Duration: 75 minutes 29 Seconds
This is an interview with Andrew Groves on the 10th February at his home in Down End and I’m Lisa. I’m conducting the interview.
Andrew, can you start by telling me your full name?
Andrew Andrew Brian Groves
Lisa And where were you born?
Andrew Garmoyle, a Nursing Home in Shanklin.
Lisa OK. So can you tell me a little bit about the history of your family on the Isle of Wight?
Andrew Well they go back at Newchurch as far as the church register goes back, the 17th Century. The first one we really know lived at Hearts Ash at Knighton. His younger son, Henry, went to Grove Gardens at Adgestone and he was there 11 years and they kicked him out because he was making too much money. I’ve always been a bit suspicious as how they made their money but in those days you could get a shilling for a peck peach and he used to grow their produce and his wife used to go to town with a pony and cart selling it. She told my Grandfather that she could remember gorse growing in Union Street in Ryde and they reckoned that if there was a barrel organ there, she’d get out in the road and dance (laughs). But he was quite a good gardener because they had fruit trees espaliered on the walls both sides, nectarines, peaches, grapes, you know as which needed the most sun. He built a smallholding at Waterbridge at Adgestone. Then he built Mersley Gardens at Mersley, where my Grandfather was born and then what is now Devonia which was then Laurel Cottage at Newchurch. When Great grandmother died, they came back and my Grandfather built the first greenhouses in Newchurch and it went on from there. And then when he retired in 1944, they got split up between his sons. My father was the eldest one and he had one side of the road and his brother Phil had the other side and they took some of the greenhouses down and took ‘em to Winford for brother Ed. And Frank bought a little farm at Godshill. My father carried on then, was quite successful and the tenancy at Langbridge Farm came up, Mr Oliver Hayden wanted to retire and I used to buy corn off him and that for my fowls and this sort of thing and he said, “Are you going to take me out for your boy”, to my father, so I went into Langbridge Farm when I was 19. I was tenant to the Carter Estate and carried on from there, you know. It was a bit feudal because we used to pay the rent at the Fleming Arms at Binstead. They used to hold the rent audit there and the landlord found all the booze and the sandwiches and food so we got stuck in to get some discount. Every half year that was. We carried on from there, I was there11 years, from there we bought Kern Farm at Alverstone and sold that and came to Comely in ’86.
Lisa Right, so let’s go back …
Andrew That was like a brief resume …
Lisa Now I’m going to ask you some more questions. Dig a bit deeper. So, where was the home that you grew up in?
Andrew A bungalow called ‘Westmeath’ on the corner of Wackland Lane…
Andrew … where my father lived. He built the bungalow there.
Lisa And was your father farming at that time?
Andrew He had the … no he worked for … when he built the bungalow he was working for his father and that would have been about 1935 or ’34, and he took over from Grandfather in ’44.
Lisa So what were your first experiences of farming then, of being on a farm or working on a farm? How old would you have been?
Andrew About eight, sat under an old cow on a three legged stool being told how to milk it (laughs).
Lisa I assume it was being down by hand then?
Andrew Yes it was. Yes the cows were milked by hand and you were sent off with a basket to pick the eggs up because the fowlswere free range and laid everywhere and there was always one seemed to lay in the bull’s manger and you were sort of looking at him and he was lookin’ at you and (laughs).
Lisa And what was the farm … what was it like in those days? What sort of buildings and machinery were around?
Andrew Well, a lot more limited wasn’t it? You know, the tractors were coming in obviously, you know, but there were a lot more primitive than we’ve got today, you know, there were still a fair few horses about. You know, I’ve worked with horses. We still had …when we took two over at Langbridge we had two or three there you know, but in the ‘50’s they went, you know? Come the early ‘60’s, there was only the odd one left. You know, they sort of went, you know? The combine harvesters’ came in in the ‘50’s. By the time you got to the end of the ‘50’s, the binder and stook method had almost gone, you know.
Lisa Can you tell me a bit more about that? The old fashioned methods?
Andrew Well the corn … it was cut with a binder which tied it up in sheaves which was like a bundle bound with string. Then you stood them up in aisles, which was about 12 sheaves to a stook and keep ‘em straight, and they stayed there. Oats, the church bells had to ring over them three times they said to get ‘em dry enough ‘cos the corn was always ripe before the stem was and if you put ‘em in a rick they’d get hot. And you carried it then and put it in a barn if you had a barn to put it in or you made ricks of it. When we were down and Langbridge, Jack Young the cowman used to thatch the ricks in and then get the threshing machine there and thrash ‘em out, you know, knock ‘em out. And then the combine came in, obviously that was … to start off they was in bags so you had to go around the field and pick all the bags up. Then obviously get the straw bale and pick that up. You know, it saved a lot of labouring ‘cos you wanted eight or nine men to work a threshing gang. But you didn’t get any thatching straw that way. You know, we used to sort of … the wheat was always bound up with the straw tier for thatch, this sort of thing.
Lisa So the combine changed a lot then. You know, it cut down the amount of …
Andrew Well there wasn’t the labour about, you know. People were getting better jobs, they were going off the land into … the building trade was on fire, you know. You get 1959 the election there, Harold Macmillan had a saying, ‘You’ve never had it so good’, and people hadn’t. There was a big improvement coming after the war you know, things were getting better. It was getting noticeable. People were better off, you know, some working men were buying cars you know, the economy was on the move. Houses were being built which soaked up a lot of labour which was better paid labour than farming was, and this sort of thing and there was more opportunities and things were moving on.
Lisa So from a very young age then, you were involved in helping out around the farm, and that kind of thing. What did you enjoy getting up to or doing most as a lad?
Andrew Anything bar going to school (laughs).
Lisa Did you think at school that you were going to go into farming when you left?
Andrew Yes, that was always my ambition, yes. There was never any doubt about that, that’s what I was going to go and do, yes. You know I had farm animals when I was a kid, you know, and this sort of thing you know, and that’s what I was going to do.
Lisa Did you have any interest in any particular animals?
Andrew Cattle, sheep, pigs. I kept pigs when I was still working for my Uncle at Newchurch you know, and anything to sort of make a pound, you know?
Lisa So what was the first job that you had when you left school?
Andrew I worked for John Smith at Grove Farm at Adgestone.
Lisa Can you take me back to that time and talk to me about the types of jobs that you did for him?
Andrew Well, yes, he got me under way milking the cows. That was the milking machine then, you know and I used to do most of the milking afternoons …
Lisa How big was the herd?
Andrew About 21 or 22, something like that.
Lisa So how many acres was that farm?
Andrew 100. You know, you fed … all farms kept in two or three hundred hens. You fed them, picked the eggs up, you know, fed the pigs, got the cows in, they were all tied up then by the neck, and milked them …
Lisa How was the milk sold?
Andrew Isle of Wight Creameries had it. It was in churns those days, 10 gallon churns. They came round every morning and picked them up so you had to have the milk ready by the time the lorry got there.
Lisa Do you know what the price of milk would have been then?
Andrew When I started, the top price was about three and nine pence a gallon. Well that worked out at 18 pence a gallon. That was in the winter and in the summer it would get down to 10 pence. You know, when the cows were on grass it didn’t cost them so much, you know the price varied with the time of the year, you know.
Lisa And back then, was the milk processed on the Island …
Andrew yes, at the Creamery at Newport, yes. All picked up and taken into Newport. They were all there you know, and my Granddaughter Abbey, she keeps me in order. [Abbey enters the room]
Abbey You OK?
Lisa (laughs). I was talking to your Grandad about the old days farming.
Andrew And if there was something wrong with the milk, it came back the next day. If it was off, they’d send it back.
Lisa Was that a time when milk quotas were …
Andrew No. Put as much as you like. Put one churn out one day, ten the next, they’d pick it up. You know, no problems. The egg packing station lorry came round every Monday to pick the eggs up, you know, you had to have them ready.
Lisa And what … how were the hens kept in those days?
Andrew Deep litter started. They started with deep litter, keeping them inside in a big shed which was a hell of a lot easier because they all laid in the same place. You weren’t roaming all round the farmyard looking hens that had gone off and stolen a nest, you know? They used to … when the electric light came in, we used to have a time switch on and the lights came on and it fooled ‘em into thinking it was spring or summertime and they tended to lay better. So you give ‘em two or three hours of extra daylight, that sort of thing.
Lisa How did you come by hens in those days?
Andrew Mostly bought the day old chicks. They would come on the train. They’d come down from Yorkshire on the train and they’d be there the next day. You wouldn’t lose one. They’d all be alive in boxes, about 25, 30 in a box and you just put ‘em in a brooder with lamps under them, you know, and they’d go on eating as they came up you gradually moved them on as they got bigger.
Lisa Can I ask you what your wages were for your first job?
Andrew Two pound fifty a week and that would have been 47,48 hour week.
Lisa Including weekends?
Andrew No, that was just five days and up to Saturday lunchtime.
Lisa And were you allowed to have a holiday?
Andrew Yeah, you got one week, maybe two. Yeah, you did get paid holiday, yes, and Bank Holidays were paid. [Telephone rings].
I’m not too conversant; there was a packing station in Newport that was opposite the old Cattle Market and all the eggs went in there and were sold from there. They graded the eggs and sold them and you had a cheque once a month or like small producers would just go in there and get the cash. A lorry came round every Monday, picked the eggs up.
Lisa Can you talk to me a bit more about the Market in Newport? How you remember it?
Andrew Well, it was always, you know, you always went to Market ‘cos you know, when we used to keep a lot of pigs, my father was a Market Gardener and kept a lot of pigs for the manure, this sort of thing. So, I was very often sent to market to buy pigs. Well I need some for myself and sometimes I’d buy some for my Uncle and my father. ‘Get us two strains of pigs’ sort of thing, you know? It was always a job because you could only get so many, you know, you’d pay through the nose, you know? This sort of thing, you know? In those days there was everything in there, there was pigs, sheep, cows and calves. Lot of calves, there’d be two or three hundred calves in there. In later years, I used to have to buy some for Weddles the meat wholesalers, you know, from Pieville you know, this sort of thing, and it was sort of the hub of the Isle of Wight I suppose.
15 minutes 18 seconds
Every spring and autumn they’d hold two sales. The two auctioneers would have a sale each, you know, on a Monday and the place would be jam packed full of cattle of all ages. A lot of those would go to the Mainland and they’d ferry them out to Yarmouth and put ‘em in the pens on the quay and they’d bring one boat over empty and just run ‘em on the boat loose. And then get to Lymington, put ‘em in the pens there and everybody’d sort them out from there.
Lisa So how did you go about buying your animals? Was it by auction?
Andrew Auction, yes. You could buy some privately but mostly by auction, yeah. Who bids last buys ‘em (laughs).
Lisa And what would a pig cost you back then?
Andrew A good shoot pig, about six pound.
Lisa And how much would a pig be today, just as a comparison?
Andrew God knows. Well, for the same thing about £25. They haven’t gone up like they ought to have done really. I mean in those days, the Isle of Wight needed a lot of pigs summertime to soak up all the swill from the holiday camps, the hotels, restaurants and everything else. So we used to keep ten or a dozen sows and get them to farrow in March, if we could, once the weather had got a little warmer, so that the pigs were ready for Whitsun for when the swill men wanted them. ‘Cos they’d stock up then, you know, because everything was opening up at Whitsun, and they’d stock up then and pigs were always a good price, you know, everybody wanted them, you know. We’d always have them ready for that, you know, and they’d feed ‘em all the summer and then go to Harrowseas at Calne or Walls or somebody or other for these great big pigs, you know, swill fed pigs, you know, they would buy them, ‘cos I mean Walls used to have … it was always Walls bacon and Walls ice cream wasn’t it? Well the Walls ice cream used all the excess fat and the bacon underneath.
Lisa Does a swill fed pig, is the meat different then?
Andrew Yes, it is. They wouldn’t be so nice for the pork, for the butchers, for the pork, they wouldn’t be so nice. You know, the New Forest pigs that have been in the Forest, they would drip oil when they’re hung up dead, there was like oil would run out of them where they’d been on the beech mast and the acorns, that sort of thing.
Lisa So we’ve talked about your first job. Where did you move on from that first job that you had when you left school?
Andrew To my Great Uncle at Popes Farm, Newchurch. Gilbert Richards.
Lisa And what kind of farm did he have?
Andrew He had a small farm of about 17 or 18 cows, 10 or a dozen sows, three or four hundred hens and that was it. He had a milk round.
Lisa And did you do the milk round?
Lisa And how did you deliver the milk in those days?
Lisa On a lorry or …?
Andrew No, hand cart.
Lisa Oh, on a hand cart.
Andrew Mechanised hand cart, pulled (laughs).
Lisa How long did it take you to do the round then?
Andrew Well it didn’t take me very long but he used to do four houses and I did the rest and I suppose it took about half an hour, a bit longer perhaps because I had to go to nearly the bottom of the chute at Newchurch and then walk back up, you know, well you only took the hand cart down so far and carried the rest, you know.
Lisa So this was just in Newchurch? You didn’t go further afield?
Andrew Yes. Walked down the Vicarage and this sort of thing and then come back and by the time I’d come back there and swept the stable out it was nammit time (laughs).
Lisa So that’s a real Isle of Wight saying isn’t it? What time did you have nammit then?
Andrew About 10 o’clock approximately.
Lisa So between breakfast and lunch.
Andrew Yeah, half past nine, ten o’clock.
Lisa Do you still use that word now?
Andrew Well yeah, everybody says, you know, call it nammit, you know ‘cos the dustmen, you have to put food waste separate now don’t you and the dustman says, “Oh there’s the nammit” (laughs).
Lisa Are there any other words that you think are Isle of Wight farming sayings?
Andrew Well mallishags, you know what they are don’t you? Green caterpillars. And a lot of the weeds have different names.
Lisa Like what?
Andrew Well, fat hen, we always called in spinach and mayflower was always called morgan. That’s two that I can think of.
Lisa I wonder where they come from, the words.
Andrew I don’t know.
Lisa Did your dad and Grandad and Uncles, did they sort of have Isle of Wight words and dialect …
Andrew Yes, some. My Grandfather, father’s father, grew up in the Lee Valley north of London ‘cos the family went up there from Newchurch for a few years and in his teen years he grew up there and he left school at 11 years old. If you got to the fourth standard you could leave and he was quite bright and went to work for a hay trusser because the Lee Valley then was either hay for the London horses or Market Gardens. So they used to load him with hay night time and load back out with manure for the Market Garden on the return trip. The hay was cut out into half hundredweight trusses and tied up with a bond, you know twisted up with some hay twisted up to make like a rope and twisted up into a bond and you think each horse would need two trusses a week so London was all horse drawn then. They would have needed a lot of hay to go into London to feed every horse.
Lisa And you remember him telling you that.
Andrew Yes, he told me that, yeah.
Lisa How things are different now.
Andrew He always used to say you could always see a white horse on London Bridge, there were so many horses there that there would always be a white one.
Lisa So going back to Pope’s Farm, how long did you work there for?
Andrew From about 1st October ’55 until the 9th August ’57.
Lisa You remember the dates quite specifically.
Andrew We went into Langbridge Farm on the 10th August 1957. That’s when we went there.
Lisa And did you buy that?
Andrew No, it was rented.
Lisa Right, OK.
Andrew It was rented off the Carters. £340 a year for 120 acres and one cottage was let at £1 a week so that trimmed the rent back a bit.
Lisa How many acres?
Lisa And what did you have on the farm then?
Andrew When I took over, there was 17 cows, 4 heifers and 2 old horses.
Lisa Were they using the horses?
Andrew Yeah, we used them, yes.
Lisa So what sort of work were the horses doing?
Andrew Well anything and everything, you know. Anything that needed doing.
Andrew Oh yeah, they did that. Horse hoeing, you know, grass cutting, haulage jobs carrying, you know, carting everything you know. Anything and everything really.
Lisa And did you have a tractor?
Andrew Yes, we did have a tractor. The tractor did like cut the corn with the binder, you know when that was harder work. Did most of the ploughing. Like if we were busy, the horses would mark it out, you know, and then the tractor would just keep going and cover the ground, you know.
Lisa Did you have other staff?
Andrew Yeah, we started off with four. There was a Cowman, a Carter and the Tractor Driver and the Labourer, which was too many really, you know.
Lisa Did that reduce then over time?
Andrew Yes, it did. It came down to one after a few years.
Lisa And were you growing crops there?
Andrew Yes, grew about I suppose about 30 acres of corn, maybe a bit more. Potatoes, you know, and food for the cattle. Mangles, kale, swedes, all this sort of thing.
Lisa And where would you sell what you grew then?
Andrew The Corn Merchants would buy the corn. Lee Thomas in Newport, or one was in [inaudible], you know, there were farmers trading. They’d all buy the corn, you know, this sort of thing. Potatoes, one of the vegetable wholesalers in Newport would take the potatoes. Any spare cattle went into the market and you know, the Milk Board had the milk obviously.
Lisa How were you doing the milking then?
Andrew Machine, milking machine, yeah.
Lisa And when was the milk … when did it change to be collected by a tanker?
Andrew We’d finished then. I would think … I finished selling milk in 1968 and I think it was probably the early ‘70s they went over to tankers.
Lisa Did you ever have a Vet come to the farm or did you manage, you know, yourself?
Andrew Yes, we very often had the Vet.
Lisa Did the cows have to be tested in those days?
Andrew Yes, they had to be TB tested every year. Every year they used to do that.
Lisa Did you ever have any problems?
Andrew No, never.
Lisa What about other sorts of disease that you might have had on the farm in terms of the crops and that kind of thing?
Andrew Well, not much really. Yields weren’t so great if you know what I mean because there was none of these chemicals like fungicides and all this sort of thing, you know, it grew and you had what it was. You put a little bit of fertilizer on and you grew what there was, you know. Then they brought in sprays to kill weeds, you know. That was better, you know you could get on top of the weeds a bit better, you know. Especially with the combine coming in because, you know, there’s too much green … the combine didn’t like green stuff. If you had a lot of green weeds in there it made the corn damp and tacky and caused all sorts of problems so the cleaner you could keep the crop, it was better all round, you know. That came in earlier than we used it but I suppose in the 1950’s it gradually, you know, crept a pace, you know.
Lisa What was …what was the wildlife like back then? Do you think there’s been changes to wildlife?
Andrew Yeah, there’s a chap coming in to sort that tractor out. Yeah, there has. Myxomatosis came in the early ‘50’s and that decimated the rabbit population. I mean when you think … my predecessor at Kern, the first year they went there, caught and trapped by various means 3000 rabbits and a lot of them used to sort of pay the rent with the rabbits. It was nothing, you know, if you cut a field of corn in the day, if you had enough guns around it was nothing to shoot, if they could shoot, 80 or 90. It certainly increased yields enormously, you know, they have, you know, 20 yards around the inside of the field sometimes, nothing there, you know. This sort of thing, you know. The Keepers kept the vermin down, like foxes, badgers, stoats, weasels, all this sort of thing, they keep them down a bit, you know.
What has gone is a lot of the ground nesting birds now. We’ve got so many predators, you know. When we were drilling spring corn, you know, you very often come across a lapwing ‘cos they’d only scuff out a hole in the ground and we used to drill round ‘em, sort of keep watch to see how many they … just out of interest, you know? We were interested to see what happened, you know, and how they survived then I don’t know because they were out, no cover, nothing, just like bare as that table, just hook out a hole, probably sitting on three eggs and a stone. ‘Cos the stone just happened to be there, you know. But they’re gone now, there’s nothing of that now, no grey partridge hardly ‘cos they’re under the same problem, you know.
Lisa Why do you think that is?
Andrew Too many buzzards, too many birds of prey, too many badgers, you know, they haven’t got a chance. And they say buzzards live on carrion, yeah well they will if they can get it but you get seven or eight buzzards in a 20 acre field, they’re pushed for food. We’ve got no hares left now in here now. Years ago in the spring sometimes, we’d have to shoot … have a bit of a hare shoot to thin them out because they hammered the spring corn too much, but there’s 300 acres here, you won’t find a hare. You know, nothing.
Lisa Where have they gone?
Andrew The buzzards and the birds of prey have had the leverets ‘cos the leverets are above ground see. They’re only just in … she’ll have one here and another one over there and another one over there. They’re above ground. They got no … only in a little bit of cover and staying quiet. Well, whatever there is about they got no chance, not here.
Lisa Has the number of buzzards increased then?
Andrew Oh crumbs, yes. 25 years ago it was an event to see one. “Oh look, there’s a buzzard, coo, never see them”. Now they’re, like I say in the 20 acre field you’ve seen six or seven some times. You know, it got out of, you know, out of proportion really.
Lisa Do you think the landscapes changed in your lifetime, in terms of hedgerows and things like that?
Andrew Yes, lot of hedges been taken out, fields made bigger. A lot of that’s gone on.
Lisa Is that because there are less small farms on the Island now?
Andrew Yes, a lot of that. Machinery’s bigger, needs bigger fields, you know, sort of … this all happened way back I suppose when … ‘70’s, ‘80’s, this sort of thing you know? It’s an offence to take a hedge out now, you know you get in trouble but I mean then they just pulled ‘em out and got it all bigger, this sort of thing, you know.
Lisa So how long were you at Langridge Farm?
Andrew 11 years.
Lisa And then you moved to …?
Lisa And where’s that?
Andrew Alverstone, up above Alverstone under the Down.
Lisa Can you tell me a little bit about the difference in soil in the different areas that you’ve experienced anyway?
Andrew Well yes, it’s … they always used to say no two fields are the same, got the same soil and they do vary. It varies a lot. This side of the Down, like the North side is heavier land. A lot stronger land, we call it stronger land. The other side is what they call ‘Boys Land’. It’s light, easy working, you know.
Lisa Does that affect the type of crops that you can grow?
Andrew Yes it does a bit. I mean you umm … yes it does. I mean this land is, down through here is more suited to grass really. It will grow grass anyhow, you know. It will grow good crops of corn if you get it right, you know. Cattle do very well down through here. To grow grass here you don’t need much fertilizer, none really. It grows without any problem, you know. The other side … and it doesn’t dry out in the summer like the other side does, you know. The other side got the big advantage that you can get on earlier and all this sort of thing. It’s a quid quo pro really, you know you’ve got advantages and disadvantages. The other side will grow … is more suited to grow vegetables, potatoes, this sort of thing and all those sort of crops. This side will grow it, yes, but you’ve got to be a little bit sharper. You know, if you grow potatoes down here, you want to get ‘em out pretty quick or they’ll stay there. It’s too wet to get anywhere near it.
35 minutes 10 seconds
Lisa What farm, what type of farm was Kern then? What did you have on the farm there?
Andrew We kept there … We kept about 50 beef cows which just reared their own calves, and about 160 sheep, 150 ewes, and grew 30-40 acres of corn.
Lisa Were you renting that or did you buy it?
Andrew No, we bought that.
Lisa And what sort of time was that?
Andrew We went there in 1966 and we came out in ’84.
Lisa And how many acres was it?
Andrew It was 180.
Lisa So you had beef cows then?
Lisa Can you talk to me a bit about how the cows were … how you reared them and how you sold them and what happened to them. Was there an abattoir on the island then?
Andrew Yes, oh yes, yes. Two, two. Yeah, the beef cows reared their own calves. You know, they calved mostly without any assistance. You had to help the old ones sometimes but they’d calve and you’d take … they’d calve in the spring, March time, and you’d take the calves off about the first week in November, wean them and they would be taken on and fattened and sold when they were oven ready. There was the F.N.C. slaughterhouse which was originally Williamses, at Heytesbury, and Benalton and Hamilton had the one in Scowers Lane.
Lisa And that’s where they were …
Andrew Yes. That’s where they all went, yes, yes.
Lisa And the sheep?
Andrew Yes. They all went the same way.
Lisa To the same abattoir.
Andrew Yes, the same place, yes.
Lisa Yes. And how long did you keep the sheep for, before they went off?
Andrew Well as soon as they were heavy enough and good enough, they went. The single lambs would go 10 or 11 weeks old. If the ewes had had enough milk and got them there, you know. They wanted to be about 40 pound dead, 40 pound dead weight, you know, so they wanted to be about 80 pound live weight, and then they were cashed up a bit quick.
Lisa Can you tell me a little bit about lambing, how it was done then. Did they come in or …?
Andrew Yes. We used to try and get them in night time. It was a lot easier then roaming around the field. First going off we used to lamb them outside but it was alright as long as you could run fast enough to catch them, but it was easier to bring them in night time, and … ‘cos you had electric light and you could see what you were doing, you know, and if one lambed you could just pen her up on her own, this sort of thing. The only problem with that sometimes, you’d go out there in the morning, there’s about five lambs and about ten lambs and they all want all of them, you know. It’s a hell of a job.
Lisa It must have been quite noisy.
Andrew Yes, it was a bit, you know, and that’s how we used to do it you know, and pen them up with their lambs. The singles and that, if we could catch them, we’d turn them out pretty quickly, because one, they could look out to that alright, but the two, you didn’t want them to sort of mother one and not the other one. You know, you had to make sure they sort of mothered the pair up, then they could go out when they were a day or two old depending on the weather. Sometimes if it was soaking wet you couldn’t turn them out, you’d have to, you know, this sort of thing, and that’s how you went on really.
Lisa Were there changes in technology during that time, between sort of the sixties and seventies? What machinery did you have on the farm then?
Andrew Well, it’s all sort of evolved really if you know what I mean. You still had the same basic machinery. You know, you had a plough, you know, and a set of harrows and a roller, disc harrows or something and then they brought in the power harrows which was sort of a mechanised cultivator thing, which was a big innovation really. You know that would sort of make a seed bed in one pass you know.
Lisa And were tractors changing by then?
Andrew Getting bigger and bigger all the time. Bigger and bigger and more … You know, you’d have cabs on them. You know, quiet cabs. They weren’t so noisy you know and all this sort of thing. General innovations. Radios in them. Now you’ve got cold air, hot air, whatever you want and all this sort of thing you know. It’s like a motor car really, now. Whereas before, you had a starting handle in the front and hope. Once you blew blue smoke out you’d see a fire in a minute.
40 minutes 31 seconds
Lisa And how many men were working on the farm at Kern?
Lisa Just you?
Andrew Yes, me and one man.
Lisa Which again sort of reiterates what you said before about the number of the labour going down as time goes on.
Andrew Yes. Mm, mm.
Lisa So you moved from Kern to here?
Andrew Not directly. We had two years sort of in limbo. You know, I lived at [inaudible] which is a little place we had there called Greeks Hole. We owned that and I lived … we lived there. And one year I rented 200 acres at Gatcombe off of the Pobark estate and that was one year we had that, and rented some grazing down on Brading harbour and had some cattle down there and then in the autumn of ’86 we came here.
Lisa This is quite an old farm isn’t it?
Andrew Oh yes.
Lisa You know, from the age of the house.
Andrew Yes, oh yes. The house is all built in bits you know. We’d tack bits on you know.
Lisa And life goes on.
Andrew That’s it.
Lisa So you’ve got sheep here?
Lisa How many sheep have you got now?
Andrew Well, I’ve got about 350 lambs. I only buy in lambs and take them through and when they’re fit to kill we kill them. My son Robert’s got a few ewes out there. It’s about 80 ewes where he is. He helps me out for a part time. There’s only me here well, messing about really, you know. I’m not so good at work anymore.
Lisa But I’ve heard that farmers never retire.
Andrew Well no, but what would we do with ourselves?
Lisa So what did you have here when you came in ’86?
Andrew We had a flock of sheep then, a flock of ewes, and we had some beef cows as well, and that went on. And we grew corn and one thing and another you know, and then when that went on, when the Bestival came along, well that started to take more and more land. Well we had to sort of trim the farming back to accommodate that, you know. Well now that’s gone we’ve got to go back to work.
Lisa Yes, ‘cos that’s been about … How many years has that been going?
Andrew Thirteen years.
Lisa Thirteen years.
Andrew Yes, thirteen years, yes.
Lisa Yes. So I suppose you could call that diversifying.
Andrew Well it was, yes. You know, it fell out the sky really. I mean they came along and could they rent one field. I said, “Well yes” and then there’s three fields, five fields, and then they had 200 acres to finish up with. Now suddenly it’s all gone, into thin air.
Lisa How many acres have you got here?
Andrew There was 325 here. My son William got’s some fishing ponds down the bottom there so he uses about 20 acres of it I suppose.
Lisa So what do you think the future holds then?
Andrew Oh, it’s all up in the air at the moment with the Brexit job nobody knows quite where anything’s going do they? At the moment it’s alright, you know, the Brexit has improved things but, you know, farming is not in a very good state of the place at the moment.
Lisa What do you think in your lifetime has been the most prosperous time for farming?
Andrew Well, when I started in ’57 I suppose up until what, ’87 I suppose, and then it’s been a bit sort of like this, you know. We had ups and downs in amongst that but when you think … I sold wheat in 1959 for about £31 a tonne and that paid a man for a month, you see. It also paid 10 acres for the rent, you know. Well now you’ve got wheat at £145 a ton. Well you want two tonne plus to pay a man for a week, if you follow me, and, you know, a tonne would perhaps pay two and a half acres rent. So that’s where it’s all gone really.
45 minutes 13 seconds
Lisa What do you think the reason for that is?
Andrew Oh, well food has got … food takes a lot smaller percentage of peoples income than it used to, if you know what I mean. It’s a lot smaller percentage than what it used to and it’s got to have done, you know, and that’s how it is. I suppose we’ve got … everybody has got a lot better at it. I mean you get cows giving 2000 gallons a year now, lactation, well to get a 1000 you thought it was a hell of a good cow, you know. Most of them did about six or seven hundred, you know, and all this sort of thing has gone on, you know, and it’s like eggs, they put all those eggs, chickens in batteries, well they laid like trains didn’t they, you know, sort of thing, you know. And corn now, you know if you can’t go three ton you don’t mess around with it, you know, whereas to get two years ago was good going. Potatoes, you’d get 10 ton to the acre and now they get 20, 22 or 23 tonnes to the acre and all this sort of thig, you know. It’s all got … and I think people don’t do the manual work like they used to and they don’t get so hungry, you know. Like one of the digger drivers worked for Reynolds and Reed once said when he on a pick and shovel, he said, “I took 24 sandwiches to work” he said, “and I was always hungry”. He said, “I take four now”, he said, “I’ve got a job to eat them” sat on the digger (laughs). You know what I mean, so it’s …
Lisa Do you think imported food has a part to play in that as well?
Andrew Oh, it’s bound to have done. I mean the food goes all ways in directions now. A lot of our lamb goes to France, they take a lot lamb over there, you know, and obviously a lot of lamb comes from New Zealand. Not so much as it used to, you know, and all this kind of thing. Nowhere is far from anywhere now. We used to eat seasonally year ago, didn’t we? You know, this year you were on Brussel sprouts, the swedes, parsnips and this sort of thing and lettuce. Well lettuce this time of year, you know, in summertime you ate lettuce, tomatoes that’s in season didn’t you? Well now they ferry it all up from Spain. What is it, 24 hours getting it in here in a ‘fridge lorry, not much longer is it? All this sort of thing, you get stuff coming … you get beans in the supermarket from Kenya, don’t you? You know, it’s all coming from here, there and everywhere isn’t it? Because I mean, like an old farmer said to me once, he came here in 1925, came from Hereford, and I said, “What ever did you come here from Hereford for?” He said, “Ah, you’re too young to know. He said, “Then it was a land of [inaudible]” he said. He said,” The Isle of Wight had to feed the Isle of Wight with all the visitors coming here. And he said, “Milk was one a four pence a gallon to go to Portsmouth” he said, “In Hereford we couldn’t get a tanner for it” so he came here, could see the opportunities, you know, and the hotels all wanted eggs and chicken and all this sort of thing, you know, there was a bit of a go to the economy. But of course now it comes in a refrigerated lorry, it comes over anyhow and anywhere doesn’t it? I mean we do a fair bit of business with Islands Food in Ryde, you know, they have our cattle and sheep, you know, ‘cos his selling point is he likes Isle of Wight produce, you know. We’ve got quite a good arrangement with him.
Lisa Yeah, I think there is a bit of … bit more of a demand isn’t there for local food? In the last few years, people seem to want to get back to eating food that is grown locally.
Andrew Yes, I mean when my father started to growing tomatoes, he couldn’t have been luckier really. He took over in 1944, the war ended May 1945 and of course there was a lot of service personnel, they’d never been on honeymoon. There was no shortage of money ‘cos a lot of people had been in all these ordinance factories working double shifts. There was plenty of money, but nothing to spend it on, if you know what I mean and going abroad on holiday was going to the Isle of Wight. Well a cooked breakfast then was five tomatoes on fried bread. There was no bacon about. Eggs, in those days you could get 60 pence a dozen for them which was, you know, an old hen they’d pay you £1.50 for ‘em.
50 minutes 3 seconds
When you think three old hens paid a man for a week, and they used to boil ‘em and then roast ‘em and carve ‘em with a cut throat razor to get it thin enough (laughs). You know what I mean, rabbits, anything that was off the ration, you know, ‘cos I mean Dougie Bennet that had the slaughter house in Newport started off he would buy all the rooks, pigeons, rabbits, hares, anything he could get hold of and they used to strip the flesh off of it and sell it to Barnums to make game pie. And Barnums would have a queue. It was off the ration. And Andy Biles up in Union Street in Ryde used to sell dog food, you know the knackers were sold as dog meat. Well, like David said, after the meat came off the ration we never had a queue after that (laughs). They were cooking it up for themselves.
Lisa What do you think the biggest change has been in farming in your lifetime?
Andrew Well, increased mechanisation really when you think, you know, one man now can look after a large acreage whereas before it took three or four, you know. I can remember when I was young, you could count up the men that worked on the land coming from the top of Newchurch Shute to what they called Two Firs, where you turn off, you know, to go to the Fighting Cocks, there was 35 men working on land between there and there. Well, there wouldn’t be one now. My father on the 10 or 12 acres there employed six, growing, you know, tomatoes, vegetables [inaudible] and all this sort of thing, you know. There were five or six working at Wacklands, Ballards opposite us had six or seven, maybe more, you know. They’re all dotted around there.
Lisa You said that you found some photos to show me.
Andrew That’s me holding a pair of horses, doesn’t look much like me now.
Lisa So where was this?
Andrew That’s at Langbridge.
Lisa So when you say horses, these are obviously sort of heavy horses aren’t they?
Andrew They’re cart horses.
Lisa Carthorses, yes.
Andrew He was a good horse that one.
Lisa Do you remember their names?
Andrew Yes, Warwick and Prince.
Lisa So everything you’ve learnt about farming, has it just come from previous generations, learning on the job? Did you have the opportunity to go to …
Andrew No I never went. Should have done. Never did, no
Lisa Was there a course that you could have gone on in those days?
Andrew Yeah, you could have gone on a … I did go on to one up at Broadlands House, evenings. I went up there. I came out top of that, much to my surprise. I could have gone to Sparsholt but I never did. All I wanted to do was to go to work and, you know … there’s Langbridge Farm when I was there. 1959 that was taken. You can see the corn ricks in the rick yard there.
Andrew Yeah. There’s a big thatch barn down through the middle. And there’s the chickens, that’s the pullets all out in the field there ready for next year. They’ve all been living in small houses and that’s a rick sheet put out to dry.
Lisa Oh, can you explain what that is?
Andrew The sheet to go over … if you only had a rick partly made, you put a sheet over it in case it rained. Once you’d got it capped off, it would be more or less waterproof, ‘cos you put the sheaves down, they faced that way so they shed the water a bit but obviously you could only get … if it looked like rain, you pulled the sheet over. It was like a big tarpaulin, you’d tie it on you know. And then there was a canvass. You had to get the blinking thing dry. If you put it away damp, it would rot. You know, it wasn’t any good at all.
Lisa Now of course, all the bales are wrapped up in plastic aren’t they?
Andrew Oh yes, well I mean that’s (laughs) I mean like I say now, it’s nothing like the work … the worst part is getting in and out of the tractor now. You know, before it was all humping, you know. Now the tractor does it all.
54 minutes 54 seconds
Lisa Do you remember baling time as a lad?
Andrew When I first remember, it was swept in loose. ‘Cos that (looking at photograph) that rick there, that’s a loose rick of hay. It’s about the last one that was ever put up. It was loose, and it was badly weathered in 1958. We never used it. Every time we tried to give it to the cows, the milk nearly disappeared and that year hay was … fodder was terribly short. We’d had a dry summer ‘cos I can remember when we cut the cut the corn, we didn’t bother to stand a lot of it up, we just threw it into rows and picked it up. It was dry enough to cart, you know. We were there threshing and Mr Isles came out from Newport to buy some corn and I said, “Do you want any hay?” “Yeah, where is it?” So I pointed to this rick and it was getting dark, sort of November time and he pulled a bit out of there and liked at it. He said, “How much do you want for this?” I said, “Fourteen pounds a ton.” “Well as soon as you’ve finished threshing,” he said, “Get on and bale it up.” Well we threshed out some more corn and he came out to buy the corn. He said, “Let’s have another look at that hay” and I thought, Oh God, here we go. He pulled out and looked at it and he looked at me and he said, “Best time to sell this is in the dark, isn’t it?” (laughs). But, you know, fourteen pound a ton, that was … wages were a bit more than seven pound a week but that’s nearly two weeks wages for a ton of hay. Well that was a hell of a price.
Lisa Did he have it?
Andrew Yeah he had it all, he had the lot and we … I went in there to draw so money once, I said, “Can I have a draw please Mr Isles?” And it was all in a big ledger then, you know. And he got the cheque book out, wrote me out a cheque for £1000. “That’ll keep you going for a bit.” It was a hell of a lot of money then. It had more than bought a house (laughs).
Lisa So there was good money to be made in farming then?
Andrew Well there was yeah, you know, when you got it right, you know. Yeah, I mean there was a lot more labour to pay out of it in those days, you was sort of … equated with the … oh what have we got here? [Inaudible] all sorts. What am I doing with that? Well, there’s two very old ones. That’s my Great grandfather with the horse in hand. And that’s him delivering milk and eggs in Newchurch.
Lisa So what was his name?
Andrew Robert Richards. [sorting through pictures]. Now that’s … my father used to grow some corn to feed the pigs with. You can see the various pictures of the … one, two, three, four, five, you know there’s the hayrick where father stood in front of it.
Lisa What’s going on here then? Is this one of the greenhouses?
Andrew Yeah. They’re re-soiling the greenhouses. They used to take the soil out, about 18 inches, and put fresh in.
Lisa And what’s this like a little track that you would …?
Andrew It was a set of railway tracks he had. They used to put the skips on the railway tracks and run ‘em in.
Lisa Oh, saved a bit of labour.
Andrew Yeah. That’s one of Albert Morrisey’s lorries that is. They got that in to get on with the job, you know.
Lisa Yeah. So where are these photos taken?
Andrew That was at West Meath at Newchurch, where my father was. That’s Steph in the pole with the pigs. That’s the boar pig with the sow.
Lisa I love looking at these photos, just thinking about the clothing, you know, what they would have worn ‘cos I suppose you wear overalls don’t you but they didn’t … it was waistcoat, shirt and waistcoat.
Andrew Yes it was. It’s what my father always wore.
Lisa And a cap. Although they have got … he’s got some kind of overalls on there, hasn’t he?
Andrew Yeah, they used to wear the bib and brace ones.
Lisa Bib and brace.
Andrew Yeah, they used to wear them. I don’t know if there’s anything the other side, I don’t think …
Lisa What was he growing in his greenhouses?
Andrew Oh that’s tomatoes growing in here.
Andrew Yes, tomatoes. There look. I’ve got a fair few more here. You’ve started summit.
Lisa And this was obviously good soil in this area for tomatoes?
Andrew Oh yeah. There they are, cutting barley there. That’s what they used to do wintertime is flowers.
Lisa Oh, so the same greenhouses but tomatoes in the summer and flowers in the winter.
Andrew They used to go to Covent Garden. Those are a variety called American Beauty, they’re great big …
Lisa They’re enormous aren’t they?
Andrew Yeah, used to try and make a job of growing them.
Lisa How big were the greenhouses?
Andrew About 30 foot by 150 foot long. There were four of them there.
Lisa Did he build them himself?
Andrew No, Grandfather had them built in 1932. There’s another one there picking strawberries. I don’t know when that was taken, that’s donkeys years ago.
Lisa That’s got the names on the back.
Andrew Has it? Well I’m blowed, I didn’t know that. Well that would be before the war, because John Russell, he was called up the first day of the war because he was a radio ham and the condition of your license was you would be available for military service. War was declared on the Sunday and he had a telegram Monday morning. That’s before the war, that one. And he used to grow cauliflower as well. That’s an aerial view of it and that’s a bigger one there. I don’t know if there are any more in here or not. Oh, there’s another one there about the same, you know. I had to go through Gods know how many to try and find them.
Lisa That’s the Old Chapel at Langbridge, is it?
Andrew No, that’s the Temperance Hall.
Lisa Oh, is it?
Andrew Yeah, in the middle of the village.
Lisa Oh yes, it’s further up isn’t it?
Andrew That’s me other Grandfather, he worked 72 years at Niton Waterworks.
Lisa Motor bike and sidecar.
Andrew Yeah. That’s up there all these are [inaudible]. My mother used to sort of collect ‘em up and throw them in there, you know. That’s about the best I can do with photographs. I prefer … you know I had a quick look through and it’s a bit of a job.
Lisa Would you mind if I took a copy of some of the photographs?
Andrew No, you can take a copy of what you like.
Lisa I’ve got a little portable scanner. I could just scan them now. Is that OK?
Andrew Yeah, what you like. Whatever you want to do.
Lisa One thing I haven’t asked you about, which might be quite interesting to talk about, is the weather. ‘Cos I know that there are certain times you mentioned a drought one time and I know that we had bad snow … was it in 1963?
Andrew Yep, I can’t remember it that well. That came New Year’s Eve. We had some Boxing Day, but not too bad. And New Year’s Eve by crumbs we did get snowed in and well it was there until the middle of March.
Lisa That’s a lot of weeks.
Andrew Oh yeah, we only had one cold tap running, that was all, you know.
Lisa Well I’m guessing back in the days when you were a lad, you didn’t have electricity?
Andrew Electricity came when I was 18. I can remember milking my Uncles cows, turned ‘em out and I looked up across to where we lived and it was all lit up, you know.
Lisa And what about gas?
Andrew Yeah, we had gas and oil lamps you know …
Lisa And running water?
Andrew Yes, we had … Lord Alverstone put the water in to [inaudible] in 1902. Arreton did have electric but no running water. We had running water but no electric.
Lisa I just wanted one of the flowers … you need to tell me who are those people in that one? Is that your dad?
Andrew That’s my father and Stephan Glageye.
Lisa I just need to write it down. What’s your father’s name?
Andrew William … Bill Groves.
Lisa And who is the other man?
Andrew Stephan Glageye. He’s a Pole, a displaced person. Came to us mid 1946 and he stayed there until he finished work. He finished up as sort of father’s chauffer he finished up as.
Lisa What did you say the names of these flowers were?
Andrew American Beauty.
Lisa And they went off to Covent Garden.
Lisa Now I’ve taken that one as well. And what is this area called?
Andrew That’s Westmeath Nurseries.
Lisa West …
Andrew Meath. W E S T M E A T H.
Lisa As these are in colour, I’m guessing this is 1960’s, ‘70’s ?
Andrew Yes, would be, apart from the one with the names on the back, that was pre-war.
Lisa I might scan that one actually, of the strawberry picking. Would that have been in the same place?
Andrew Yeah. My father must have sort of put down, said it was there.
Lisa Is this tomatoes?
Andrew Yes. I reckon that’s George Barton but I wouldn’t be 100 percent. I reckon that’s George.
Lisa I like that one of the big hay rick with the ladder going up.
Andrew That’s a barley rick that is.
Lisa Oh, it’s barley.
Andrew Yes, barley corn rick that one. That was the sort of combination of what they were doing here.
Lisa So it’s like a sequence.
Andrew Yeah, really yeah. Getting the soil out it’s not. You know, picking it up and one thing and another. The problem was, pig food was rationed, if you know what I mean. You could grow some barley. He needed the pigs for to get the manure to grow the vegetables. He used to go all over the Isle of Wight picking up manure, you know. That’s a bigger one there of the same thing, I think isn’t it?
Lisa So what would you call that part of the process then?
Andrew Carting the sheaves.
Lisa Carting the sheaves. And where would that have been?
Andrew That was in Westmeath. Where was he? It was in there, well he must have been on the top of that one.
Lisa It was on top of the tractor.
Andrew There’s two here, I haven’t seen … there’s two in here … oh it old Stephan again with a pig.
Lisa So this is Grandad Richards.
Lisa Robert Richards. Umm, milk round. But that looks like a basket of eggs maybe.
Andrew Yes, eggs and milk.
Lisa Milk and eggs, Newchurch.
Lisa Yes, that the Pointers and the Church there. And that … do you remember this horse?
Andrew No. That’s about 1921that is, a long time before my time. I don’t remember him, I remember …
Lisa Before your time (laughs). You don’t remember him.
Andrew I remember Granny. No, he died the year before I was born. He was coming back from Sandown, taking the butter to Sandown. Used to make butter and take it to Sandown, that’s where he was coming back from.
Lisa In this photo?
Andrew Yeah. Butter and eggs he’d take to Sandown.
Lisa And was it the women that made the butter in those days?
Andrew Yeah, lots of times, yeah. Yeah they did, you know? He always had a daughter at home, Con was there you know and I don’t know how they survived ‘cos there was only like about 14 or 15 cows they had a living, there was a heap of ‘em, how they made a living out of it, ‘cos there was Granfer, Gilbert his son, couple of daughters there as well, you know, and Granny. To feed five out of these few cows … yes, they used to make the butter and …
Lisa I suppose the cost of living was less in those days, wasn’t it?
Andrew I suppose it was, yeah you know, but well it was all less wasn’t it, you know. It was all less really.
Lisa Did we look at that one?
Andrew That was one of the big ones?
Lisa Oh this was Langbridge.
Andrew You’ll have a job to get that one won’t you?
Lisa I’d quite like to take a copy of that as it’s you (laughs).
Andrew Yeah, you can do. You can have a copy of that if you want.
Lisa And that one yeah? [scans picture]
Andrew How do you reprint those again then?
Lisa Well, in the machine, there’s a little memory card, like in your digital camera, and so when you plug this in to a computer, the image comes up and then you can just print it out on a printer.
Andrew Oh, I see, right.
Lisa So it means that it’s just a digital copy. I can always send them to you if you like, digital.
Andrew No, it’s alright. We’ve still got them, that’s alright.
Lisa You’ve got the originals. Right, so this is you at Langbridge Farm with the cart horses. Remind me of their names?
Andrew Warwick and Prince. It was 1959.
Lisa That’s an aerial view isn’t it?
Andrew Yes it is, yeah. There’s one of Kern in there as well.
Lisa Do you think this is 1959 as well.
Andrew Somewhere along then, you know, 1959, 1960, something like that.
Lisa OK. That’s brilliant, thank you. I’ll put those back in there.
End of recording.
75 minutes 29 seconds
Transcribed September 2017 by Chris Litton