John Deere Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK and Ireland

50 Year Anniversary

John Deere Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK and Ireland

John Deere Limited started trading in January 1966 from its present day headquarters at Langar near Nottingham. From very small beginnings the company has grown to be one of the biggest suppliers of tractors and agricultural machinery to British and Irish farmers, with a reputation for product quality and performance, as well as market leading dealer service and support.

John Deere Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK and Ireland!

50 Year Anniversary

John Deere Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK and Ireland!

History

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1915-1950

1915-1919
L J Martin
The Overtime Farm Tractor Company, London E1
About 4000 Waterloo Boy ‘Overtime’ tractors Models R & N are imported from the US

Waterloo Boy tractor Model R 1914
Waterloo Boy tractor Model R 1914

1935-1950
Frank Standen
St Ives, Huntingdonshire
Sells Models D, A, B, G, H & L (unstyled and styled) tractors, combines* & ploughs in six counties in the east of England from 1937

*The first tractor-drawn John Deere combine was marketed in 1927; 1947 saw the launch of the first self-propelled combine harvester; today the company is the world’s biggest manufacturer of combines.

Model D tractor styled 1941 Model B tractor & No 11 combine 1939
Model D tractor styled 1941 Model B tractor & No 11 combine 1939

1937-1950
Jack Olding
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Sells the same machines as Standens in southern England & Wales, and exports Models M & R to the Republic of Ireland in 1949

Model R tractor with No 77 plough 1948
Model R tractor with No 77 plough 1948

1937-1950
H Leverton
Spalding, Lincolnshire
Sells the same machines as Standens, in northern England

1937-1950
L O Tractors
Cupar, Angus, Perth
Joint Levertons & Oldings company, later taken over by Oldings Sells the same machines as Standens, in Scotland

1950 - 1974

1950-1958
Don Macmillan
Devizes, Wiltshire
Sells new parts for above machines, plus used tractors & equipment

John Deere logo 1956-1968
John Deere logo 1956-1968

1951
John Deere Company Limited incorporated in Scotland under the Companies Act 1948

1958-1960
Fred Myers
Windsor, Berkshire
A subsidiary of Levertons, appoints Don Macmillan first UK dealer; imports John Deere agricultural and industrial equipment from Mannheim, Germany

1960-1962
JD Tractors
Windsor, Berkshire
Also a subsidiary of Levertons, sells John Deere agricultural equipment

1960-1973
JD Tractors
Windsor, Berkshire
Sells John Deere industrial equipment

John Deere Industrial 450 track loader
John Deere Industrial 450 track loader

1961/2
Deere & Company buys a controlling interest in British company Lundell, a manufacturer of forage harvesters and grain drills

1962-1968
Lundell (Great Britain) Ltd Edenbridge, Kent
Arranges UK production of John Deere LF fertiliser distributor, and imports 4010 & 5010 tractors from the US for exhibition at the Royal Smithfield Show 1962 in London

4010 New Generation tractor The front cover of John Deere's product leaflet printed for the 1962 Royal Smithfield Show
4010 New Generation tractor The front cover of John Deere's product leaflet printed for the 1962 Royal Smithfield Show

1963
The introduction of the 110 lawn tractor in the US marked the beginning of John Deere's entry into the groundscare market worldwide. A fully restored, working example of this pioneering lawn tractor is on permanent display in the foyer of John Deere Limited’s headquarters at Langar in Nottinghamshire.

An original 110 lawn tractor working in the grounds of Deere Company's worldwide headquarters at Moline in the early 1960s.
An original 110 lawn tractor working in the grounds of Deere & Company's worldwide headquarters at Moline in the early 1960s.

From 1 November 1964
John Deere Company Limited
Edenbridge, Kent & Langar, Nottingham
In 1965 the decision was made to leave the Lundell premises at Edenbridge in Kent and move to Langar.

4020 tractor being demonstrated by dealer Ben Burgess
4020 tractor being demonstrated by dealer Ben Burgess

12 January 1966
Company incorporated as John Deere Limited, starts trading from Langar and appoints the first five UK dealers: Ben Burgess, Norwich, Norfolk; Drake & Fletcher, Ashford, Kent; Hill & Osborne, Burnham Market, Norfolk; T M Simpson, Ceres, Fife; & L E Tuckwell, Worlingworth, Suffolk. The first official importer/distributor in Ireland during this time was Power Farming in Cork, owned by the Sherrard family, and managed directly from Europe by John Deere Export.

John Deere premises at Langar 1966
John Deere premises at Langar 1966

1966
John Deere introduces the Roll-Gard rollover protective structure (ROPS) on its tractors and goes on to make the design available free to all its competitors, emphasising the company’s commitment to product safety

4020 tractor with ROPS 1966 John Deere logo 1968-2000
4020 tractor with ROPS 1966 John Deere logo 1968-2000

1967
First John Deere tractors sold by Sherrard Retail Cork in Ireland are a 710, 4020 and 1120

1120 tractor
1120 tractor

1970
John Deere Limited awarded the Royal Warrant as suppliers of agricultural equipment to Her Majesty The Queen

John Deere Limited staff at Langar c1972
John Deere Limited staff at Langar c1972

1971
In Ireland, Power Farming closes and a dealer network is established and serviced from Langar, chiefly through the Sherrard Group & Sherrard Wholesale, with branches initially in Cork, Dublin, Fethard in Co Tipperary, Limerick (briefly), Mountrath in Co Laois and Wexford, plus an independent dealership in Dundalk

1972
The new, enclosed, air conditioned and ultra-quiet Sound-Gard cab is launched in the US and was eventually fitted as standard equipment on John Deere’s European tractors with the opening of the Bruchsal cab factory in 1981

John Deere Limited managing director Doug Walker with the new 4230 tractor equipped with Sound-Gard cab at Langar, 1972
John Deere Limited managing director Doug Walker with the new 4230 tractor equipped with Sound-Gard cab at Langar, 1972

1972-1974
Ground Control
Surrey
New company set up to import, market and distribute John Deere’s fledgling groundscare equipment range, after earlier imports by Stanhay and a separate parts business in Suffolk

1974 - 2000

1974 to 1986
Dealer principal David Lowe of Greenlay Ltd in Northumberland sells John Deere lawn & garden equipment, sourced from France.

1983
Sherrard Group in Ireland is liquidated and a new dealer organisation is set up, mostly through management buyouts

1986
John Deere Limited establishes a new commercial groundscare division, selling the 55 Series compact tractors – including the popular 855 model with wrap-around cylinder mower – F Series front rotary mowers and 430 lawn tractor; Greenlay Ltd is appointed the division’s first UK dealer

Groundscare division launch in Nottingham, 1986 855 compact tractor with wrap-round cylinder mower
Groundscare division launch in Nottingham, 1986 855 compact tractor with wrap-round cylinder mower

1987
John Deere launches the 50 Series tractors in Europe, with MC1 or SG2 cab options

2850 tractor 3350 tractor cutaway
2850 tractor 3350 tractor cutaway

1992
Pioneering Ag Tech agricultural engineering apprentice training programme launched in association with Brooksby College, Leicestershire

1992
John Deere announces its new 6000 Series tractors, featuring an innovative full-frame modular design that goes on to collect worldwide awards for outstanding design and performance

6000 Series full-frame tractor cutaway 1992 6400 tractor
6000 Series full-frame tractor cutaway 1992 6400 tractor

1993
New Gator 4x2 and 6x4 utility vehicles are launched in the UK & Ireland, at September's IOG Exhibition in Peterborough.

Gator 6x4 and 4x2 utility vehicles The John Deere Limited lawn groundscare team in 1993
Gator 6x4 and 4x2 utility vehicles The John Deere Limited lawn & groundscare team in 1993; all are still employed by the company today, apart from the then newly appointed division manager Graham Williams (seated behind the steering wheel), who retired at the end of 2010 . Richard Johnson (far left) , then a territory manager, went on to become managing director from 2006 to 2014 (see below).

1994
John Deere’s new 8000 Series tractors from 185hp to 260hp are the first in history to have their design concept patented.

8300 tractor 8400 tractor
8300 tractor 8400 tractor

1996
John Deere Credit Limited was launched as the UK's newest agricultural credit company in November 1996.

John Deere Credit logo

1997
John Deere Limited receives National Training Award for Ag Tech programme

NTA logo
NTA logo

1998
New combined office premises and training centre at Langar officially opened on 13 May by HRH The Princess Royal

John Deere Limited staff in 1998
John Deere Limited staff in 1998, outside the entrance to the new premises at Langar

1999
Novel harvesting technology is introduced on the John Deere CTS combine, which employs cylinder tine separation as an alternative to conventional straw walker and rotary threshing designs

CTS combine harvester The 6910 tractor - Europe's best seller in 1998
CTS combine harvester The 6910 tractor - Europe's best seller in 1998

1999-2000
Deere & Company acquires Finnish company Timberjack to become the world's largest forestry equipment company. Timberjack UK had been based at Consett in Co Durham since 1992; when the business was rebranded in 2005, the John Deere Forestry retail business serving the UK & Ireland moved to its current headquarters at Carlisle in Cumbria.

NTA logo
John Deere branded 1710D forwarder, 2005

2000 - 2016

2000
AEA announces that John Deere Limited has topped the UK tractor market share table for the first time (in 1998)

John Deere logo 2000 to date
John Deere & John Deere Financial logos, 2000 to date

2001
The GreenStar satellite guidance system is introduced on John Deere tractors, using StarFire positioning technology based on GPS signals; this is followed by AutoTrac automatic steering in 2002

Original GreenStar display showing parallel tracking Aerial view of Langar premises 2004
Original GreenStar display showing parallel tracking Aerial view of Langar premises 2004

2005
John Deere launches the new 2500E, the golf and turf industry’s first hybrid electric greens mower

2500E greens mower 2005
2500E greens mower 2005

2006
Royal Warrant extended to include groundscare and horticultural equipment

Royal Warrant
Royal Warrant

2012
Deere & Company celebrates its 175th anniversary worldwide - blacksmith and inventor John Deere founded the business in 1837.

175th anniversary logo
175th anniversary logo

2015
John Deere introduces its first-ever four-track tractor, the 9RX Series, ranging from 470 to 620hp – the flagship 9620RX model joins the Lord Mayor’s Show parade in London in November, alongside a specially restored 4020 tractor from the 1960s, in support of the Worshipful Company of Farmers modern livery company and the National Farmers’ Union’s Back British Farming campaign

9620RX tractor at Langar Lord Mayor's Show 2015
9620RX tractor at Langar Lord Mayor's Show 2015

2016
The British agriculture and turf industry’s first and only purpose-built apprentice training facility is opened by John Deere and training provider ProVQ at St James Business Park, Radcliffe-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire. Designed specifically and solely for John Deere dealer apprentices enrolled on the company’s award winning Ag Tech, Parts Tech and Turf Tech training programmes, the new centre is close to John Deere Limited’s headquarters at Langar

John Deere Limited celebrates its 50th anniversary in the UK & Ireland

 New John Deere Apprentice Training Centre Group  John Deere Limited UK Ireland 50th anniversary logo
  The new John Deere Apprentice Training Centre  

MANAGING DIRECTORS

1965-1968
Roy Blakley (Canadian), Fred Gilchrist (US, pictured)

Fred Gilchrist

1968-1993
Douglas Walker

Douglas Walker

1993-2001, 2004-2005
Alec McKee

Alec McKee

2001-2004
Clay Sherrill

Clay Sherrill

2006-2014
Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

2014-2016
Antony Scott

Antony Scott

2016
Jonathan Henry

Jonathan Henry

Waterloo Boy Tractor

Waterloo Boy Tractor

John Deere Limited – a brief history

Since 1966, and from very small beginnings, John Deere Limited has grown to be one of the biggest suppliers of tractors and agricultural machinery to British and Irish farmers, with a reputation for product quality and performance, as well as market leading dealer service and support.

John Deere’s oldest tractor, the 25hp Waterloo Boy from 1918, was originally sold in the UK from 1915 under the Overtime name; it was given credit for helping to win World War I by putting in many hours of overtime producing food for the war zone and the home front.

John Deere Lanz logo

John Deere Lanz logo

Later in the 20th century, John Deere three wheel, high clearance tractors came into East Anglia from America at the end of the Second World War, under the lend lease deal.

John Deere Company Limited was first incorporated on 22 August 1951, but plans to set up a UK manufacturing site near Glasgow in the 1950s were frustrated (although John Deere Limited’s registered office is still in Edinburgh).

Mannheim tractor factory 1960

Mannheim tractor factory 1960

As a result, in 1956 the American parent company Deere & Co purchased the Heinrich Lanz business, which included factories in West Germany (Mannheim & Zweibrücken) and Spain (Getafe), and access to established dealer organisations in both these countries as well as France. The Mannheim tractor factory is still John Deere’s main European manufacturing base today.

630 combine harvester

630 combine harvester

As the marketing company for the UK & Ireland, John Deere Limited was incorporated on 12 January 1966 and started trading that month from its present day headquarters at Langar, near Nottingham, in parallel with the (by then) John Deere owned company Lundell of Edenbridge in Kent, which eventually went into liquidation in late 1968.

The Langar premises were previously a medical supplies store owned by the Royal Canadian Air Force, which had used the adjacent airfield as an operational base from 1952 until 1963.

The initial John Deere product line included the 710, 4020, 5010 and 5020 tractors, ploughs, cultivators, disc harrows and the 530 and 630 combines. The John Deere 4020 Diesel 91hp six-cylinder tractor became the most popular tractor of its era, and arguably one of the three or four classic tractors of all time.

4020 tractor cutaway

4020 tractor cutaway

The 4020 was launched in 1963, and several original examples are still in use today. It was the first tractor to appear on the UK market with a powershift transmission, featuring eight forward gears which were selected at the touch of a lever, without using a clutch. Other firsts on John Deere tractors were hydraulic implement lift, power steering and castor action steering on modern four-wheel drive tractors

For a short time in the early 1960s, a few dealers sold large John Deere tractors such as the 4010 – the UK’s first 100hp tractor – and 4020, which were imported from the USA through a franchise operation. Of those original dealers who continued with the new company from 1966, two are still John Deere dealers today, and are owned by the same families – Ben Burgess in Norfolk and L E Tuckwell in Suffolk

Dealer Ben Burgess (right) and Ben Turner Dealer L E Tuckwell show stand
Dealer Ben Burgess (right) and Ben Turner Dealer L E Tuckwell show stand

 

Over the last five decades, while the home tractor market has more than halved and many well-known names have disappeared, John Deere’s market share has risen from almost nothing to well over 30 per cent, and the company has topped the tractor market share table in the UK since 2000. The company has also been a pioneer in the introduction and market leading development of precision farming systems under the AMS and FarmSight brand names.

In 1970, John Deere Limited was awarded the Royal Warrant as suppliers of agricultural equipment to Her Majesty The Queen; this was extended in 2006 to include groundscare and horticultural equipment, a business the company moved into in the UK and Ireland in 1986. John Deere now offers Europe’s broadest single brand range of commercial and consumer equipment for lawns, gardens, parks, playing fields, golf courses, sports grounds and other amenity turf maintenance.

John Deere stand at the Royal Smithfield Show HM The Queen at the Royal Smithfield Show c1976 John Deere turf product launch in France, 2011
John Deere stand at the Royal Smithfield Show in the early 1990s HM The Queen at the Royal Smithfield Show c1976 John Deere turf product launch in France, 2011

 

John Deere Limited received a prestigious National Training Award in 1997 for the pioneering Ag Tech agricultural engineering apprentice training programme, the only such award made to an agricultural machinery apprenticeship programme. Ag Tech is the longest running programme of its kind in the UK, having started in 1992.

Ag Tech logo John Deere apprentice training
Ag Tech logo John Deere apprentice training

 

Since then, more than 600 apprentices have graduated through three John Deere apprenticeship schemes (Ag Tech having been joined by Parts Tech and Turf Tech) and are now working in the company’s nationwide dealer network. A new Customer Service Tech training programme was also introduced in autumn 2013.  
Parts Tech logo Parts Tech logo Parts Tech logo
Customer Service Tech logo  Parts Tech logo Turf Tech logo 

 

Langar opening 1998

With HRH The Princess Royal at the official opening of John Deere Limited’s new Langar offices and training centre are (left to right) Robert Lane, then senior vice president & managing director of Deere & Company, Region 2 (Europe, Africa & the Middle East), Paul Enz, Deere & Company Region 2 director of marketing, and Alec McKee, managing director of John Deere Limited.

In the 1990s John Deere commissioned new two-storey office premises combined with a training centre, and these were officially opened on the same Langar site in May 1998 by HRH The Princess Royal. Covering a total of 42,000ft2, they comprise state of the art training and workshop facilities plus modern, air conditioned offices and a stylish staff restaurant.

John Deere portrait

John Deere portrait

Full training on all aspects of management, sales, parts and service support is available at the training centre to John Deere staff, dealers and customers. Each year the company delivers over 5000 training days covering around 40 different courses, for both the agricultural and the turf equipment businesses.

The basis of the Deere philosophy goes back to John Deere himself – the blacksmith who founded the company in America in 1837, and whose revolutionary self scouring steel plough played a major role in opening up the American prairies – who said: “I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.”

John Deere logo 2000 to date

This principle, and the company’s core values of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation, continue to determine the way we conduct our business worldwide

Celebration Event

Thank you!

A huge thank you to everyone who visited or took part in John Deere Limited’s special 50th anniversary Celebration & Heritage Event at Langar on September 24th and 25th. It was a great success, with an estimated 14,000 people from across the UK and Ireland attending the weekend’s festivities, which included activities and entertainment for the whole family.

The Mayor of Rushcliffe officially opened the event on Saturday morning, with the Gator utility vehicle ride & drive track and a guided tour of the Langar premises proving to be particularly popular. In addition, the machinery parades and working field demonstrations of tractors, ploughs and combines of all ages represented probably the largest ever gathering of John Deere heritage equipment outside the US.

The two-day event has already donated almost £12,000 to local charities. Dove Cottage Day Hospice sold refreshments and raised £5425. Profits from the sale of ice-creams were shared between Harby, Langar and Cropwell Bishop Primary Schools, each receiving £720. The proceeds of the bucket collections in the car parks and raffle tickets came to almost £4400 with £1000 going to the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance and the rest to the Nottingham Hospitals Charity’s Saving Lives Helipad Appeal.

There were over 200 John Deere vintage, classic and modern tractors and other heritage machines at the event, spanning 100 years of production, with at least one tractor representing every year from 1962 to 2011, ie 49 continuous years – there was even a John Deere bicycle. Some of the heritage tractor highlights included:

  • a 1916 Overtime Model R belonging to Malcolm Robinson of Horncastle in Lincolnshire, which was imported from the US during the First World War to aid the war effort
  • a 1919 Waterloo Boy Model N belonging to Harry Williams of Mold in Flintshire, the first tractor produced by John Deere in the US after it bought the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in Iowa
  • a 1924 Model D belonging to John Deere dealer Frank Sutton of Raglan in Monmouthshire, the oldest tractor in Europe bearing the John Deere name
  • a 1943 Model BN belonging to Brian Wright of Langford in Nottinghamshire, which may be the oldest working John Deere tractor in the UK, and is still used to hoe sugar beet every spring

There were also eleven examples of the iconic 4020 tractor that dates back to 1966, the year John Deere Limited started trading from its current premises at Langar. The company's own specially restored model nicknamed BEV, which featured alongside the new 620hp four-track 9620RX – the biggest tractor John Deere makes worldwide today – in last November's Lord Mayor's Show in London, was used as a backdrop in a special display where visitors could have their photo taken and receive a free 50th anniversary souvenir print.

Another tractor of note was the original 5010 that was exhibited for the first time in the UK by Lundell (Gt Britain) Ltd at the 1962 Royal Smithfield Show in London. Owner David Leech, co-organiser of the JD50 heritage event along with his brother (and John Deere Limited retiree) Peter Leech, also owns the first 5020 tractor imported into the UK from the US in 1965 - both of these models helped pioneer large scale farming systems in the UK & Ireland.

More recent examples on show included the John Deere 8000 Series tractors introduced in 1994, the first in history to have their design concept patented, and the 6910 full-frame tractor, Europe's biggest-selling model in 1998.

A 1996 6400 tractor from the pioneering 6000 Series range was driven to the event by contractor Michael Tucker – all the way from Cullompton in Devon, a round trip of almost 450 miles. This machine has recorded an amazing 48,000 hours, equivalent to working 6.5 hours a day every day, 365 days a year, for 20 years, or getting on for 1.5 million miles driving at 30mph.

The Judges' Choice award of a specially framed print, showing the 4020 and 9620RX tractors together with the 50th anniversary logo, was presented on the final afternoon by John Deere Limited managing director Jonathan Henry. This went to Chris Jubb and a 1966 4020 SynchroRange tractor owned by his father John Jubb, who bought it for their farming and contracting business in 1967. Local specialist Ben Craig of Harby restored this tractor in 2006, along with BEV.

Congratulations to Christopher Candlin and Andrea Piggott who were the winners of the lucky ticket draw, who both received a bag of John Deere 50th anniversary merchandise.

Event photographs by Glenn Blackburn, Amy Markham, Steve Mitchell, Tim Scrivener & Philip Tong.

Prize Draw

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who took part and congratulations to all our winners.
CLICK HERE for the full list.

Merchandise

Limited edition 50th Anniversary Merchandise

As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we have commissioned a special range of promotional merchandise. These limited edition items all feature the John Deere UK + Ireland 50 1966-2016 logo that was created for our anniversary year. The 50th anniversary merchandise is on sale at participating John Deere dealers. Please note that these items are not available from our online shop.

Limited edition 50th Anniversary Merchandise