The Berkshire Trout Farm was established in the grounds of Dun Mill in 1907.
For nearly 100 years it was run by the Peart family. Arthur Peart, a managing partner in the original business had earlier run a successful trout farm on the River Chess in Hertfordshire but wanting to expand and develop his operation, he looked for a new location and ultimately discovered the current site of Berkshire Trout Farm in 1880.
Digging out the stock ponds started in 1900 and it took 200 labourers over four years to dig out the original 50 ponds. A hatchery was established at the site in 1904 and the new farm finally opened for business in 1907 and has traded continuously ever since then.
The topographical position of the farm is significant: it is fed by the River Dun whose chalk spring source is only seven miles away and two clear spring brooks also feed the supply. There is no habitation or industrial activity upstream as the land has been owned by the Town and Manor of Hungerford since 1200 and no building is permitted. A 300 feet deep artesian well also provides a constant supply of spring water to the hatchery.
In its early years, the farm supplied brown and rainbow trout only to owners of syndicates that had chalk streams in the south of England. As transport and aeration systems improved over the years, the farm supplied further afield to trout farms, fish farms and reservoirs and lakes used for trout fishing such as Chew Valley and Bewl Reservoir.
The farm has earned an enviable reputation and a loyal customer base. The farm has the capacity to hatch 10 million eggs per annum. Over three million fish are grown-on each year, both for the leisure market and for private fishing locations. The farm also supplies fish and ova to River and Water authorities for restocking purposes. Ova are also distributed throughout the UK and to other northern hemisphere countries, although some trade is conducted as far afield as Lebanon, Turkey, Russia and South Africa.
After Arthur Peart’s retirement, his son Lancelot ("Lon") Peart took over the business until the mill and trout farm were sold at auction in July 1979 Michael Stevenson. (See NWN report of sale, 26 Jul 1979 and "New owner of the trout farm has designs on your table" - NWN 31 Jan 1980).
Today the farm has over 60 ponds covering 15 acres, making it one of the top producers in the country in numbers of re-stocking fish grown.
[With thanks to Dr Jimmy Whittaker, who provided most of this article, February 2019]
February 2022: Jon and Lucy Handley took over managing the trout farm as tenants (renting from Michael Stevenson). Most of the business (~90-95%) continues to be based on selling stock fish for fisheries, but they have just launched their food website Berkshire Trout Fisheries.
- Dun Mill, c1910.
- Berkshire Trout Farm, c1910 [A Parsons].
- The Berkshire Trout Farm from the Common, c1955.
- The Berkshire Trout Farm, c1963.
- Aerial view of Berkshire Trout Farm 2015.
- Berkshire Trout Farm Hatchery 2016.
- Dun Mill