Engineering firm celebrates 175 years of trading

Peter Standen Ely 1977

Peter Standen, who joined the family engineering firm in 1936, in Ely in 1977. - Credit: Impact Marketing

A machinery manufacturer is aiming to continue going from strength to strength as it marks 175 years in business. 

Standen Engineering, based on Station Road, Ely, dates back to around 1846 when Samuel Frank Standen worked as a blacksmith in St Ives to serve the local farming community, before son Frank stepped in 60 years later. 

Before the First World War, Standen took on machinery dealership, including Austin cars and lorries as well as John Deere products, staying afloat despite financial troubles within agriculture at the time. 

A spokesperson for Standen Engineering said: “They continually look to improve upon their already popular product range and have the ability to provide specialist machinery from the around the world.” 

Standen T3 harvester

A Standen T3 harvester, a three-row potato harvester developing from the Hereward harvester. - Credit: Impact Marketing

By 1936, Frank’s son Peter and brother Eric joined their father at the business, which was changed to F.A.Standen & Sons Ltd. before Frank funded a new company called F.A.Standen & Sons (Engineering) Ltd. 

The company later benefited through the United States’ Marshall Plan to aid Europe’s recovery from the Second World War, increasing Europe’s demand for machines to replace horses, human labour and drive up productivity.  

Any firm able to design and manufacture such machinery was well-placed to benefit, and Peter Standen’s business was one of those. 

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Mr Standen opened a premises in Ely in the 1950s and got to work on a sugar beet harvester machine that worked, but also affordable, later producing the Standen Beet Master. 

The machinery, which aimed to lift one acre of sugar beet in a day, aimed to move from sugar beet being lifted and topped by hand to a more mechanical process, and consists of pointed discs held at the top of each sugar beet plant so it can be cut. 

It is believed to be the most preferred method of topping sugar beet today. 

Standen Beet Master machine Ely

A prototype of the Standen Beet Master, which aimed to lift one acre of sugar beet in a day. - Credit: Impact Marketing

Standen also turned their attention to potato lifting and invented one of the first lifters which lifted potatoes out of the ground to be laid on top of a crop, which could then be bagged by hand. 

As well as this, Standen gained popularity in both the UK and European market for its Super Startrite machine, after the first ‘complete’ single row Hereward harvester was developed to manage larger lifting machinery. 

Peter Standen retired from the business in 1969 before selling the firm to Consolidated Home Industries two years later. 

After multiple holding companies and a change in directors, a management buyout of the manufacturing side of the business was completed in 1985 before it was split amongst private shareholders. 

Standen Engineering Ely

Peter Standen and Vic Gray in 1966. - Credit: Impact Marketing

In the same year, Standen continued to reach new heights and launched the first two-row trailed machine, manufactured in Ely, with German firm following increased demand for two-row potato harvesters. 

Demand for destoning and planting equipment followed, and Standen strengthened their position with the acquisition of Key Ag, Dowdeswell and Pearson, being known as Standen Pearson for five years. 

Standen Reflex was born when two ex-employees from engineering company Reflex, focussing on the buying and selling of specialist machinery into the UK market. 

The firm, now referred to as Standen Imports, entered a partnership with Salmac Ltd and the dealership side of the business, known as Thurlow Nunn Standen, still operates in Ely. 

The spokesperson said: “In the last two years, Standen have overhauled and improved their T2 harvester, launching the T2xs, have developed a windrowing harvester model in the form of the QM Windrower and upgraded the UniPlus destoner.  

Standen Engineering destoner

A Standen UniPlus stone and clod separator, which has been developed in the last two years. - Credit: Impact Marketing

“They have rebranded their Standen Imports business and now sell 14 specialist brands exclusively into the UK via this arm of the business.” 

“As well as their new products, they continue to sell their range of cultivation and planting equipment to the UK and international markets, all manufactured from their site in Ely.” 

Standen Engineering will mark the 175-year milestone by featuring a celebratory sticker on all machinery built in 2021. 

It is also looking to showcase their equipment at agricultural shows this year.