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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 anyway.

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 Bramham.

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.


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