Farms, Farmers and Fields

By Maurice C. Andrews, 1979

Although farms abound on the hills and in the smaller villages around, the village of Broadway itself is not now really a farming community. There are farms, and farmers, but unlike the old days there are now no working farms right in the village.

I can remember many farmers of my boyhood days. A typical example then of the old yeoman farmer was Alfred Revers who used to farm at Clump Farm and The Closes. He had a small house and a plot of land in the Willersey Road where he kept some very good cider. It was a common sight to see Alfred and his wife driving through the village in their bull-nosed Morris car, open-topped and noisy. Alfred died in 1948, aged 76.

On the Willersey Road is Smallbrook where Jack Pollard kept a small herd of cows and ran a milk round. My brother, George, worked for him for a time. He did not have a milk float but carried the buckets of milk on the bars of his bicycle. On the handlebars were bent pieces of metal to hold the handles of the pails and in the pails were the pint and half-pint measures.

Other milkmen like Bert Jeffreys, Hilda Holford and Jack Malin from Kites Nest Farm, had proper milk floats and ponies, and even since the War, my brother’s wife, Lilian, has delivered milk from Springfield by horse and cart. Joe Albutt introduced a novel three-wheeled motor vehicle for his milk round.

The old farming scenes have largely gone now, having made way for combine harvesters and tractors. It is not often that we now see the one-furrow horse ploughs, the harrows, the seed-drills, the bill-hooks, the scythes and hay-waggons and muck-carts. What few are left are in museums.

Mrs Wells at Top Farm was a great believer in the traditional methods and regardless of expense she tried to preserve them. Her farm agent, Mr Newberry, ran the farm and although my father, and Alf Lambley, Dick Calcutt, Sid James, Lewis James, Walter Spires and others had work harder, they seemed to manage for a long time without too much ‘new fangled’ machinery. A tractor did eventually arrive on the farm but father would have none of it. Walter Spires and Geoffrey Burrows would drive it, so would Bill Warren the coddie (foreman) but none of the others would.

As youngsters, nearly all the members of my family have often come in from school at about half-past twelve and before having our dinners have had to take father’s dinner out to the fields at Backburrows or the Tansy Grounds, even as far as Farncombe Meadow. It was sometimes just bread and cheese but my mother always believed that a hard-working man needed a proper meal so it was often a pudding basin containing something hot, with a cloth tied over it. We then had to return home, have our own dinner, and then back to school for half past one.

Hay making and harvesting were perhaps the most pleasing times for the children but very hard work. A ride on the cart, or on the horse at the end of the day was what we would look forward to and I can hear the rattling of the harness now and smell the hay. There was also the threshing, when Chris Whitcombe’s brother used to bring the steam engine and the threshing machine up to the barn in Bibsworth Lane. This was a dusty, dirty job but even that was not as bad as when father had to spread ‘basic slag’ – father would come in black from head to foot.

One of the farm waggons on which I rode on as a boy, with the name ‘T.E. Wells’ still painted on it, was sold in August 1974 at a Stow sale for around £800. The Wells family from America, had Top Farm for many years and after Mr Wells died in 1910, the farm continued to be run by Mrs Wells and later with the help of her agent, Mr Newberry.

West End Farm was farmed for many years by Austin Reed Williams and his son, Arthur Bedford Williams, before Arthur left the village to farm in Berkshire.

In the late 19th century, the farm at Austin House was farmed by J.W. Wilson, and Peasebrook Farm by the Taylor family. Frank Brain was the farmer at Peters Farm in the 1930s and Albert Day had Gorse Farm. At the Kites Nest Farm for many years around 1840 the farmer was John Eden. Robert Giddings also farmed at Smallbrook, Willersey Road, and the Stanley family were at Bibsworth Farm from the late 1800s.