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Recollections of Barwick-in-Elmet
By William Prince

PART 3. "Ploughing the fields and scattering."

from The Barwicker No.15
September 1989

The greater portion of Church Farm land comprised an area of 54 acres which had boundaries touching Potterton Lane, Aberford Lane and the stream that joined Cock Beck at Ass Bridge. There were no hedges inside that area but for farming purposes it was divided into six or more fields. The rest of the land included arable fields at the top and bottom of Shoulder 0' Mutton Lane and the limekilns by Potterton Lane. The principal pasture was by the beck with access from Potterton Lane and hay was usually grown in the Ings by the same beck near to Ass Bridge.

I remember when the Ings and Ass Bridge were flooded but, more particularly, a disastrous, wet summer when our hay crop in those fields was lost because of the weather. When the crop was turned, first by the swathe-turner, and then by hand again and again, it finally turned black and rotting. In those same fields I was once horse-raking the hay into wind-rows when we ·ran over a wasps' nest. There are few creatures which are unafraid of a swarm of wasps and the horse is no exception. How I coped with a bolting horse and the wasps I cannot remember, except that I remained on the seat of the rake and eventually completed the job in hand with no more than a few stings.

Our staple crops were wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, swedes, mangolds and white turnips with a small acreage of peas and cabbage. To produce a special quality of hay, which was sold "in stack" to the merchants in Leeds, we also grew a mixture of tall clover and rye-grass.

Peas were always regarded as a fallow crop, that is, being leguminous they were added to the soil so that heavy manuring was not required to follow for crops of the year ahead. We grew a variety which averaged 2½ feet tall and had a strong stalk. They were sown through the corn drill, on which alternate "spouts" were sealed off, so that rows were 8 inches apart and the plants supported each other and eliminated trailing on the ground.

Pea haulm was a valuable fodder which could be fed fresh to the animals or dried and stacked as hay. I remember once when we were forking it into wind-rows in Limekiln Field, on a clear, fine day, that a whirlwind picked up a row of haulms, which would have made half a load or so, and spiralled it up hundreds of feet into the air. fhere it twisted like a writhing, great snake, moving away from the field, over the pasture and the beck to finally descend in scattered whisps over Dransfields' arable crop half a mile away.

Pea harvesting was a delicate affair and. if timing and the market were good, could be most lucrative. A pea crop could also be a disaster! Word would be passed round the village that we were "pulling" on a certain day and women workers would arrive to start at 8 a.m. The time of starting. for them was not crucial as they were paid on output at the rate of three-halfpence per peck - one bucket - 8 pecks making the 40 lb. bag for one shilling. It was a popular job, almost a social occasion, when money could be earned amongst like-minded friends in a chattering, often hilarious, atmosphere. Light-hearted it was among those bent backs and rapidly plucking fingers but it was also work - hard work - to earn a little money to augment their husbands' poor wages. In fact a good pea-puller could earn more than her husband did for the same time in his own job. The same local work-force was in operation when we had potato-picking - "taty-scratting" in local parlance - when payment was by the hour.

One of our pea-pullers comes to mind at once because she was not only the hardest worker but also the most garrulous, likeable. funny lady who kept her companions in a state of industrious hilarity. She was Mrs Woodhead whose stature much belied her energy for she was short, slight of build and under average weight. She lived in one of the mill cottages.

The peas were weighed on a platform weighing machine where the weighman kept record of each puller's output for payment at the end of the day. Having presided so many times over the weighing machine I can remember its cast iron frame embodying the maker's name; "White of Auchtermuchty".

A perishable load of peas had to be delivered to the market very quickly so arrangements with the wholesale merchant and the carrier were very important. The crop had to be picked and kept dry until the moment it was unloaded in Leeds. Any delay could result in deterioration of the load with consequent loss in payment.

I remember no problems about delivery which we put into the hands of Joe Walton, Barwick's one-man haulage contractor, who was very reliable. Problems were always centred on the "middle-men", the merchants of Leeds market whose lucrative business was conducted wholly from an office. They were the people who thrived. even in the depths of the depressive 1930's. because they did no handling and paid the producer whatever they decided. Some of them got bad names from the farming and market gardening communities but still they managed to prosper. There were many bankruptcies in those times, particularly amongst farmers, but I recall none in the wholesale produce business in Leeds.

On one occasion we delivered 28 bags of peas to the market and received in payment 12s.6d. The cost of harvesting was £2.8.0 and cartage 5s.Od, a total of £2.13.0. So that crop was a liabllty, without taking account of our labour and the cost of seed. a loss of £2.0.6. Naturally my father went to complain¬∑ to the merchant but he was treated in a most arrogant manner and was told it had been a "bad day in the market". And that was the end of the matter and, I may say, with all transactions with that particular merchant, but we still had to sell our produce.

Wheat, oats and barley were sold through that fine piece of Brodrick architecture, the Leeds Corn Exchange, and a visit there with my father was an interesting experience for me. There was also a pub nearby, where the farmers gathered, and sometimes, in the course of business, we went in there, I to stand in the passage with a glass of lemonade and Father to talk, for he was "chapel" and tee-total. On those occasions and visits to the auction mart my father always wore his impeccable "made to measure" jacket. riding breeches and leggings with shiny, hard-starched collar and bowler hat. Those gold-chestnut coloured leggings, with a sheen like glass, were the most elegant I ever saw. Less elegantly dressed were we who had to drive the animals on the hoof to the mart at Whitkirk.

The Auction Mart on Hollyshaw Lane Whitkirk (1950)
Now - (at the time of the atricle's publication) - a supermarket . Here Barwick farmers bought and sold their livestock. (Photo: Tony Stevens)

Cereals were prepared for animal feed in the old stone barn where we had a corn mill, a straw cutter and a root cutter, which was driven by a small petrol engine, which was bolted to the gantry floor. The mill also made the lovely wholemeal flour which Mother made into bread and tea cakes. The basic winter food for the cows was a mixture of chopped oat straw, chopped swede, turnips or mangolds, crushed oats, bran, molasses, sharps and a sprinkling of water. They also had oat straw or hay in the racks. The mixture was known as "lick". Cow cabbages were also fed to the cattle as an "extra" when available.

The main horse diet was chopped oat straw, crushed oats and bran, with hay fed "ad-lib" in racks. They also had a lump of rock-salt and sometimes were given a large swede which they relished. The atmosphere of an old time stable on a winter evening, with hanging hurricane-lamps, mellow glows and shadowy corners, odours of hair and harness and the soothing, rhythmic, contented sound of feeding horses - now groomed and cleansed of the stains of the field - to me is unforgettable. They are privileged who have that experience.

Because the pig is quite omniverous he has traditionally been fed a swill of vegetable, animal and, sometimes, mineral content. Long before it was obligatory by law we boiled the pig-swill and Church Farm had an excellent cast-iron boiler, of probably 50 gallon capacity, built into the corner of the out-house. The contents of the swill had some variation but included household food waste, potatoes, barley meal, sharps or other wheat by-product and the coarse butchers' offal known as "rops". That offal comprised the large, inedible, bovine viscera after the tripe was removed and was much appreciated by our Large Black sows and their offspring.

In the 1930's there was a general demand from the butchers for "blue and white" pork pigs so we produced them by mating our black sows with Fred Lumb's Large White boar. We also liked the Large Black for its quiet, almost noiseless, disposition. Nowadays only white breeds are acceptable so the Tamworth, Berkshire, Large Black and Saddleback have become rare breeds only to be seen as tourist exhibits. What nonsense and what a pity!

William Prince on the Shorthorn Bull (1939)
On foot Harry Walton.


Between the two great wars the poultry industry was very important in Britain and many breeds of fowl, which originated in other parts of the world, were improved to a very high standard. Barwick had a good share in that industry with five poultry farms; on Shoulder 0' Mutton Lane there were Lindley at the top, Sedgwick and Stone of Fieldhead. Another, whose name I cannot remember, at Potterton Lane fork and Boyce, Willow Tree Poultry Farm, near Laverack, off Garforth Road. The Stones kept only Rhode Island Reds; Sedgwick and Boyce mainly Buff Rocks and the others various breeds, with the accent on egg production.

The average farmer saw hens as something which got in the way of yard activities but useful in picking up fallen grain, which otherwise would encourage rats, and were tolerated because they laid eggs. I soon learned to see poultry in a different way and to appreciate that, with proper scientific management and the right strains of laying breeds, egg production could be lucrative. So with full support from my mother I took up poultry keeping seriously.

Working in fields adjacent to Shoulder 0' Mutton Lane I got to know the poultry farmers in that area and learned a lot from them, in particular Mr Sedgwick senior, from whom I bought my first hatching eggs. The first laying flock included White Leghorn, Exchequer Leghorn and White Wyandotte but I later chose the Buff Rock as it was hardy, a good layer of medium brown eggs and a fair sized table bird.

My first Buff Rocks came from the Pennine slopes, from 2 dozen hatching eggs which I bought through the post from a Mrs Jackson, a well-known breeder in the Silsden-Keighley area. They cost me five shillings, post free, and from them I reared ten pullets and five cockerels, using a paraffin heated incubator and brooder. To breed from these pullets I bought a cock from Mr Boyce and remember bringing it home in the handlebar-basket on my bike. It was very exciting to find a pure bred,' un-related male bird so near at hand and twelve and six was a reasonable price.

Our eggs were all sold retail, mainly delivered, a job which kept me very busy every Saturday. The customers were beyond Garforth so I had to rely on the "Yellow Bus Company", owned by Watsons of Kippax, which ran some buses between Castleford and Aberford, via Barwick, on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Believe me, that fragile cargo, carried loose in a large, rectangular, butchers' basket, was very heavy. But one had to go where there were customers.

Sometimes we had unexpected customers for poultry business and one of them always came after dark. He was a Jewish gentleman from Leeds who carried a few slatted crates in the back of his car and only bought "old hens" - what we called boiling fowls - for which he never paid more than a shilling each. That kind of business has to be done when the birds have gone to roost on their perches, when handling is a simple matter.

Another I remember was a loosely "turbanned" Oriental gentleman - probably from the Indian sub-continent - who sold silk scarves and ties which were draped colourfully over his forearm. He would accept a fowl in payment but had a vociferous, religious objection to taking a male bird. He was most vehement: "No cockelel! No cockelel!"

After leaving the farm we lived, for a short time, in The Boyle and I continued to keep some poultry. It was there that I had my worst experience in poultry-keeping for, in daylight, one morning a fox got over the wire netting and killed about a dozen pullets. I followed the trail and the culprit probably took fright for I found the bird he was taking abandoned in the woodland on Wendel Hill. I put in a claim to the K.F.H. Bramham Moor Hunt and was given 2/9d. per bird which was about a quarter of their true value.


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