Peter Bailey Limited

Scope and Content

Records of Peter Bailey Limited, including foundation papers, audited annual statements of account, detailed nursery and pocket diaries, correspondence, annual statistics, premises plans, staff wage books, photographs and articles. Includes papers concerning Nutrient Film Technique Study Group and West Sussex Tomato Working Party, Peter Bailey's horticultural advisory consultancy work mainly post-retirement (1988-1996), Irish proposal with Plaisance Limited (1961-1966) and his position as General Manager at Sussex Nurseries Limited prior to his setting up of Peter Bailey Limited (1950-1960).

Administrative / Biographical History

Established by Peter Franklin Bailey, the firm was incorporated on 6 October 1960 as a private limited company with share capital. The company grew cucumbers and tomatoes for local and London markets and was registered and operated at Horseman Green Lane (later renamed Horsemere Green Lane), Climping, West Sussex.

Peter Bailey was born in 1919, in Sandhurst, Kent and entered the horticulture industry in 1937 as a clerk at Avonholm Glasshouses, Offenham, Worcestershire. In 1940 he entered the Royal Air Force and continued employment at the Glasshouses from December 1945 to January 1951 growing lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, grapes, freesias and gladioli. In March 1951 he was appointed General Manager at Sussex Nurseries Limited, Rustington, Sussex. In August 1960 he left Sussex Nurseries to set up the new business with funding from his uncle, Harry Pittman. Farmland was purchased at Horseman Green Lane and 'Alumabrite' glasshouses were built together with a house (known as 'Cropthorne') and garden for Peter Bailey and his family.

The first crop was harvested in 1961. In 1978 the nursery was described as consisting of '1.17 acres of modern heated glass carrying out specialised cropping in early cucumbers, yields of which are some of the highest in the United Kingdom. Half of the crop is grown in NFT [Nutrient Film Technique] and much pioneering in this technique is taking place'. The first experiment in NFT was started in June 1972. NFT is a hydroponic (water-nutrient growing) technique wherein a very shallow stream of water or water film containing all the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth is re-circulated past bare plant roots in a channel enabling ideal exposure to water, oxygen and nutrients. Peter Bailey sent samples to the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS) and was a member of the NFT Study Group and West Sussex Tomato Working Party (WSTWP).

North (N) and South (S) Glasshouse Blocks were followed by 'J' Block built in 1968, and 'D' Block built in 1971. The nursery was constructed in part through employment of prisoners sent from Ford Prison (West Sussex).

Between 1971 and 1987 staff consisted of a manager, 3 men, 2 women and the Directors, Peter and his wife Jose Bailey, who managed and worked in the Packing Shed.

Through Peter Bailey's meticulous record-keeping coupled with expertise in growing techniques (including advances in NFT, liquid feeds, use of straw bales in the release of carbon dioxide, heating and pest control including the use of predators), yield increased from 220 tons an acre to 300 tons an acre by 1985, with annual turnover of £155,000. The Hurricane in October 1987 reduced the acreage to 0.91 acres. Peter Bailey's decision to retire led to a cease in trading on 30 November 1990 and the company was voluntarily wound up in 1991. The nursery site was sold for residential development which became Cropthorne Drive. Peter Bailey died in 2001.


The collection is arranged as follows: Corporate records; Finance records; Operations records; Premises records; Staff records; Publicity records; Records relating to the Nutrient Film Technique Study Group and West Sussex Tomato Working Party; Consultancy records; Records relating to Plaisance Ltd; Records relating to Sussex Nurseries.

Access Information

Available for general access, with the exception of those records which are subject to restrictions under Data Protection legislation (see section 5, 'Staff')

For information on visiting the archive please see Location and Opening Hours on our Website, which also gives information about reader tickets and using the search room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mr Graham Bailey of Brewood (Staffordshire), April 2012.

Other Finding Aids

The full collection catalogued can be consulted using West Sussex Record Office's Search Online facility. A hard copy catalogue is also available in the searchroom.

Archivist's Note

Records catalogued by Richard Wiltshire, Senior Archivist, Business and Community Archives at London Metropolitan Archives, Trustee of the Business Archives Council and grandson of Peter Bailey, January 2012. Records then presented to West Sussex Record Office by Graham Bailey, April 2012.

Family Names

Geographical Names