20 years of working on the land in Arlesey

Ploughing ,  harrowing , planting seed , rolling , weeding , hoeing , harvesting , and stuking . If you are making Hay you don’t want the grass to dry out. You want to keep the nutrients in it . So you could bury it. Same for potatoes as well you need to keep the frost out. A threshing machine gets the corn of the stems saves having loads of labour tied up for ages doing this. Course you would then employ less men as well. Harvest time used to be all hands to the pump even kids having time off school to help harvest the crops. And grans, grandads , and mums. The stems for the corn were then made into long lengths plaits , and these made hats. Hats were made locally at Luton. Quite often the husband was an agricultural labourer and the wife and daughters plaiters.

I was interviewing today a guy called Alan Papworth who used to farm right up to the edge of the lake.
He told me Penny Beatham turned a lady away when she was trying to walk her dog around the lake . She had a serious heart condition and was very upset by this . Later she had a heart attack and died. This then started the argument about the right of way around the Lake.  Those who lived at the Church End area of Arlesey used the Lake as a regular walk . When the Councillor Beatham bought the Lake they stopped people walking round it . David Beatham then came and saw Alan Papworth and got him to go to a Solitcitors in Hitchin and swear on oath wot about what happened wen Lionel Walker owned the Lake. Alan then had to go to a council meeting and answer all the questions the council put to him about the right of way around the Lake. David Beatham won the day and the right of way turned out to be a Bridle path that went up to the lake spinney on the Arlesey side.Thro Big Meadow owned by Waterloo Farm .Thro a ploughed field , the track thro the middle was never ploughed up to Astwick church.THIS WAS FOR THE VICAR SO HE COULD DO BOTH SUNDAY SERVICES…and ride there on horseback……….
I interviewed Alan Papworth this man is a great story teller so I am going to keep this exactly as he told it into the dictaphone . I would only detract from it if I tried to change it in any way. It is him and me talking mainly him . All I have done it try to group the subject matter together.
Do you remember what George’s dog was called?.(My late Uncle George who emigrated to Australia in 60’s)
What the Whippet , no the Greyhound. Yea it was Whitey , I have a photo of her .  She fed the kids when they were little , they were brought up on Rabbit stew. 1930 free range organic food.
During the war there were 20 teams of horses for every tractor , and the most popular tractor was a Fordson.

Your dad worked at Rawlins City Field Farm . I worked there before Peter when I was 13.5 yrs old. I used to race your dad home , I went over the fields and he biked the Road way home . I was a pretty good runner in those days (1946) . There were a lot of Sand Pits around City Field Farm , Inns and King , and later Redlands used to work them .There were lots of Farms in Arlesey you could work on then.You could finish on one walk down to the next one and start work on that .
We started at 0700 and finished at 17.00 . The peace workers finished at 16.00. I remember when there 40 peace workers working on Rawlin’s farm. They all biked to work as well and came from Potton , Biggleswade , Sandy etc and thought nothing of biking home after a hard day’s work .

These are the tractors that killed off the shire horses in the fifties and sixties.This one is an English Ransome.
There were six in a gang and went round working on different farms. When you pick brussels the idea is you always walk the shortest distance. So you walk down the aisle picking brusells from both sides with sacks in the middle of each row. So that you don’t have far to walk to each sack. I guess the same applied for all including pea-picking and potato picking. There were only six Cart Horses left when your dad started on the farm in 1948 .
One of the fields had its old Sand Pitts filled up with ashes used from the mouldings at Krin and Lay Foundary . Weeding and Shocking were regular tasks .
Weeding was pulling out the long weeds growing in between the brussel plants . Shocking was used before bales of straw . Lengths of straw were stood up vertically and tied in the middle. Roy Sharman and me used to go down lines of crops hoeing in between them , I saw Mr Rawlins and asked for a rise .
I got it so Roy asked but he said “You ain’t bloody worth it”. Was this the beginning of Staff Appraisals? Alan started working on the farm from the age 12.5 two days a week  Mr Rawlins used to call him Michael , I don’t know why but he always did .
When I was 14 he said Michael you won’t be going back to school once you break up , I have phoned Bedford and sorted it out for you . And that was how He started full time .
Rawlins also owned Ramerick Farm. Mr Rawlins started Alan straight on the tractors as that was the Future of Farming I guess.

He had a lot of tractors. A Ransome , an Allis Chalmers Caterpillar Road Cropper , this had 2 levers to pull which steered it by stop and starting each side independently . You had to crank the tractors to start them , no electric starting then , and they would kick back so you had to watch out for this.
Every night we didn’t have anti-freeze so we drained the engines then filled them up again in the mornings. Most of the workers went on the tractors , but mainly those who had a flair for them and could plough a nice straight furrow like Alan stayed on them .
In the winter they stripped the engines down and did the maintenance on the tractors.
Alan was putting oats in bins for the horses one winter , when he heard a massive explosion . It was a V2 German rocket with a 2,000 ilbs of explosives in the warhead that came down and made a Huge crater in one of the fields .

The Shrapenel was still hot when they got to the crater .Very soon the whole world turned up and the police cordoned off the whole area we weren’t allowed near it for a week.

The crater at Cityfield Farm was 10 feet deep and at 3 times as wide. It caused a massive hole.
Alan  married in 1946 . He left City Field farm and went to work over Biggleswade to get more money now he was married. He then started moving around from Farm to Farm if his gang got offered more money. He liked it at Cityfield and only left cos of the money.
He went to Moorlands , Oldfield , then Waterloo , so Alan has worked at most of the Arlesey farms at one time or another .They used bike to work in those days as well.
Walter Endersby who lived next door to my mum (Alma Allen Lombari) used to bike from Wrestlingworth to Arlesey Brickyard everyday. He married Dolly Haskell ‘s daughter Lil Haskell Endersby.
My mum told me Herbert Allen worked at Waterloo for awhile. Once when Alan was working at Moorlands the farmer from Oldfield said if you come and start ploughing for me tomorrow I pay you 50% more than you are getting now , so as Alan  had kids and he did.
We started up a brussel picking gang Arthur Mails , Johnny Warren , Jim Newbury , Jack and Alan Papworth. We worked for Carlisle who took over from Rawlins when he went bust.
We were frozen out for 2 months due to a bad winter. We started back again , but it was so cold we finished early , Alan went to the house to see old man Russell Carlisle cos their ganger was off . Alan asked for our money but he said he needed his brussells picked , so we told him to pick them himself then cos we were frozen to death , and we weren’t going to pick another brussel for him . So that was the end of that job then .
We went down the labour exchange and they told us if we if didn’t get a job soon he would make us Bevan Boys. Bevan boys took the place of miners who had joined the WW2 forces. Once the brussel picking gang were working down near the Dog Kennels for farmer Wilson.
They were stacking bags on a staging. Alan was about 18 .They were using railway sacks , they used to have to rent them .They weighed 4 llbs , we used to put  hundred weight of brussels in each bag. So that was 112 + 4 llbs =116llbs in a bag and we used to move them on our own.
I said isn’t over 56llbs now a 2 man lift? Alan said they even used to walk them up steps and put them into the hayloft. One of the guys thought we were pulling his leg. Old Burt West , who was a about 70 , the horse keeper and consciencious objector , picked one of the sacks up and put it on the staging . We only let him do one but this showed the guy how to do it and that it could be done.

2 levers to control this Caterpillar tractor so an easy one to start with
When they were all stacked up on the staging Wilson came up.What you gonna pay us then Mr Wilson we asked , the 2/6 we asked for. Well you are worth it he said , but then pointing to Dickie but he ain’t So that was the end of the that job as well cos we all stuck together. We thought he was a bit unfair to Dickie cos he had been driving the tractor all day.Dickie swore like hell and he was a “Chapel man” .
I used to go potato picking with me mum when I was young . Don Clegg was the tractor driver , all the neighbours used to go Mrs Geekie , Mrs Whyte , Mrs Gear , Mrs Murphy , Mrs Fiske , Mrs Albon , Mrs Rumbold etc etc
In the 40’s Oldfield Farm still had 6 beautiful Horses. They were Suffolk Punches and had slim legs but big powerful shoulders. Their names were Blossom , Queeny ,Goldsheaf , Heath , and Constance. Blossom was the gentlest.
You could take her without lines on in between the brussel plants.These were 3 foot apart and you called “Come here” to make her go to the left and “gee o “to go to the right. The Horse Keeper’s trick was to make the owners young son lie across her path and she would walk right up to him then stop dead.
This reminds me of a story my mum told me. They shared Gothic Farm with her Grandad Big Jim Allen and Grandmother Nellie Dear and her family the Herbert Allen’s. All of a sudden 2-3 yr old George Allen came running out and cuddled the Shire Horses front leg.The Shire Horse was drinking out of the trough . Everybody held their breath but the Shire Horse never flinched..The Shire Horse had come down the track from Stotfold and had been ploughing Gothic Farm.
Alan worked with some Italian prisoners of war but two stayed on after the War. Not many didn’t go home straight after the war so they must have been very good and essential for the Farmer. Tony Chirico he was a lovely very strong man. And Vince who married a women called Jeeves. They worked on Poppy Hill farm and partime on the Grange.
The Chiricos lived in one of the cottages on Poppy Hill farm.
Waterloo farm in 1986
A typical farm of this area is
waterloo farm owned by Mr.L.V.Davidson
.The farm covers 360 acres of arable
land north of the A507.The farm grows
sprouts,potatoes,beans,wheat and
barley.All the crops apart from wheat
and barley are sent to Beds.growers.
Beds growers sell most of them to
freezer conpanies,but the rest are
sold fresh.There are only a few
chickens,ducks and geese on the farm.
The machinery on the farm is as
follows:_ 2 Fiat 640 tractors,1 Massey
Ferguson loader,1 new Massey Ferguson
Turbo charged tractor,1 Fiat 940
crawler,1 Dousell 4 farrow plough and
other items,1 Massey Ferguson 12 foot
cut Combine Harvester.The Wheat is
sown in Autumn,and so is the winter
barley.The spring Barley however is
sown in spring and harvested in late
August.

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