The Rookery Farm, Thuxton
The Rookery Farm, located near Thuxton, Norfolk, England was purchased in 1932 by Frank Peele, formerly owned by Henry Abbot. He was the son of Earnest E. Peele who with his brother George J. established the business in 1880 with a consignment of turkeys to the London markets from their Stanfield Farm, Wynmondham. In those days it took a week to deliver seven tons of rough plucked turkeys on a drug propelled by a steam engine. Later the journey was shortened to the local railway station speeding up the delivery. The business, Peele & Partners, has continued into the 21st Century by Patricia Graham (nee Peele) and her son James Graham. The Rookery Farm is a mixed farm, with the main focus on the breeding and production of Christmas turkeys. The Norfolk Black is the major product with oven ready hens averaging 5 kg and the stags averaging 9kg. The farm also breeds the Cambridge Bronze and in conjunction with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust the Bourbon Red. The turkeys have been bred and reared using the same methods started over 100 years ago. The birds mate naturally and the poults are reared outside on organic meadowland with shelter of pole barns littered with straw. They are feed home-grown wheat, barley, oats and beans and whole corn is fed to add “bloom” to the finished birds. When ready for market the birds are hand plucked and hung for at least a week and every “oven ready” bird is prepared for the table by hand. All of the sales are by prior order and are delivered to door nation-wide.
Frank Peele has been attributed to the saving the Norfolk Black breed from extinction. When he purchased the farm he had help in setting up a breeding program from the agricultural research station Morley which was very near the Stanfield Farm. He searched Norfolk for unrelated Black Norfolk turkeys and succeeded in finding 13 from which he set four unrelated families. His grandson James Graham increased this to nine families since he took over running the breeding program when he took over in 1989. Now the Rookery Farm has become regarded as the home of the Norfolk Black.
Mr and Mrs Frank Peele and their daughter Patricia (Graham) at the Edinburgh World Poultry Congress in 1954