Thame, like many market towns, has been involved in the wool trade for centuries. In the early 1800s brothers Henry and Charles Pearce were taken on as apprentice wool graders by the Payne family business. In 1825 the two brothers took over the business which then supplied graded wool to the mills in Witney, Chipping-Norton and Trowbridge. In order to seek extra outlets for their wool, one of the brothers walked from Thame to Yorkshire to show the Pearce flag.
The "Woolstapling" business continued throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries buying wool, grading it and selling it on to the trade. The origins of the term "Woolstapling" are as follows: “when grading wool a grader will pull from each fleece a lock or curl of wool known as a ''staple'' and by examining this will decide the grade.”
During the Second World War the Ministry of Agriculture took control of the pricing and allocation of wool. In 1950 the British Wool Marketing Board was formed whereby all producers had to sell their wool to an allocated agent in return for a guaranteed price. This is basically the same system which is in place today except that the "guaranteed price" is dependent on the market value.
In 1962 Reginald, the last of the Pearce’s to work in the company, sold the business to a company controlled by the Behrens family who owned textile businesses in Bradford and Manchester.
In 1966 the company diversified into supplying animal health and associated products. Despite temptation to diversify further still and enter the gardening and retail markets
H&C Pearce has remained within agriculture and is now recognised as being one of the principal animal health suppliers in Central and Southern England.
H&C Pearce & Sons Ltd began as a woolstaplers over 200 years ago and until 2005 was grading around 3.5m kg of wool, approximately 10% of the national clip. In 2006 the British Wool Marketing Board took over responsibility for grading at Bromyard where it currently operates as a tenant of H & C Pearce. Grading at Thame ceased, allowing the company to concentrate on its Farm Supply business.
We operate from three sites: Andover, Market Harborough and Thame and employing a team of specialists with an annual turnover in excess of £7million.
In March 2012 Countrywide Farmers plc acquired H&C Pearce & Sons. The acquisition was an an excellent fit for the business who share many attributes and have an agricultural heritage which plays a vital role in the rural farming community. The integration of these two organisations further demonstrates H&C Pearce and Countrywide’s commitment to the agricultural sector and further extends the geographic reach.
The acquisition was an exciting new chapter for everyone at H&C Pearce, offering many opportunities to build upon our successful history. For customers, many of whom are families we have worked with for a number of generations it is still very much be business as usual, with customer value remaining the top priority. We employ the same staff, the farmer retail stores remain open for business, our delivery systems are the same and we have kept our current name and branding. Animal health will stay at the heart of our business; however significant opportunities have arisen from being part of the Countrywide portfolio. We have broaden our product range to include a larger and more competitive range of feed as well as offering seed, fertiliser, crop protection and oil and gas products.
Countrywide have proved to us that they are focused on delivering value and choice to the farmer. This has been an extremely positive move and we are delighted to join a business that will help us to further provide our customers with the products and services they need, whilst remaining true to our core principles of service and value.