Down on the Farm
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page
Down on the Farm
Barwicker No.20 December 1990
Park House Farm
My first impressions of Park House Farm were not very good, as
when Father took Mother, my sister Dorothy and me by our bull-nose
Morris car with fabric hood and celluloid windows, in the spring of
1929 to see the farm, I remember saying quite clearly 'ARE WE
GOING TO LIVE THERE?', somewhat in a voice of despair. At the time
I thought the farm seemed to be 'in the middle of nowhere' or 'back
of beyond'. I was then in my teens and was hating the thought of
leaving Sherburn-in-Elmet where we then lived, as I had many
friends and joined in various village activities. The village was
about a mile's walk from the station where we lived at the
Wheatsheaf Hotel. It was termed a 'pub and a farm', which was then
the trend. The licensed premises during the daytime were attended
to by the wife and the maid, whilst the husband went farming and
he helped in the public house during the evening. The Wheatsheaf
was in the Rainbow family for forty years. My grandparents' four
sons and one daughter had farms around the area.
At Park House Farm we had a very primitive way of life
compared to these days. We had lamps and candles in the first few
years for lighting, until later we got Calor gas downstairs plus a
Calor gas cooker. When a friend from town came to stay for a
night or two, we had the odd giggle, as they were not used to this
type of illumination - namely the candlelight. I think this
ancient form of lighting made me tidy and keep my bedroom drawers,
cupboards and wardrobe in good order, then I could go up in the
darkness and find what I wanted. We had electricity from 1952.
After we had been at Park House Farm a few weeks, I got the
maid and two of the men who were living in to come for a walk
with me to Bramham Crossroads and of course there was not the
traffic to contend with then. But, on looking back, I should have
said 'Let's go and sample the delights of the village of Barwick'.
However it had to be later in my life to know the pleasures and
the friendliness of its people.
We had water from a bore-hole, which was worked by a pump. A
static tank was in the barn roof and there was enough pressure to
supply the buildings and house. We had the luxury of a bathroom
and flush toilet, but we also had the 'outside two seater earth
toilet' with the traditional square pieces of newspaper for toilet
paper. These earth toilets were not very nice for the men who had
to clean them out, but coarse ash was put on to make things more
pleasant. One summer the well ran dry and we had to go to the Fox
and Grapes to be helped out. The cottages at Kiddal Lane had a
well and pump. We got water from Leeds after 1948, also the Fox
and Grapes and cottages.
Mother could make lovely cakes and pastries, scones, teacakes
and bread in the black and silver coal range oven. 'Drinkings' on
the farm was a really full-time job at the busy peak periods such
as threshing days, potato picking, hay time and harvest. We had
meat and cheese sandwiches, home-made scones and teacakes, which
were all put into a great big butter basket, and pint pots for each
plus tea in big cans. It was 'all go' at these times. I remember
helping in the potato field when we had a crop at the Bramham
Cross Roads, when we had horses and carts and lots of helpers
bending, filling their baskets and emptying them into the carts, in
readiness to make the 'potato pie' or clamp in one of the fields.
I had the easy job of taking the horse and cart up and down
the field, but could soon be distracted by seeing some field mice,
and I decided to have some fun by putting one of them into one of
the workmen's pockets and he to get a surprise, perhaps at
drinking time. The wages at the time were £1.10.0 per week and
washing sent out for say 1s. but free for those living in, of
course. Mother used often to bring the drinkings on the bus and
we used to be on the look-out for her. Alf and Jack Reed came to
help out at the busy times in our first years at the farm. Alf was
well known for his Yorkshire wit and funny remarks. He was a good
'all rounder'. Jack left earlier to his teaching career.
I should add at this point that Mr Henry Dykes who lived in
Barwick and worked for us for a number of years was the best man
to make a potato 'pie' and they were never frozen. Potato pies or
clamps were potatoes piled up and then straw round them with a 9
inch layer of soil and a 9 inch wide layer of straw on top to let
out the heat and condensation. They were later sorted and bagged.
In 1947 in 4ft. of snow, the outer layer was frozen solid and it
needed a 2ft.6in. width to be levered off with a pick axe. The
potatoes were like cobble stones but were perfectly alright if used
straightaway. They were sold to Colleys of Castleford. It was a
very cold job for the men sorting them. We also used to 'pie'
turnips and often had these pies at a quarry near Potterton Lane.
The large turnips were for cows and the smaller ones sold as
vegetables. These pies were covered with a little straw and then
the earth. The turnips were sold in 4 stone bags. Sometimes the
top was frozen so hard it stayed up like a shelter. A lamp was
needed at the closing of the day to help the sorting at the end.
At the farmhouse, we had coal and log fires for warmth, plus a
paraffin stove, which one could carry around. We had pot hot water
bottles for comfort in bed. Sometimes a fire was lit in Mother's
and Dad's room when one of them was ill, so I was glad to go and
see if they were alright, if only to keep warm. The coal had to be
carried in buckets from a barn attached to the house.
Wash days were quite a chore, with the boiler to be lit in the
wash house to boil the linen and for the hot water. We had a
peggy stick and tub, also a posser and rubbing board in the early
days. Clothes had to be dried round the kitchen fire on what was
called a clothes horse. I did not like these cold wet days when
the fire was blocked out by an array of drying damp clothes, so I
retreated to the coal and log fire in the dining room. Tuesday was
ironing day with the flat iron (I still have two) which had to be
heated on a metal stand attached to the grating of the kitchen
fire. Some people used to spit on the iron to gauge the
temperature. A rather uncouth practice! I often wonder what has
put me off wash days.
After we had been at Park House for a few months" I decided to
apply for a job which was advertised in Barwick Post Office. It
was at the Aberford Hotor Company and I got the job in the office,
but it entailed cycling and I often went the Bramham Crossroads
way and down the hills to Aberford. At the crossroads there was
often an AA man giving you the signal to cross over, waving his
arms to show you the way.
Often our evenings were spent making clip rugs - especially in
the long winter evenings. The workmen who lived in - which was
often one, two or three men or boys - sometimes helped with this
pleasant task. We "had lots of laughs and chatter round the frame
and spoke of the different materials - sometimes exclaiming 'Oh,
that's my red dress', or 'Is this from Dad's waistcoat? I don't
think he will be so pleased when it is in the clip rug'. One of
the party would be busy with the scissors getting the clips ready
for our nimble fingers with sharp wooden pegs to sort out the
pattern on the tightened canvas. They were quite lovely when they
were finished and did last a long time, but rather heavy to shake
and, if a kitchen rug, it did get dusty with the big farm boots.
Card games and dominoes were often played in the dark evenings,
and our family and friends or relatives would often play Nap for
money - small stakes, of course - in the sitting room. There were
also evenings around the piano with a Sing-song, plus sometimes
the gramophone which would strum out the merry and romantic old
songs. The wireless (radio) also had its part to play then.
Oh! what a problem we had fighting the 'blackclocks' (beetles)
at the farm house and when my sister and I put our nightclothes on
the cylinder to keep warm, we let out a scream when we saw a
blackclock there. After a few weeks, we heaved a sigh of relief, as
after fighting them with cleanliness, plus some powder from the
chemists, as far as I can recall - EXTRUPEST - we could rest in
peace from the black crawlies. Later in life at another farm, I
found that RENTOKIL was the best firm to deal with rats, mice and
nasty insects, blackclocks, etc. Are you listening RENTOKIL? I
could be an advert for RENTOKIL. Once we got some crickets in and
they sang us a lively song for a while until they met their fate.
We did not get the telephone until 1933 and that was a boon.
Our groceries were delivered, often from the Cooperative at Cross
Gates and then from the post office at Barwick-in-Elmet, which was
then down The Boyle in a cottage shop - someone called Muriel was
in charge. Then the Turners from the new shop at Barwick. Mr
Wood came with his van with fruit and vegetables and it was all
very nice having the delivery service. We also shopped from the
Patricks at the Cross in Barwick and we got fish and chips from
the local fishery. The postman used to cycle from Coal Road,
Seacroft, to Scholes and Barwick and was mostly at the farm by 8
o'clock with the mail and a cheery smile, and we would make him
the inevitable cup of tea and something to eat.
We had a big pantry with lots of wooden shelves, all looking
neat with fancy paper or oilcloth. Then there were the stone slabs
all scrubbed down and this is where the poor old pig would end up,
all salted and waiting to be consumed. We also had poultry -
ducks and geese - and Xmas was a busy time. Of course, all this
was useful in the war years and we did not go short of food.
Mother said when ration books came in, 'Now, if you will do without
sugar in tea, then I can make you some cakes'.
I should perhaps reminisce first about the times leading up to
1939. We had a mixed herd of about 30 cows, mostly Friesians and
Ayrshires, and 20-30 bullocks. For a time it was hand milking and
the milk was sent away in big churns. We once or twice had to dig
the lane out as it was covered hedge-high with snow and we had to
take the milk to the bottom of the road for the lorry to pick up.
The corn used to be sown out of a hopper and what was called
'broadcasting'. The hopper was fastened onto the person sowing
with braces and hooks and filled with corn from which were taken
handfuls and broadcast onto the field with continuous movements.
Small seeds such as grass and clover were planted with a 'fiddle',
shaped like a violin, and each movement of the bow threw out the
seed from a bag underneath. A binder was pulled by the tractor to
cut the corn and it came out as sheaves and these were stooked and
turned in the fields until they were ready to lead away into the
stacks. These sheaves were later thrown into the threshing
machine to be threshed into corn and put into bags ready to sell
to the corn merchants. We always provided breakfast, dinner and
tea for two men on threshing day making it a very busy day.
Samples of corn were taken to the Corn Exchange in Leeds to be
priced and sold. The hay and straw was often sold to the
Cooperative in Leeds for their many horses.
We often had to collect goods from Scholes station in those
days and I remember my sister and lone January evening collecting
a drum of oil and we were on our way home along Leeds Road,
Barwick, when the car went into a nasty skid and we landed upside
down in a field near the windmill and I am afraid that 'put paid'
to the Morris car. We were lucky to be unscathed, although I could
not walk for a day or so being well bruised. Our dog was in the
car with us but he found his way home, whilst a Mr Hewitt did the
kind deed and took us back to Park House.
Whilst on the subject of cars, I would like to mention that our
first car was a French Motor Bloc and it was quite big, as I
remember sitting on a stool at the back when we crammed a lot in.
We used to have lovely rides to Thirsk, Scarborough and York
districts and we thought we had been miles and miles. Also it was
pleasant and nice then to be waved at by strangers, as we were
passing, and we felt quite like Royalty. As well, the AA and RAC
man would salute us. At the Wheatsheaf, I can remember a
charabanc calling and everyone seemed to be merry and bright and
having fun, although I thought at the time it was a rather
ungainly, awkward and hazardous contraption. The people did seem
to look funny all sitting in rows with the open top and folded
canvas roof. Those were the days.
We had shire horses to work the land from 1929 to the early
fifties. They were fed on oats and chopped straw mixed. They
were fed on coming in from work and then after tea in winter. The
horses were bedded up and the rack filled with hay. In winter this
was done by stable lamp lighting and the glass had to be always
kept clean. A foal was born every Hay and then they had to be
broken in. One of the older horses would then be sold. In 1946,
we won the second prize in the open class at Scholes. We had a
tractor in 1938, the old Standard Fordson with iron wheels, and
using this was not such hard work as the horses. Dad drove the
tractor at first and eventually Bill Norcliffe. One acre was
worked with horses and four with the tractor.
Originally, perhaps the first year or so, the shire horses
pulled the binder, so that it was a slow job in comparison with
today's elaborate combines. I always liked the spring time for one
of the reasons we got a new foal and it was lovely to see it
skipping about in the front field - I felt then it was really
spring. We bred them ourselves and can remember the men looking
in at the mare in foal to see if she was OK and as soon as they
had left her she managed to have the foal on her own as if to say
'Ah! look what I've done - isn't she lovely?'
My parents often went to visit farmer friends across the
fields and one night they were rather late home and we were
getting worried, but it was a foggy night and they had been going
round in circles in the field and were slightly lost. This brings
to mind my experience of going to the cinema in Leeds with a
friend and this particular night there was what we then called
'smog' and we could not even see the film in the cinema properly.
However, we eventually got on the bus from Leeds to Tadcaster, but
when we got to the Melbourne Hotel, near Seacroft, the bus driver
had had enough and stopped the bus. Someone had been walking in
front of the bus with a newspaper around his waist for the driver
to see. But first of all the fish and chip shop was open so many
of us partook of a fish and chip supper. After this my friend and
I decided to walk the rest of the way home (and me with high
heels!) but when we got to Whinmoor the bus caught us up, and
everyone laughed when we got on the bus, as we looked as if we had
been down the coal mine with the smog - no smokeless zones then.
We used to go to lovely dances at the Riley-Smith Hall at
Tadcaster, which was really smart in those days, being fairly new
but I do not think there was any alcohol. The village dances were
also great fun in Barwick, Aberford, Scholes and Thorner, but if
anyone went out for a drink we thought it was really 'not on' and
mostly we were disgusted. Whist drives were also very nice and
friendly, and I often won a prize to take home to my parents.
The social life for the men especially was an occasional visit
to the Fox and Grapes, the local pub, but we ladies did not dare to
venture in until the war years, as it was not the done thing for
women to be seen in a public house, but everyone got used to the
idea after a while. In those days, though, one could go lovely
walks by oneself in the woods and down lonely lanes, even in the
war years, and even with soldiers, airmen, etc. scattered all over
the place. Also we had no need to lock our doors during the
daytime unless everyone was out, but we had no fear then. We did
occasionally get a tramp calling and he was favoured then with a
pot of tea and eats - they were always very unassuming characters
and inclined to be timid. We had lots of friends and relations
coming to see us during the war years, as I think the farm was a
good place to come to when there was food rationing, but we did
some bartering also for various goods. It was a very friendly time
In April 1942 at Barwick Church, I married Harold Freeborn, the
foreman at Mr J Darley's farm at Kelfield Grange, Thorner. Henry
Dykes, who worked for us for a number of years and lived in
Barwick, gave me the nicest wedding present. It was so kind of
him and was such a lovely thought. It was all the notes and coins
from £1 downwards with the words 'May you be short of nothing'.
It was a somewhat austere event as we had problems with clothing
coupons and getting a wedding cake, also where we could book a
reception for 24 people, but this was eventually arranged at the
Griffin Hotel, Boar Lane, Leeds. We were able to borrow the farm
car to go for our honeymoon to Blackpool (considered a safe place
in the war). We nearly got lost as there were no sign posts and
we found we were on the way to Blackburn. We were not supposed to
use the car except for business, so we had the ruse that we were
going to see a pig at Fleetwood, if we were stopped. On arriving
home at Park House the next Saturday, my husband carried me over
the threshold and we were showered with corn.
After our marriage we lived at Park House Farm until we moved
to Bramham in 1947. From 1942, proper books of accounts had to be
kept on farms. This was my job and I continued to do the Park
House Farm books until the sale in 1956, as well as our own at
During war time, things gradually changed on the farm and we
were able to get a tractor and other implements to make farming
easier and eventually more profitable, as it was a case of 'Dig for
Victory'. We had some new piggeries built about 1943/4. These
were the Danish type with a new meal house and were much easier to
keep clean and the pigs were happier too in their new abodes and
they always used a passage at the back for their toilet.
At the farm, we got an air-raid shelter fixed in one corner of
the lounge; and my auntie, her daughter and myself slept there,
until we saw a mouse, when we immediately evacuated same, so that
was the end of the shelter. We once had a German plane around and
it dropped its bomb on one of the fields in Aberford Road. At
first when the air raid siren went, we all wandered downstairs to
be under tables and such where we thought we were safe. Dad saw
us all safely down and then 'pitter, patter' and he went back to
bed - which seemed the best bet.
A nice young man who was called John Myatt from a boys home
lived in with us for some time and I often thought he would make a
good commando or paratrooper, as he was so quick, full of fun, full
of beans and all go. Where are you now John Myatt? Do hope you
came back from the war safe and sound. A POW Heinz Peters was
with us for nearly two years at the end of the war from 1945 (see
'The Maypole Stayed Up'). Also Bill Norcliffe was with us from
1939 for 10 years and he has helped me with different aspects of
life on the land.
My father passed away peacefully in November 1955, aged 75
years, and I am sure he had a very happy time during his 26 years
at Barwick. The tapestry of his life was a fulfilled rich picture
with its ups and downs, but he enjoyed his farming days in all
their joys, pleasantries and even the 'hard going times'. He was
able to walk and see in October the new method of storing potatoes
and it pleased us all that he was able to do so. The farm was
sold in December 1955, but Mother lived on there until April 1956.
The story of the sale will be told in another article.
Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page