Hall-Mark Hatcheries

The owner of Hall-Mark Hatcheries was Frank H. Grove, who lived with his wife, Edith, at Manzard House, Downham.  Their son Brian was also involved with the company.

The hatcheries ran from about 1930 until 1965. becoming a large business, and was based along the Nevendon Road, Wickford, between Bromfords Drive and Oakhurst Drive.  There remains a large green hedge from this period.  The business of the hatchery was to rear baby chicks to eights weeks, called ‘poussin’.   The eggs were collected by rail or in the company cream and green vans, mainly from local farms in the Home Counties.

There were 180 eggs to a tray, which were checked for cracks and fumigated with formaldehyde before incubation.  Each tray came with documentation as a ticket, showing the producer and breed of chicken, which stayed with them until packed as chicks in the final stage.  The tray was placed in an incubator for 18 days, being automatically turned every six hours.  Between 18-21 days the eggs were kept on an open wire tray (called hatchers), this kept them level as the chicks hatched.  Any infertile eggs – called clears – went to the baker.  On the 21st day they were sexed.

If possible, on the same day as being sexed they were packed up and dispatched to the relevant customers, the poussins’ being sold to top London restaurants and hotels.

Over time the business gradually changed to selling day old chicks.  From this the female pullets were sold as egg-laying chickens and the male cockerels to be reared for their meat.

Sexing the chicks was not an easy task, although some could be easily sexed by sight, due to the breed of chicken they came from.  The Japanese had the technique of how to sex the chicks, and came to the hatchery to work and teach their skill.  Only owing to the war, the Japanese were either interned or sent back to their country.

Hall-Mark hatcheries produced ten million day-old chicks every year at the peak of their business and employed over a hundred men.  One of the men was Mr. Frank Shynn, who worked on site since 1937, helping to raise the poussins, and later became the foreman.  His son, Geoffrey Shynn, joined the company in 1952 and lived on site in a bungalow called ‘Yamato’, with wife Betty and their two children Elizabeth and Liane.

The hatchery closed on 21st July, 1965.  The Hall-Mark Hatchery had been one of the top four hatcheries in the country, but fierce competition came from the large American breeding companies.



Comments about this page

Add your own comment

  • My sister, Sheila Croot, was a secretary to Frank Groves, and a Anne Maybank also worked there.

    By bobcroot (28/02/2017)
  • I knew Geoff Shynn. He used to live in Runwell, and the last time I saw him was in Billericay Hospital approximately 45 years ago when my 9 year old son was taken in with appendicitis. That was the men’s ward, and Geoff and some others taught my son how to play cards.

    By bobcroot (26/06/2016)
  • I was born in a bungalow on Bromfords Drive in the 1950s and my dad worked at Hall-Mark until January 1965 when we moved away. I recognise the name Geoff Shynn as someone he knew.

    I went to a local ballet & tap dancing school and remember being in a carnival, sat on top of a lorry cab with another girl in our white tutus! Will see if I can find any photos.

    Very interesting web site.

    By Jan Fowler (22/04/2015)
  • My family lived next door to the Hatcheries from the early 1940. Our bungalow was called “Whyteleafe” (later No 160). Well remember our neighbours, the Shynn family. I believe that green hedge mentioned was one that I would have had the job of trimming.

    By Arthur Cox (13/10/2014)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.