Banner Lane – a brief history – by Duncan Russell

Banner Lane – a brief history – by Duncan Russell

Banner Lane, means much to many people, not only those who worked there but to the many owners and enthusiasts of Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors throughout the world.But Banner Lane is no more; the site is now a housing developmentcalled Bannerbrook Park which has been planned and developed by house builder Persimmon, eventually some 1000 new homes will have been built on the site, together with a school, shops and an entire infrastructure.

Gone completely is the factory that had stood on the site since the late 1930’s when the site was developed as a Shadow Factory as part of the Government’s plan to rearm the forces, particularly the RAF in the run up to the Second World War. The Banner Lane site had once been farmland on the outskirts of the industrial city of Coventry, home to many manufacturers, including the Standard Motor Company who would administer Banner Lane on behalf of the Government during the war period.

The last Massey Ferguson tractor rolled off the production line on Christmas Eve in 2002 ending over six decades of manufacturing, including 56 years of tractor production.

Banner Lane

The facade of Banner Lane Factory, familiar to so many.

As the demand for military aircraft and aero engines increased at the beginning of the Second World War, a number of Government financed shadow factories were built all over the UK. One of the largest was the Banner Lane site just west of Coventry. The site covered 80 acres in total,with a floor area of over 1 million square feet and had cost £1.7 million to build and prepare for production. This was quite a figure when the cost of a small car was around £130. The Standard Motor Company agreed to manage the site for a fee of £40,000 per annum. The Banner Lane plant manufactured the huge Bristol Hercules aero engine, as fitted to the Wellington bomber and several other aircraft. The Bristol engine was a massive 39 litre, twin row, 14 cylinder radial engine, producing between 1290 and 1735 horsepower depending on application. During the war years some 20,000 engines were produced.

With the end of the war in 1945 the plant was quickly shut down and the Standard Motor Company negotiated a lease for the factory for £36,000 per annum. The Standard Motor Company was keen to take on the factory as Sir John Black, Standards Chairman, had been in discussions with Harry Ferguson to produce the new Ferguson tractor in the UK. Thus in September 1945 the deal was struck for Standard to build tractors for Ferguson, Standard being paid a fee for each tractor produced. Standard then signed a ten year lease for Banner Lane and agreed a plan to produce up to 200 tractors per day.

At the height of production Banner Lane employed more than 6,000 people and in ten years produced over 500,000 Ferguson TE tractors for export all over the world.

The Standard/Ferguson agreement continued through various squabbles and disagreements until the summer of 1959 when Standard severed all connections with Massey Ferguson and tractor production.During this time Harry Ferguson Ltd had sold out to Massey Harris to become Massey Harris Ferguson and then Massey Ferguson. Massey Ferguson hadtaken the lease of Banner Lane factory from Standard Motor Company in 1956.

Massey Ferguson developed the Banner Lane site and at one stage it was reported to be the biggest AGCO manufacturing facility in the World and was headquarters of AGCO’s European, Middle and Far East operations. The famous tower block was officially opened in September 1966 and had office space for around 500 people.

As with all things change was inevitable and new Massey Ferguson tractors were gradually being built elsewhere, particularly at Beauvais in France. When production was being further rationalised and it was proposed that either Banner Lane or Beauvais would be closed, the French plant proved the more difficult to close due to Government and worker pressure and Banner Lane was to be no more.

The last tractor number 3,307,996 was driven off the production line on Christmas Eve 2002 and the factory site was earmarked for housing. The huge task of decommissioning started before the demolition and clearance of the site, the last part of the demolition and the most spectacular, took place on 8th July 2012 when the 16 storey Tower Block was downed using high explosive.

There are many proposal’s on how the mark the site of the once great factory, a factory that produced so much for the British economy with much of its production being exported. The suggestions range from naming various roads around Bannerbrook Park and naming the school. But, there needs to be a permanent memorial to the tractors produced there, something that continues to remind future generations that at thissite was produced the tractor that revolutionised mechanised farming throughout the world.

Banner Lane “Tower” demolished – 8th July

The tower building on Banner Lane in Coventry which was latterly the HQ for AGCO Europe (Massey Ferguson) for many years was demolished on 8th July at 1000hrs.

AGCO_Coventry AGCO 2006

The Coventry Council are looking into ways to commemorate Banner Lane and any ideas are welcome by them. There is also an e-petition at Thomas is interested in hearing ideas of how the site should be marked for posterity. Please can you let your Ferguson rep or the Committee know your thoughts for a Ferguson Club mark; alternatively Councillor Thomas can be emailed with ideas here

© Duncan Russell

Memorial to tractors built at Banner Lane

6th July 2014 – MF Memorial to tractors built at Banner Lane, Coventry unveiled at Bannerbrook Park.

Andy Peters, of Persimmon Homes South Midlands, Coventry Lord Mayor Hazel Noonan and Richard Markwell, of Massey Ferguson

The new work is the gift of Massey Ferguson and its parent company AGCO. Crafted in bronze and granite, it was unveiled at a special ceremony on Sunday 6 July, 2014 at Bannerbrook Park in Tile Hill, the site of the former factory.

“This new artwork celebrates the production of over 3.3 million Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors at Banner Lane from 1946-2003,” explains Richard Markwell, Vice-President and Managing Director, Massey Ferguson, Europe, Africa, Middle East. “We are extremely proud of the legacy of the Banner Lane factory and the pioneering work of Harry Ferguson, which initially took us to the site. The creation of this prestigious new piece is a tribute to all those who worked there over a 60-year period. They helped drive the spirit and camaraderie of one of the world’s most famous farm machinery brands and laid the foundations for its ever-growing success today.”

Banner Lane was the largest tractor factory in the western world and, in further recognition of the Massey Ferguson legacy at the site, it is planned for a road to be named Ferguson Close while a new bridle path – Massey Ferguson Way – is scheduled to open in 2015.

AGCO fully vacated the Banner Lane site in 2006 and established its European Office facility at Abbey Park Stoneleigh, some eight miles away, where it employs 500 people.

July 6 had been chosen for the unveiling of the Massey Ferguson artwork as this marks the date that the first tractor, a Ferguson TE 20, left the assembly line 68 years ago.

Jemma Pearson was the Sculptor of the artwork.

Jemma is opening her studio to the public 26th to 28 July. The main attraction will be the clay original of the 7ft bronze plaque. As the clay sculpture dries out very quickly it will not last forever, but Jemma has been watering it nearly daily for 6 months! The net result is that it is still in one piece and shows all the detail in the same scale as the bronze piece. Anyone interested would be very welcome to come and see it during these three days.

The Studio is in Clun in South Shropshire and the address is: The Studio, Caradoc, Church Street, Clun, Shropshire, SY7 8JW.

The Ferguson Approach to Education

Copy of an early letter from Dick Chambers (circa.1951)


Distributors are well aware of the importance attached to education as applied to the Ferguson franchise, and it is considered desirable at this stage to review the situation and point out how Distributors may gain the full benefit from an Education Scheme in their own territory, and so build a very prosperous future for their Ferguson franchise.

Value of Education

We have no doubt whatever that through the Education Plan as applied by Harry Ferguson Limited, Coventry, the sales of Ferguson products have been considerably higher than would have been possible without instruction being given to Salesmen and Servicemen in the proper adjustment and use of the equipment.  Just how much the very large volume of business being enjoyed by this Company can be attributed to education, is certainly a matter for conjecture.  We do know, however, that most of the sales are made by what the implement does.  We have a maxim “It is what the implement does that sells the tractors”.

We do not propose to burden this article with the many experiences which can be quoted how proper adjustment of the implement and proper appreciation of the Ferguson System, and what is built into it, has enabled salesmen to prove to the Farmers that the equipment is suitable for their requirements.

 The value of education is exemplified in so many ways that we feel the quoting of just one example may be permitted.  Experience has shown that where the Agricultural Mower has been properly understood by the salesmen and demonstrators of a dealer, who, in turn have passed this information on as completely as possible to the owners, the satisfaction obtained by these owners from this piece of equipment has been very much more than where the Dealers’ Salesmen and Servicemen were unfamiliar with the equipment, and, therefore unable to instruct the owners.

Please understand that this is only one example, we can quote many more.

What To Do

It is our desire to help all Distributors in the Education Scheme, and any help that this Company can give is at the disposal of all distributors.

It is our view that each Distributor should immediately set up an efficient Education Organisation, the staff of which would devote their whole time to instruction.  The primary object of this Department would be dissemination of instruction on Ferguson equipment to representatives of Dealers and Sub-Dealers, so that they would have a fuller ability to demonstrate the equipment successfully, maintain it correctly and gain a precise appreciation of the aims of the Ferguson Plan and System.

We suggest that your instruction should not be limited to the Dealer Organisation.  We have, in fact, through or Coventry Education Department been extremely successful in spreading the information on the Ferguson System far and wide through the medium of other Organisations.  In this connection, the Government Agricultural Advisory Officers form a useful nucleus through which information may be passed to farmers.  It is of course, essential that these Agricultural Advisors should be well briefed in the equipment and the plan behind the production of this modern agricultural machinery.  There is no doubt that the easiest way, and the most lasting way to convince Agricultural Advisors, is through practical experience with the equipment.

To fulfil this, we have arranged a number of very successful courses, each lasting about one week, to which the Agricultural Advisors have been invited.  We know that, if we may coin a word, these Advisors have been “Fergusonised” during their stay with us.  They, in turn, speak highly of the equipment when amongst farmers, and, in fact, become unpaid salesmen.

We have arranged other courses for Agricultural representatives of the various Rubber Companies, and similar courses for the Oil Companies Agricultural Representatives.

It is agreed that the Agricultural Advisors and Agricultural Representatives must not become too biased towards our equipment, thus excluding completely from their minds other competitive equipment, but we do know from experience that these men have spoken very highly of our System and have often – perhaps unwittingly – swayed a doubtful prospect very much in our favour.

We submit that as well as the training of Sales and Service Representatives, the Managers of your various Dealers; these are other useful lines, which can be applied to an Education Department.

In addition, the Young Farmers’ Club Organisation members in England and Wales have completed, with us, a number of short term, usually weekend, courses on the equipment.  We assist in the Young Farmers’ evening lectures, and visit various Agricultural colleges and Agricultural Institutes, with a view to explaining fully the principles behind the Organisation and how the Ferguson System works.

Our Education Scheme is opened to many non-agricultural organisations also – associations of businessmen like the Rotary Club, political bodies, etc., come under our barrage of Ferguson Plan and System propaganda by lectures and films.  Distinct from the sales talks, these are of a general nature, aimed at selling the idea of more food at less cost.

For education of any type, one must take a long view, and not hope for immediate results, but it is gratifying to note that in Great Britain during the month of January 1951, we had 67% of the sales for all makes of wheeled agricultural tractors on the home market.

The education tree we have been growing during the past five years is now beginning to bear full fruit.

How To Do It

The setting up of an Education Department is something, which should receive the immediate attention of the Principals of your Company.  There must be ample scope for the development of a first rate Education Scheme covering the territory for which you have a franchise.  We do not wish to lay down any hard and fast rules for the establishment of an Education Department.  We appreciate that each territory must have its own requirements, and its own suitable arrangements, but we feel that an indication of what can be done should be given to you so that the benefit of education to your Organisation, and, indeed, to the owners of the equipment, should be achieved at the earliest possible time.

Distributors have in the past sent representatives to our Instruction School established at Coventry, and here we should like to assure you that further visits from your staff will be welcome at any time.

The Education Department now has its own residential accommodation and lecture rooms right on the farm.  The instruction is essentially of a practical nature, and two distinct types of course are arranged.

For the Field Course, instruction is given on the operation and the farm maintenance of the tractor and the adjustments necessary on the equipment, to obtain from that equipment the many features built into it.  This course lasts for two weeks, and provides a useful basis on which salesmen may develop their knowledge of the Ferguson equipment.  We do not claim that one such course completes the knowledge of our students in the Ferguson equipment, indeed, it is one of the features of the Ferguson franchise that for those who will keep an open mind, there is always more to learn.  Overseas students are recommended to remain for two or three field courses, which enables them to become more familiar with the equipment, visit some of our home dealer organisations and gain experience in our office organisation.

For this course we run a fleet of 22 tractors, and a full range of equipment; Ploughs, Cultivators, and other basic implements being held in triplicate or more, so that each student is given an opportunity of operating the equipment in the field.  It cannot be too strongly emphasised that during this course we teach “The System”, so that students are conversant with the range of equipment which will enable them to pass on to prospective customers details, which will eventually result in the prospect buying more of our range.

The Service course is designed primarily for Workshop Servicemen, whose job it is to ensure that the Ferguson equipment is maintained in top quality condition, so that the farmers in turn may derive the full benefit from it.  During the Service Course students are given instruction by Departmental Managers and their Deputies of the Demonstration, Service, Sales and Spare Parts Departments of the Headquarters.

Residential accommodation expenses are paid by the students or their employers.  All other expenses are charged against the general Company expenditure.

The ideal to be aimed at is something along the lines briefly indicated above, an, indeed we hope that when the equipment is being established in any country, due consideration will be given to the organisation of an Education Department along these lines.  Much thought has been given to the organisation of the Department, and we always agree that the residential facilities are of very great importance in creating a friendship between representatives who will thereby have a full realisation of the importance of the Ferguson franchise, and understanding of the immensity of the Organisation.  It is interesting to recall that on a recent course at our Residential School at Stoneleigh Abbey, 12 different nationalities were represented.

Even if it is not possible in the first year or so of holding a franchise, for a Distributor to set up a Residential Establishment, education should be given considerable priority in the Organisation.  A few suggestions on how this may be achieved are submitted for your consideration.

One country starting with a nucleus of two representatives who were fully trained at our Coventry School, arranged for these representatives to visit each Dealer’s area in turn, and there to give practical instruction in the use of the equipment, to the Dealer’s Representatives.  This team visited an area for a period of about two weeks, taking with them such equipment as was then available on which instruction could be given.  The team moved on from Dealer to Dealer.  In additional to equipping the Dealer’s Representatives with a full knowledge of the Ferguson System, they have made use of their time in the particular area to assist the local owners in any operation problems, which they may have had.

In this connection the presence of the team in an area enabled the local Dealer to arrange for a “Dealer Owner Meeting”, to which all owners and some of the more prominent prospects were invited.  The Dealer meetings should be arranged in conjunction with a show of recent Ferguson films and the ensuing discussion has always enabled the Education Staff to get to know the problems of the Ferguson owners, and has enabled them to suggest methods of operating the tractor and equipment to achieve the results required by the farmers.  So successful has this scheme been that the particular country concerned now has four prominent members of the Staff on Education.  After the initial course has been held in each dealer’s area, further courses, specialising in newer equipment and revising on the old, are continually in operation.

Another country, having laboured hard and well in publicising the equipment and making good sales, has now come to realise that the establishment of a Ferguson Training School would be of more value from the publicity angle and of immense value to the owners, than any other system yet conceived.  A Training School has therefore been established, and to this School will be invited all who in any way are connected with the Ferguson business, and also those other representatives of Organisations whose interests are in the Ferguson equipment.

Other countries have, in an endeavour to gain more information on the equipment, arranged to have a large number of Dealer’s representatives attend courses of instruction at our Residential School.  We welcome the idea, but while good, we can only consider this as being a preliminary to the setting up of a successful Education Department in the Organisation concerned, and it is, in fact, noteworthy that such has been the case.

It is our intention to arrange from time to time for our Senior Instructors to visit Distributors and to assist them with advice on setting up of Education Departments.  We feel certain that with the experience we have had during the past five years of education in this growing organisation, our Instructors could be of immense value to you.  We are certain also that this intimate contact between your organisation and ours would be of real value in our appreciation of your agricultural conditions, and no doubt our staff would be very heartily welcomed by you.

In acknowledging receipt of this letter, please let us know what scheme of education you have covering your territory, and also whether we can be of further assistance to you in the immediate future prior to one of our staff visiting you.

We look forward with interest to your remarks.

Yours faithfully



An Introduction to the Coldridge Collection

A Brief Introduction to the Coldridge Collection

Visit the Coldridge Collection in the Ferguson Club Gallery:
(Scroll down to ‘Coldridge Collection, Devon’)

Mike Thorne’s introduction to the Coldridge Collection:

“A warm welcome to the Coldridge collection; I felt it might be appropriate to set out a brief introduction to the collection.

On leaving school in 1954 I started working on a farm in Oxfordshire and it was there that I had my first taste of Ferguson in the form of an early TE.D20. a three ton tipping trailer and a post hole digger.

Compared to most of the tractors on this 1000 acre farm, the Ferguson was a dream with its electric starter – the only other tractor in the fleet of 11 that had electric starting was a new type Fordson Major Diesel. The Fordson Standards were difficult to start, the Allis Bs were so and so’s and often kicked back, whilst cranking over the Cat R25 or the Miniapolis Mobile GT took all my strength.

The next serious encounter was in 1964 when I moved to Devon in a farming partnership. By 1966 we bought a second small farm, Lower Park Farm, Coldridge and part of the purchase was a TEF20 missing its injector pump, and a Ferguson rear mounted mower and fertilizer spreader. I soon sourced a second hand pump and had the tractor running: it proved to be very useful and reliable.

Within a year and a half the partnership was dissolved and I started a new career in steel fabrication.

Ferguson came back into my life again in 1985 when a friend told me he knew of a TED20 that was for sale for £100: it was tidy and it just about ran so I bought it – that is No1 in the collection today. In 199* it had a total restoration and tyre tracks were fitted by Ernie Luxton.

As the years went by the tractor bug really got a hold of me and at one point there were about seventy tractors at Lower Park of various makes and sizes including several crawlers.

Talking to a fellow enthusiast at one of our early open days I realized I would need to live to about 250 years old in order to get them all restored. As this is most unlikely, I decided to focus on all things Ferguson and the early Massey Ferguson range with a cut off point of the 100 series.

Another factor in my decision was that I had read a great deal about Harry Ferguson and he had become a kind of hero to me. I admire his determination in developing and perfecting draft control with the converging three point linkage. I also appreciated his attention to detail and highly refined engineering standards.

As the collection increased it became obvious that a building was needed to house and display the restored tractors and implements. This was an opportunity for me to indulge in designing and building the heptagonal shed we have today. Known as the tractor shed it was completed in May 1995 and now houses nearly all the Massey Ferguson tractors in the collection.

Coinciding with the hosting of the Ferguson Club’s AGM in April of the year 2000; I decided to alter the 25 year old farm lean-to building to display more of the collection. It was decided to give this building a bit of a high-tech look feeling that would contrast nicely with the older tractors displayed within it. This is known as the “Ferguson shed” and was completed about 14 hours before the Ferguson club’s AGM. How’s that for timing? Jamie Sheldon, Harry Ferguson’s grandson and president of the Ferguson Club kindly performed the official opening after the AGM business.

This building now houses all things Ferguson – apart from the small mezzanine which is my office area and contains several displays of railway models and related art work. It also provides a viewing gallery.

The next development which started late in 2006 was the clearing out of the 60’ x 60’ Atcost barn. This entailed clearing out all the tractors vehicles and implements that were stored here to make way for a full refurbishment of this building and connecting it to the mezzanine area of the Ferguson shed. It was decided to follow a similar style of design thereby giving a sense of continuity within the two buildings.

The basic parameters for this project were not to alter the building on the outside but on the inside endeavour to gain extra floor space. Luckily the floor level of the Atcost barn is at almost the same level as that of the mezzanine of the Ferguson shed.

To maximise the use of space the decision was taken to install a second mezzanine in the centre section of this building, with careful juggling of heights, this was just possible. To increase the actual area of this floor it seemed prudent to extend the edge of the floor beyond the line of the main stanchions by about 2` 6”/750mm, with the ceiling at this point sloping upwards to the thinish edge which supports the balustrades and in turn the hand railings. This I feel gives the deck a lift.

We installed a 500kg electric hoist track along the apex of the building to enable implements and cut-away models to be lifted to the mezzanine and then trundled along the track to their approximate positions; to facilitate this, the mezzanine ends about 3m  from the electrically operated roller shutter door giving a good balcony effect. The centre section incorporates a home made electrically lit Ferguson trademark, this makes a nice focal point. Illuminated display cases have been built into the cavity walls with plenty of space in between for posters and photographs.

A steel staircase with aluminium chequer plate treads and double stainless steel handrails leads from the ground floor to the mezzanine.

In arranging the tractor exhibits we have endeavoured to group them into families with most of them hitched to a Ferguson implement; remember Harry Ferguson quip, “a tractor without an implement is like a pen without ink!” There are five families here Ferguson Brown, Ford Ferguson and one 8N. A much larger family of TE.20s followed by a group of FE.35s most of the early Massey Ferguson tractors, as mentioned before are in the heptagonal tractor shed: its red stained timber rafters reflecting the colour of those models. The final family are the “odd balls” i.e. tractors not necessarily of Ferguson design, but interesting examples in their own right.

A certain amount of seating has been provided to give visitors the chance to rest their feet, relax, take in the atmosphere and discuss with others the finer points of this and that and possibly put the world to rights!

Also for the benefit of visitors a large flat screen monitor has been installed with facilities to play archive material as well as current available DVD’s and videos. Needless to say some seating has been provided adjacent to this screen.

The aim of these facilities is to heighten the visitor’s awareness of significant achievements of Harry Ferguson and his small team of engineers. Also to display as wide a range as possible of his tractors and implements within a setting that is comfortable as well as dynamic. There may be one or two aspects that stray off these basic parameters e.g. a few display cases dedicated to Land Rover, others highlight some of the great achievements of London Transport. Yet another distraction from the Ferguson theme is the display of some model railway stock, prints by Terence Cuneo, David Sheppard and others. These side tracking’s represent my own personal respect for other areas of Great Britain’s huge engineering achievements of the past.

Please come and sample for yourselves, just give a call on 07966 328 600 to fix a date.

Two Ferguson enthusiasts have said to me quite unsolicited

“Well this must be a shrine to Harry Ferguson.”

My reply was, “Yes I suppose it is”

I very much hope you enjoy your time here

Cheers, Mike

Visit the Coldridge Collection in the Ferguson Club Gallery:
(Scroll down to ‘Coldridge Collection, Devon’)

© Michael Thorne