Norman Asquith "NAP"

I wanted to include a piece in my web site about my dad. He was a big part of the Yorkshire rhubarb industry and his importance largely been forgotten.

Norman Asquith in the forced rhubarb shed

Norman Asquith in the forced rhubarb shed

Pontefract beginnings

He did not start his working life growing rhubarb. He did a variety of jobs, before wholesaling produce from Pontefract. His original business name was Norman Asquith Pontefract; the Pontefract was later changed to Produce.

Dad and my uncle Sid worked the business together initially. As the business expanded more of the family came to work in it. Over the years the family and the business expanded together.

He saw that just after the Second World War England needed food. There was not the availability of inexpensive imported food we have today. This was why he started NAP.

 
rhubarb truck

The NAP Rhubarb wagon

Rhubarb to London

At this time both my parents would take a flat back wagon to London loaded up with rhubarb. The rhubarb was stacked and sheeted not boxed and packaged. He dealt with business all over the country, including Batchelor's pea factory in Sheffield.

When my grandad retired my dad took over the running of the business at Brandy Carr Road, soon it and my dad were known as NAP. This was when the Pontefract connection was lost.

He demolished the small impractical buildings and built a large open airy building. it was similar to one of the businesses he dealt with in Lincolnshire. This was built in 1968 again he was ahead of his time as most produce was dealt with in old dark barns.

forced rhubarb shed

Sid Asquith, Norman Asquith and Joseph Saville Ramsden

Business Expansion

During the late 1960's and 1970's land was cheap and a number of farmers had no relatives wanting to carry on. He took advantage of this buying land at Kirkhamgate, East Ardsley and Wrenthorpe. This purchase of land made the business expand rapidly.

NAP became a depot for small growers of produce, not only rhubarb, to sell their goods. At that time it was difficult for small growers to market their goods. The growers came from as far as Pudsey to deal with my father. At one point he was dealing with approximately 70 growers.

He was selling his own produce as well as that of others to traditional markets and supermarkets, at a time when the supermarkets did not have the purchasing power they have today.

Yorkshire Rhubarb triangle map

The Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle

The business NAP, ceased not long after my dad's death as there was no direction for it to go. The supermarkets made trading with them uneconomical and there were fewer alternatives than there had been in the past.

He was a man with business acumen and ability to spot an opportunity and act upon it. This is a rare trait in any man and I feel very proud that he was my dad. He was in the right place at the right time and made the most of it.

Today it would be uneconomical to do what he did, rising overhead costs and legislation would make it impossible.