A family tribute to a well-known figure in Herefordshire agriculture
The family of a highly respected and beloved figure in the farming community of Herefordshire and Worcestershire paid their respects after his death.
New to Bromyard, Allan Jenkins was arguably the best known in hop picking, helping to design a machine that was exported around the world.
He was born in 1927 in Sutton St Nicolas, near Hereford, to his postman father and sharecropping mother’s family in Hindlip, Worcester. His family said it was a time gone by when life was simple and, for children, idyllic.
Allan and his older sister Joyce walked three miles across fields to the village school where children aged 5 to 14 were divided into two classrooms.
On their daily walks to school, Allan and his sister clapped their hands to scare away the rabbits, picked wild strawberries, blackberries, hazelnuts and sorrel from the stream.
Allan, from an early age, was always interested in machinery and would run away to investigate the latest horse-drawn farm implement, which got the two kids in trouble because they were late for tea.
In 1935 the Jenkins family moved to Norton, the home of the Worcestershire Regiment where his grandparents had taken over running another farm.
Later he attended school in Kempsey and frequently remembered learning to swim in the Severn near the new road bridge.
Upon leaving school, Allan moved to Worcester Technical College. There he studied drawing techniques and gained knowledge of engineering and mathematics.
He always loved math and his children remember that it was impossible for him to understand logarithms, trigonometry and the use of a slide rule.
Allan’s first job was with Heenan and Froude, the well-known engineering company in Worcester, where he apprenticed as a draftsman.
His passion was aviation and it continued throughout his life. He would have loved to join the RAF but his job testing aircraft engines kept him from doing so. He became an enthusiastic member of the Royal Observer Corps
His family said he was also an avid and accomplished motorcycle scrambler, winning numerous trophies. He was approached by BSA motorcycles to become their team rider but turned down the offer. He also owned a classic Morgan car.
In the late 1950s, Allan’s engineering and drafting skills were spotted by Albert Brooks of Bruff Engineering, Suckley. Allan was hired by Albert to run the drawing office.
The hop-picking machine designed by Bruff had largely taken over from the early machines designed by McConnell Hinds. Allan and Albert Brooks got along well, his family said.
During the picking season, Allan worked on machine maintenance and consulted closely with Albert Brooks on how the machines could be improved and any problems corrected.
Their combined thoughts would be put on the drawing board and changes made for next season.
Allan became one of the great figures of the hop-growing era, particularly in the Frome Valley, on hand to ensure repairs were carried out quickly.
Allan has also been involved in exporting machinery, to Europe and the United States. He took one to California, but alas no more machines were purchased by the Americans as they incorporated much of Bruff’s design and produced their own.
His family said there are still Bruff machines in use in Australia and New Zealand today.
They said he was a good salesman, had an easy-going character, and would take potential buyers of the Bruff machine to nearby farms during picking season.
One of the main customers was Guinness Hop Farms, in Bransford and Kent.
Eventually Allan saw that his time at Bruff was coming to a natural conclusion and he spotted the gap in the market for a building construction company.
Mark Capper of Stocks Farm, whose hop-picking machine had been maintained by Allan, generously allowed him to use an old blacksmith’s forge for steelmaking and thus started a very successful small business – Alvia Developments.
Many barns, cowsheds, hop-picking machine buildings built in the 60s and 70s were built by Allan and his small team.
Eventually the company needed larger premises, and Allan and his wife purchased a small farmhouse at Stanford Bishop, undertaking a major renovation of the house and building a purpose-built facility for steel preparation.
Here Allan was able to indulge his childhood passion for farming, calf herding and haymaking and Allan and his wife hosted many charity events at their home.
In the mid-1980s, Allan’s health deteriorated and he decided to close the business and open a boarding house for small dogs.
Allan Jenkins retired to Bromyard in 1997 where he continued to support his wife Sylvia
He then retired in 1997 and moved to Bromyard where he spent his final years supporting his wife Sylvia in her continued charity work. He died aged 94 in January.
“Beloved husband of Sylvia, beloved father of Sandra and Nettie, grandfather of five, great-grandfather of two,” read a family announcement in the Hereford Times.