DOUG BRADBROOK: SEEDS OF SUCCESS
Doug Bradbrook’s Seeds of Success tells a fascinating and entertaining story of a highly successful plant nursery set up with virtually no cash, which blossomed through the hard work and perseverance of two men.
The dustjacket for Seeds of Success showing the front, back, spine and two inside flaps.
“Young people who want to start their own business often ask Bill and I, “How did you start a place like this from nothing?” The truth is, I don’t really know how we managed it. But I do know that a lot of sweat and determination went into it, plus a bit of luck, the most lucky thing perhaps being that we both have wives who have been prepared to put up with us working long hours and refusing to retire, though they are very proud of what we’ve achieved. But the early days were a struggle and I sometimes wonder how we survived that time. It beggars belief.”
Seeds of Success begins with Doug’s childhood, capturing a self-sufficient way of life in an isolated rural community which, since the arrival of mass car ownership, has disappeared completely. He was born in Yorkshire in the Thirties and grew up on a large country estate called Wycliffe where his father was head groom. During the war there were plenty of dangerous things lying around to pick up and play with: “When I was about six, one of my friends, an older boy, decided to use some old cannon shells from a crashed plane to make cigarette lighters. One night we were out the back of my house and he had one of these things. After hitting the cannon shell twice with a hammer to try to open it, he made me hold the knife while he cut the end off and of course it exploded while I was hanging on to it. The resulting blast blew all the concrete up from the floor and he was pretty badly injured. I was blown into a muck midden and was unconscious for a while until they got me into the house and sent for the doctor. I was at home recovering for six or seven weeks.”
After various escapades from which he was lucky to survive, Doug left school at 14 to work on a farm until 1952 when a helping hand from a former teacher won him a place at Askham Bryan College to study agriculture. There he found himself a rare working class lad surrounded almost entirely by the sons of well-off farmers.
On returning home he decided he wanted more than just farm work. “I just wanted to get on, it’s a driving force you don’t know about, it’s just there. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get anything and that focused me completely.” First it was a sideline in chickens, followed by tomatoes grown in a lean-to greenhouse beside his home. Then came the huge risk of buying a piece of land at Ravensworth near Richmond, North Yorkshire to set up a proper horticultural business and the mind-boggling juggling act of being a farm worker by day and building massive glasshouses by night. No wonder his wife Janet saw little of him.
“Those early days were very tough both for me and for Janet, who was on her own a lot. I couldn’t have had the home and family I enjoyed if she hadn’t been there to manage it all. I was working full time on the farm and then each evening came over to Ravensworth building glasshouses and later on opening windows, checking the boiler and doing watering. Bill was also working full time, at Glaxo in Barnard Castle. It took five months to build the first glasshouse at Ravensworth and it was a hell of a job. I had help from a lad to hold beams up and so on. There were about 180 windows for which I had to make frames and then glaze. I didn’t even have an electric drill, just a hand propelled one.”
Seeds of Success tells the story of how Ravensworth Nurseries came through freezing weather, floods, storms and a coal strike which threatened to leave the plants with no warmth to become one of Yorkshire’s most successful horticultural businesses supplying plants countrywide.
To read further extracts from the book, click here (pdf 3,505kb)
If you would like to buy this beautiful hardback book for £9.99 including P&P, please contact Caroline Brannigan on 01748 821041 or
Producing this Book
Caroline Brannigan says: “Working with Doug Bradbrook was a joy. We talked through what he wanted to say, then carried out interviews from which I wrote the story. But the words are mainly Doug’s and I’ve made sure his voice shines through. I don’t want these books to read like school essays but as warm, human stories. My contribution has been my interviewing skills, which helped Doug to tell his story in the best way, and my ability to structure the tale and make it a good read. I also took new photographs to create an eye-catching cover and digitally repaired old photos where necessary. I think Doug really enjoyed doing this project – I know I did.