The Thompson family have lived on the Sansaw Estate for over 150 years; continually innovating to provide both accommodation and employment in one of the most picturesque parts of Britain.
James Jenkinson Bibby, son of a shipping magnate who founded the Bibby Line in the mid-1800s, bought the Hardwicke Grange Estate from the Hill family in 1862 and acquired the adjacent Sansaw Estate 20 years later. At the forefront of innovation, James Jenkinson was determined to breed the best stock for agricultural production and was a pioneer of steam-driven agricultural machinery. He soon established a world-beating herd of Hereford Cattle and Shropshire Sheep – the latter still very much in evidence on the Estate today. After his death in 1897, he was succeeded by his son, Frank Bibby, who, although Chairman of the flourishing Bibby Line, found life on the Estates much more appealing. He invested, overseeing the construction of an extraordinary number of imaginatively-designed houses and modern farms between the turn of the 20th Century and the First World War.
The cottages housed huge numbers of staff, many of whom were brought in to manage the demands of a flourishing estate. Following years of success, the Estates were hit hard in the 1920s following Frank’s death in 1923 and the death of his son, Captain Brian Bibby, in 1929. With two sets of death duties to pay and no-one to lead the family, Hardwicke Grange was dismantled and sold in 1933. Brian’s wife Ethel re-married Ronald Campbell and she took over the running of the Estate until his death in action during the retreat to Dunkirk, the reins were then passed to Brian’s daughter, Cynthia. She ran the Estate with her husband, Dennis Thompson, from the end of the Second World War until 1971.
The Estate was revitalised in 1971 by their son, Robin, who returned from a spell in Australia with the Army to carefully roll out a far-reaching renovation and modernisation programme. Cottages which had become impossible to rent soon had waiting lists, while redundant buildings were given state-of-the-art makeovers and snapped up by rural businesses. The turnaround under Robin’s stewardship was so great that there are as many people employed on the Sansaw Estate now as there were when the Bibbys first arrived. Robin moved across to the position of Chairman in 2009 and his son, James, took over as managing director. This bedrock of support enabled James, a former Royal Marine, to oversee a period of enormous transformation, including the building of the award-winning business park and the creation of a state-of-the-art dairy unit.
His succession shows every sign of continuing Sansaw’s proud heritage.