Once there was a company cricket match held in one of the fields on a lovely sunny day! I can still hear the sound of the chickens and the smell was amazing!
Great write-up!
Graeme
 

Hayman

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"The remains of the BOCM admin and office building, burnt down in August 2007, along with apparently another broiler shed and another office section and lab." Perhaps "were burnt down".

Ah, there's nothing like the smell of inch deep chicken droppings up your nostrils as you go into the hen house to collect the night's eggs. My mother fed her flock of White Sussex and Rhode Island Red birds on cracked maize.
 

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