Adam Henson reflects on what it is that makes Christmas special

PUBLISHED: 19:22 16 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:30 20 February 2013

Joe Henson, father of Adam, pictured with one of his rare breed chickens. Chris Fairweather, Thousand Word Media

Joe Henson, father of Adam, pictured with one of his rare breed chickens. Chris Fairweather, Thousand Word Media

Christmas is all about spending quality time with the most important people in your life.

Christmas is all about spending quality time with the most important people in your life.


Certainly for the Hensons, Christmas is all about getting the whole family together and the farm is a great venue for our festivities. For the last 50 years its been at the heart of our lives; initially as Mum and Dads home, then the place where I was raised with my sisters and now that Ive taken on the tenancy, its the place where my own kids are growing up.

More than once our home has been described as the most famous farm in Britain thanks to its weekly appearances on Countryfile and that combination of agriculture and TV is appropriate because farming and performing are the family themes that stretch back across the generations.

My great great grandfather was a farmer/butcher and his son also went in to the meat trade.


In fact from the 19th century right up until the 1970s, J.L. Hensons was one of the best-known businesses associated with Londons world famous Smithfield Market and the company is still going strong today.

But it wasnt a job which attracted my grandad, Leslie Henson; he was the one with stars in his eyes. He didnt much like working in his uncles butchers shop and once hed seen inside an abattoir his mind was made up. So he ran away to Clacton Pier and got a job with a company of pierrots.

Leslie isnt so well remembered these days but in the 1930s, 40s and 50s he was something of a theatrical legend.


A much-loved comedian, actor and film producer, his career included music hall, black and white movies, West End revues and the creation of ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) to entertain the troops during World War Two.

The showbiz gene was obviously passed on to my Uncle Nicky whos had a tremendous acting career on stage, screen and TV over the last 50 years. But farming is in the Henson blood and my dad, Joe, has devoted his life to the industry and in particular the preservation of British Rare Breeds.

He created the first Farm Park with his business partner, John Neave, back in 1971 and shortly afterwards helped found the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Soon he became what he jokingly refers to as the BBCs tame farmer with appearances on shows like Animal Magic, Blue Peter and Nationwide.

Im very proud to say that last year dads passion and expertise were rewarded with an MBE for services to conservation in the Queens Birthday Honours. So now you can see why theres never a shortage of wonderful family stories when the Hensons get together. Wherever you spend yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

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