Fifty Years in the Making

Wessex, the farm, groundscare and ATV machinery company is celebrating fifty years of manufacturing in the UK. David Curtis talks to managing director Charles Browning and marketing executive Peter Farndell
Started in 1962, by Henry Browning, the company was originally based in Upper Somborne, near Stockbridge, Hampshire and took its name from being in the Winchester area, the old capital of England and the county of Wessex.
The original aim of the business was to provide robust and reliable farm machinery and it soon found success with the first products it made, the Wessex Scrubmaster, as well as the Fieldmaster agricultural toppers it brought in from New Zealand.
The reliability and strength of the Scrubmaster led to it becoming very popular in the industry and the development of a close knit dealer network “helped them sell by the lorry load” quotes Margie James who has worked for Wessex since 1978, along with her brother Robert who worked with Henry Browning.
Wessex still sells parts today for Scrubmasters dating from around 1970, good testimony to the strength of the machines. Wessex attributes its success to the relationships with the dealers and the company ethics to provide reliable machinery and bespoke after sales care.
In more recent times the development of ATV equipment and the ProLine series roller mowers have made a major contribution to the growth of the Wessex brand, together with the groundscare machinery and Wessex Country range.
I spoke to Peter Farndell Marketing executive to find out what he thought about the future prospects for ATV market.
“ The future of ATV’s looks extremely rosy. The main reason is their sheer versatility, they can be utlalised for virtually any job. Our products are not only selling really well in the UK, particularly Scotland but we are making strong inroads into Germany, France, Austria and Dubai.”
In 2008 the original Wessex Farm Machinery Sales Co. merged with Broadwood International because it was decided that working with Broadwood would allow the company room for further growth. In turn, Broadwood was already distributing Wessex machinery, sold predominantly throughout the summer months, and SnowEx products for the winter. Combining the brands created a platform for year-round sales.
I asked Peter if we are getting preparing for winter more or are we still in denial that it can snow in the UK
“There is no doubt that the winter of 2010 was a wake up call for us all. Heathrow closed and London buses taken of the road for the first time since the Blitz. Apart from the headline news the hospitals were full of accident victims some caused by traffic accidents other just as a result of falls and slips. As a result 2011 was our best sales year to date – lessons were learnt in 2010 and health and safety demands have to be satisfied”
There was another connection. Broadwood’s Managing Director, Charles Browning, is a close family friend of Wessex and the grandson of its founder Henry Browning. “It was a natural progression and I very much wanted to be involved in a company once owned by my grandfather,” he says. “Together we have been able to expand our domestic market and increase our presence in Europe and the USA.” As a result the Wessex brand is spreading globally with developments such as the new ProLine Triple roller mower.
To celebrate fifty years in the making of this iconic brand the livery has been re-designed to incorporate green and orange, bringing together the colours representative of the two key sides of the business.
So what new developments should we be looking out for from Broadwood over the next 12 months?
“”Next year is going to be busy, we are expanding the size range of the new ProLine Triple roller mower we will be able to offer 360,480,560 and 680. We have just launched a new pedestrian spreader WSS-20 and will be selling ThawEx a new liquid brine solution. There’s a lot more in the pipeline – so watch this space.”
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