Dennis Chennells was born in 1914. At the age of 16, having left school with no qualifications and been sacked from two jobs, Dennis bought 30 chickens and hatched chicks under broody hens until he could afford an incubator. After seven years, Dennis had built up 700 head of poultry. Suffering from severe asthma aggravated by the chickens, Dennis sold his flock and took up dairy farming. Acquiring Highlands Farm in 1946, Dennis began contract farming, increasing his 80 acres of arable to over 150 in a short amount of time. Alongside the arable, Dennis continued his dairy farming until 1961 but his heart lay in poultry. In the early 1960s, Dennis built his first chicken shed housing 1,000 birds. The investment quickly paid for itself so Dennis built another shed and two years later, another. Investment continued over 30 years in which time Dennis, by now joined by son David and grand-daughter Jan, had built up a flock of over 100,000 laying hens, producing one million eggs every three weeks, as well as rearing replacement chicks. In 2009, the family withdrew from poultry farming due to onerous EU regulations and squeezed margins. Dennis died in 2008 leaving the family business in the capable hands of David and Jan. Up until his death at 94, Dennis retained a keen eye on the business, visiting the office daily.
Evolving the business
David, who joined the family business straight from school at the age of 14, was happiest in the fields. His interest in arable fuelled the growth of this side of the business, resulting in a ten-fold increase in the land that D Chennells Ltd farmed through acquisition of neighbouring farms and contracting. Whilst managing a healthy poultry and arable business, Dennis and David experimented with other avenues between the 1950s and 1980s, building a flock of 5,000 turkeys at one point and a herd of 1,000 pigs at another. Dennis and David had also been renting out one or two sheds during this time but when they took the decision to come out of pig farming in the 1980s, the redundant piggery became Lodge Industrial and the industrial property arm of the business took off. One of four sisters, Jan joined the family business in 1994, running the poultry farm until it closed. In early 2000, Jan took over the property management and developed the commercial, industrial and residential rental business from there.
The business today
Today, the thriving third generation family business farms over 1,000 acres of owned and contracted land and lets over 132,000 square feet of commercial, industrial and residential properties. To enhance these agricultural and letting services, the farm also runs a small café and rents out meeting room facilities. We remain eager to explore new opportunities and continue to invest in and grow our business for future generations.