My grandfather, John ‘Ted’ Haith was the Head Keeper of Grimsby Zoo and was in charge of the bird collection. His one constant frustration was that the bird seed he purchased was never of consistent quality and it was always uncleaned. As an experienced bird-keeper, he instinctively knew that his birds would fare better if they had access to clean seed. So, his search began…
He searched and searched for a reliable supplier of clean seed but to no avail – none were forthcoming.
But that wasn’t going to stop Ted – he had a reputation for getting the job done.
In the 1930s, there were many things to think about and few (apart from my grandfather) were daydreaming about clean bird seed – others were reading news about the Great Depression in the United States and the rise of Nazi Germany in Europe; that Al Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion, and Amelia Earhart had become the very first woman to have flown solo across the Atlantic. In the year that King Edward VIII abdicated, Ted was hatching a plan and had decided to take matters into his own hands.
So he set about experimenting – he created all manner of contraptions to help him remove the dust and debris that accompanied each seed shipment. When others thought he was wasting his time, Ted thought he was getting closer and closer to finding the solution to his seed cleaning dreams.
There must have been moments, however, when he felt he would fail.
Thankfully he didn’t give in, and when inspiration finally struck it came in the guise of a tin bath borrowed from a neighbour! Exactly what he did to the tin bath to create clean bird seed remains a secret to this very day. The tin bath was his eureka moment, though, and - within days - he had the very first Ted Haith seed cleaning system, which he guarded closely.
Now reinvigorated, Ted set immediately to work introducing the clean seed to his own birds and ultimately to the zoo’s collection. The improvement in health was almost immediate and Ted’s perseverance was rewarded with some of his most successful bird-breeding periods.
However, the bird-keeping world and zoo community is very small and it wasn’t long before other zoos and other bird-keepers were turning up on Ted’s door to access his clean seed supplies. He’d regularly be interrupted by relative strangers asking to buy some of his clean seed. Things were no different at the zoo, where queues would form – not necessarily for the zoo, but for Ted Haith’s clean seed supplies.
Ted quickly found out that there’s a limit to how much seed can be cleaned in a tin bath; this was a turning point for the Head Keeper of Grimsby Zoo – originally, he’d set out to improve the welfare of his own birds and the zoo’s; however, Ted’s bird seed now had a reputation for quality and was helping birds all over the country. But he knew things couldn’t continue as they were. He knew he had to choose either the zoo or his growing seed business.
This must have been a huge moment for my grandfather; taking the leap to set up and found Haith’s must have been very scary. To leave the relative safety of his job as Head Keeper must have tested his nerve. But jump he did – and it was made all the easier because fellow hobbyists (bird-keepers) were not prepared to let him stop supplying their seed.
In 1947, my Grandfather bought a war-damaged three storey chapel in Cleethorpes to expand the growing bird seed business. He spent many months repairing the bomb damage and strengthening the building with new steel stanchions, he laid new floors ready for the installation of state-of-the-art seed cleaning machinery. Let’s remember that only ten years prior he’d been cleaning seed in a bathtub and the only scaling up he’d done was to purchase more tin baths.
As the business grew over the following years, offices were built on the site of an old army Nissen Hut next to the factory and an old storeroom was used as a machine room for repairing cotton sacks, which at that time were used to send out the seed. These sacks were then returned by customers for credits on their next orders.
Customers’ orders at that time were delivered by British Rail to Royal Mail sorting offices and Royal Mail vans delivered the orders directly to customers’ homes.
Through the years cleaning, mixing and packing seed from the Factory in Cleethorpes has been our family business. We work hard to echo my grandfather’s founding cornerstones of quality, service and value.
However, as the size of the vehicles delivering the raw ingredients increased, our factory, the old chapel, in the centre of a residential area in Cleethorpes, was beginning to cause problems for neighbouring properties and it restricted us from cleaning bird seed to the SUPERCLEAN level that we’re so proud of today. The 40ft containers were trying to negotiate a mini roundabout causing traffic problems in all four directions.
It was a wonderful place with happy memories for many, but we knew the time had come to move.
So the search began, we looked for a suitable site for a purpose-built factory with a seed cleaning plant built to our own specification. Finally, after about four years of searching, we found our new home – Europarc in Grimsby. The site offers a reliable bus route, cycle lanes and car parking spaces for our staff, an attractively landscaped pond area with well-maintained pathways to encourage lunchtime walks to enjoy the wildlife.
This has given everyone at Haith’s the opportunity to continue seed cleaning, blending and packing to the highest standards available to ensure our customers receive the Quality, Cleanliness and Service that my Grandfather insisted upon all those years ago.