Rise of a trailer empire started with a £40 family loan

Peter Easterby (right) with his son Dean (left), who also works in the family business.
Peter Easterby (right) with his son Dean (left), who also works in the family business.
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There can’t be many people who haven’t followed an Easterby trailer along a country road, they’re now such a familiar sight all over Yorkshire - but the company only started trading thanks to a £40 family loan.

This year the company celebrates 40 years in business. Forty years, which have seen them rise from a “one-man band” to one of the country’s leading trailer manufacturers.

Peter Easterby started the business in 1974. Having left school at 15 he worked for J Thackray & Son in Malton and then for Fred Scaling as an apprentice welder. Deciding he could build trailers himself, he started in a shed on his father’s farm, in a shed he build himself.

His first trailers were sold to John Russell at Kirkbymoorside on a sale or return basis.

“I asked if he would sell my trailers and he said ‘yes’ but only if they were sold as Russell trailers, so the first ten Easterby trailers were actually sold as Russells.”

Peter then borrowed £40 from his brother Ken and applied to the bank for a further loan, but the bank wanted a guarantor.

Peter said: “I went to John Russell and asked him if he could guarantee to buy, say 20 trailers a year, he said ‘no chance’. I knew then that I would have to have a go selling them myself.”

From then on Peter traded as Easterby Trailers, firstly selling through dealers and then moving to direct sales to customers.

“We were at Farndale from 1974 until 1979 but they weren’t happy with my sheds, so we moved to the Old Station Yard in Burton Agnes in 1979.”

The business continued to grow and grow and in 1994, the family moved to Cottam Grange, near Driffield.

Peter said: “I’m very lucky to live here. Most people who have a business like this get in their cars everyday and drive to an industrial estate, but everything here is on site so I can just walk out of my house and be at work.

“The downside is, of course, that I’m always at work, seven days a week. We can often have people banging on the door at 7am during harvest because they need a spare part for a trailer, but I don’t mind that, it’s all part of the job.”

Peter now employs 15 people, including his wife Liz and son Dean. There is also Sarah, who works two days a week in the office and 11 men who build the trailers.

“Everything is done on site. From raw materials to completed trailers we do the welding, painting, everything.”

Peter’s son Dean, 38, joined the business after leaving school and his other son Harry, 13 is keen to join once he finishes in full-time education.

Peter still makes all the drawbars for his trailers which means he has personally worked on every trailer sold. It’s this attention to detail and pride in their work that shines through at Easterby’s. The whole family is proud of their success.

Peter said: “To think I started off with nothing more than a bantam welder, a set of gas bottles, an angle grinder and a Fordson Major. The first trailer I ever built is still up and running near Pickering.”

The business now produces 100-120 trailers a year and they have been sold all over the world - to farms in Canada, America, Ukraine and Tanzania.

Away from his business Peter’s passion is horse racing. He and Liz love going to the races and they own a number of horses. Peter’s best horse, Alpine Hideaway, is now retired and living on the family farm, after an impressive 10 wins and 32 places.

The family’s racing hopes are currently pinned on Bosham, a horse they have in training with cousin Michael Easterby at Sheriff Hutton.

Peter said: “It’s such a joy to watch your horse win a race.”

Born and bred in Yorkshire, Peter’s trailers have been keeping British crops moving for the last 40 years, though that does involve a lot of impatient motorists.

“I don’t mind following my own trailers on the roads,” chuckled Peter. “It’s only other people’s that annoy me!”