Thursday, November 10, 2005

Agricultural machinery sale keeps on growing

Cambridge Evening News Online

THOUSANDS of bargain hunters from across the globe are expected to descend on a rural field to buy agricultural machinery.

Every month, Sutton houses the largest sale of its kind in Europe, attracting farmers and entrepreneurs from at least 40 different nationalities.

Bargain hunting: Punters at the show
Bargain hunting: Punters at the show

Bill Pepper, sale organiser, said buyers snap up machinery to ship back to places in the Middle East, Australia and Canada where the British workmanship is highly regarded.

He said rooms are booked up to a year in advance to accommodate the hordes that scrabble for the tractors, engines, farm and horticultural machinery. Many of the buyers and sellers have been returning to the market every month for years, and tall tales and superstitions abound.

Mr Pepper said: "Sales have been known to fall through if there is an unlucky number on the number plate."

He said it was a quirk among buyers from the Middle-East.

James Sole, a Chatteris farmer, said: "Luck money is often passed from seller to buyer if a good deal has been struck."

Brian Foot, 58, who first went to the sale with his father and now regularly attends with this son, said: "The founder of the sale, Bob Grain, was a bit of a character - he was a hard taskmaster and often banned folk from the market if they got on the wrong side of him."

The success story grew from humble beginnings in the early 1940s when it was originally based at the cattle market in Cambridge - now a cinema complex and hotel.

It moved to Cowley Road, Cambridge, in the 1970s and was given a purpose-built home in Sutton back in 1996. The sale is now run by auctioneers Cheffins, of Clifton Road, Coleridge, Cambridge.

The current purpose-built 40-acre site is besieged by more than 4,000 people each month who come to check out an array of more than 500 tractors, 1,800 lots of agricultural machinery and 400 lots of construction equipment.

The next sale is on Monday.