Duration: 1 hour 24 minutes 56 seconds
Mary This interview is being conducted with Arthur John Mew on 14th August 2017, in Sandford, by Mary Blake. So if you could start by telling me for the tape, your full name.
Arthur Arthur John Mew.
Mary And where were you born?
Arthur At Millbank Farm.
Mary In Sandford?
Mary Yes. Can you tell me the full names of your parents?
Arthur My mother was Connie Christine Gutteridge and my father was Edwin Walter Mew.
Mary Lovely, thank you very much. Now we’re here today so that you can tell me about your life and in particular the changes that you’ve seen to farming through the years. I wonder if it might be helpful to start with, by your telling me about the different farms that you’ve lived on and why you moved in each case. So you were born at Millbank Farm and how long did you live there?
Arthur I lived there until I was 21. I left school when I was 15 and I worked for my father and in those days we were hand-milking cows and it was, when I was 18 we had our first milking machines and then I was put in charge of milking the cows so the start of my life, I was used to milking cows. I could do, we’re saying, the afternoon milking I could milk eight cows and there were three of us milking the cows, so my father had 24 cows so, you know, that was our afternoon. We, in those days we had to take our milk to Shanklin for the gentry of Shanklin to have their afternoon tea and they wanted the fresh milk so my father had to be down at Shanklin by 3 o’clock every day with the afternoon milk so that it could be taken round these gentry houses.
Mary So how did your father drive down to Shanklin? And how did the milk travel?
Arthur Ha, well we had 12 gallon churns. Later on they were 10 gallons but it was Joliffe at Shanklin what was the milkman and he provided us with 12 gallon cans and so in my time we had a Bedford van and, DL 99 64 and that was when we went twice a day; we went in the afternoon and in the morning with our milk.
Mary And who did you deliver it to?
Mary And where was he?
Arthur Opposite the NatWest bank at Shanklin, where Room At The Top is. That was his dairy there.
Mary OK. And so when you were 21 you had your own farm and did you buy it or rent it?
Arthur I bought it. I was married on October 8th 1958 and we went straight to Greenwood Farm after that but we bought it.
Mary And how big was that.
Arthur The farm was 25 acres but we rented 13 acres off the Oglander Estate so it was nearly a 40 acre farm, so that’s where I started.
Mary And how many animals did you have there?
Arthur We used to milk 18 cows and we had a milking machine and when I’d done everything, you know, on our own, we never employed anybody.
Mary Right, and what did Mavis do?
Arthur Well she used to help with the… we used to keep probably 600 fowls. That was part of our living which was quite lucrative in those days and so, you know, she used to look after and feed the fowls and that, she never milked the cows but you know, that’s, doing that general, washing up the dairy utensils.
5 minutes 21 seconds
Mary And what did you do with the milk? Did you just sell it as milk or did you make butter or cheese?
Arthur No, we sold it as milk. The milk lorry used to be, Greenwood Farm probably a good half a mile up the lane and we had to take it down to the main road and the milk lorry picked it up between 10 and half past every morning.
Mary So it was still in churns then?
Arthur It was in churns yes.
Mary And whereabouts in Sandown is Greenwood Farm?
Arthur Do you know Morton Common?
Mary Ah yes.
Arthur When you go along Morton Common the first houses you come to, on the left hand side there is lane and if you went up that lane, which is quite a long lane and you end up nearly the back of the Roman villa.
Mary That’s right yes.
Arthur And so it would have been quicker for me to walk to the Roman villa than it would have been to go back on the main road, that’s how far up we were and behind us was Adgestone Farm because the little narrow roads, so we were closer to Adgestone than we were Sandown.
Mary And so you had cows and chickens?
Mary Did you grow much in the way of crops?
Arthur No. After probably a couple of years we started growing market garden crops and that was when Mavis … everything we grew, she used to take down to Sandown to sell and in those days there was a number of greengrocer shops and we were able, you know, to sell vegetables down there. One of, I think in those days, one of the bestselling things was beetroot. Mavis used to cook beetroot and sell to the shop down Sandown, 10 pence a pound in those days.
Mary Right, and what was the soil like then?
Arthur Yes, a good loamy soil, yes. It was 25 acres of good, good land, yes.
Mary And it was all fairly flat was it?
Arthur It was a bit undulating. The top field, 13 acres, it did drop into a valley but no, it was, you could crop the 25 acres. It was a good start for me, it was a good little farm.
Mary Yes. So how long did you stay there?
Arthur Five years.
Mary And then where did you go?
Arthur Went to Moor Farm, Godshill.
Mary Right, yes, and how big was that?
Arthur 113 acres when we went to Moor Farm and, how do I, I will tell you, my Vet at the time was Mr Peters from Ryde and he told me that I was going from a good stock farm to a bad one when I went to Moor Farm.
Mary Really? So why did you move?
Arthur Well, it was a stepping stone for me but house-wise for animals, Moor Farm wasn’t a good place.
Mary Right. So how many animals did you have there?
Arthur We used to keep 32 cows and, well the young stock, probably 25 young stock but Moor Farm is, the name gives it away. It’s on a moor. There are some good, really good arable land at Moor Farm but of the 113 acres we had, 40 acres of that was moorland.
Mary And so what could you use that for?
Arthur Not much.
Arthur Not much, no, and cattle, I could buy any animal and take it to Greenwood Farm and it would thrive. If I took an animal down Moor Farm, bought in an animal, in six months it could be dead.
Arthur Yes, it’s been, I’ve proved it, so the only way to keep animals at Moor Farm was to breed them yourself. If they were born on the place they were alright but you could not bring animals down to Moor Farm and expect them to thrive.
10 minutes 24 seconds
Mary What breed of animals did you have?
Arthur We only kept Channel Island, Guernsey’s and Jerseys, yes, that was and when I went down to Moor Farm and the farm sale there he had Guernsey’s before me so, if they were born on the farm, yes they were alright. It was a farm that you could not take animals down there and think that they were going to do you a good turn.
Mary Right, and what did you grow in the way of crops there?
Arthur At Moor Farm we used to grow… I probably kept cows for five years when I was at Moor Farm and then I sold them all and I just went arable and I used to grow 30 acres of potatoes and I suppose the rest of it, 60 acres of corn. And then we used to grow, after the early potatoes we used to grow brassicas, you know, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, that type of thing.
Mary And where did you sell them?
Arthur In those days Derek Hunt was, he’d just started at Rookley. I was probably one of the first people what supplied him. I went to school with him so I knew him and he took all my produce and so it was a lot more profitable than when we kept dairy down there.
Mary Yes. When you were keeping cows, what did you do about selling the milk?
Arthur It went to the same place, Creameries in Newport and we had to … the difference between Greenwood Farm, the milk had to be down on the stand at 10 o’clock in the morning. When I was at Godshill it had to be out on the stand at 8 o’clock in the morning and it meant that it was a 5 o’clock start and when I was at Moor Farm and I thought I was the only one what got up early in the morning but when I used to get the cows in and looked over to the council houses at Godshill, it was surprising how many of the bedroom lights were on. That was one of the biggest surprises that I had because I always thought ‘you’re the only one what gets up’ but when you used to go across the field and you look at the council houses, a lot of them had their lights on and I thought well you know, I wasn’t the only one what got up. So there we are, that’s you know, my memory of getting the cows in and seeing the lights.
Mary But were you still using churns at Moor Farm?
Arthur Yes, I never ever, in my lifetime, I only used churns, I never had … I was out of dairy before the bulk tanks came in.
Mary Right, OK and Mavis carried on with chickens?
Arthur No, she started off with bed and breakfast.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur There was a lady up the end of the road who used to do bed and breakfast, Mrs Southgate and she I suppose sent one or two lots down and then we had a sign up the end of the lane and that was the start of bed and breakfast and really, had two daughters benefited by her doing bed and breakfast (laughs), they always had a horse and all the gear that went with it through Mavis doing the extras.
Mary Yes, yes. So how big were the farm houses? How big was the farm house at Greenwood?
Arthur It was only a bungalow.
Arthur A modern bungalow. The old house at Greenwood was pulled down and this modern bungalow and we were the … it’s probably when we went there, it had only been built 25 years hadn’t it and it was unbelievable that we, you know, started our married life in such a lovely house, a bungalow. It was, yes but when we went to Moor Farm, Moor Farm was a pair of cottages and it was in a very bad state of repair and we, you know, I think it broke Mavis’ mother’s heart that I’d taken her down to such a dump (laughs) and my mother, I don’t think my mother could sleep after she saw it. When you go and view a farm and you see the furniture in the room it doesn’t look too bad, it didn’t but when all this furniture was moved out and you could tell how damp it was. We survived but I think the Doctor, when Mavis used to take our daughter to the Doctor, he said ‘You want to get out of that hole where you live’.
16 minutes 11 seconds
Arthur Because of chest infections, yes. I don’t think we really, either of us suffered through it but it was always our intentions that (laughs) if we could have got something, a house up higher it would have been … until you experience it, when I used to take my milk on an open tractor from Moor Farm to Godshill Park. [interruption]
Mary Carry on.
Arthur When I used to take my milk from Moor Farm to Godshill Park in the winter time or at the autumn, you could get three parts of the way up to Godshill Park, to the main road and it suddenly came warm. There was a difference in temperature and it was very noticeable when we were at Moor Farm, when we got nearly up to the main road, suddenly, “Oh this is better”. It was the same experience when I was a Greenwood, because we were up quite high but when we went down to the main road the temperature had changed. I could go and take you down to Greenwood, show you the elm trees and I say when you get past there it’s cold and unless you’ve experienced it you wouldn’t believe the difference, but there is. So I’ve always said that if you’re buying a house, you know, down the bottom of, or alongside the rivers, it’s always colder down there than it is if you’re up a bit, you know, you want to be up quite high.
Mary So how long did you stay at Moor Farm?
Arthur We went there in ’63 and we left in 1972.
Mary And where did you go to then?
Arthur We went to Apse Manor Farm.
Mary And do you remember how much that cost when you bought it in 1972?
Arthur I was a tenant.
Mary Oh you were a tenant there?
Arthur I was a tenant.
Mary And so how big was Apse Manor Farm? How many acres?
Arthur 470 acres.
Mary Oh quite a bit bigger.
Arthur (Laughs) Well I … one of the representatives what sells seed, came to me one day and said that there was a Mr Fisk from Apse Manor Farm would like to come and see you and he came to see me and he said to me, would I like Apse Manor Farm? When they advertised it there were 32 applicants for Apse Manor Farm and we went along, I think on a Saturday night to his house and he said to me, he said, “When I was a boy, your grandfather used to come and help my father and he was kind to me, always had a sweet in his pocket” and he said, “If you want this farm you can have it, I’m not interested in anybody else, I want you to have it” and I don’t think the agents were very … they didn’t go along with him but in the end he kept to his word. I put Moor Farm up for sale. I was able to sell it and I was able to go in, there was 200 head of cattle which I had to take over when I went there and hay and straw and various things like that and I was able to sell Moor Farm and go into Apse Manor with all the animals paid for. It made me, because you know, I had enough acreage to be able to pay the rent and no big overdraft, so yes.
21 minutes and 30 seconds
Mary Yes, that’s what makes the difference isn’t it?
Arthur It does, it does. It was difficult at Apse Manor Farm because he, being the landlord and being there all his life, he soon didn’t like my modern ways of doing things and I was able always, I never had a cross word with him but you know, through the workers what worked for me he used to sort of say these things, “Whatever are you doing that for?” and that sort of thing but I never ever, you know, I never used to go up and, no, we never, we were always on the best, you know, yes I tried, just let it go over the top of my head and in the end I think it wasn’t easy there because there was certain people, farming people what are jealous of you when you’ve got like that and I was able to buy the buildings at Real Farm while I was there and I used to keep pigs as well and this, I had, I was 270 acres was Apse Manor Farm and Reach, which was across the road, I was a grazier on that and after two or three years he would put the rent up a bit and that and in the end I gave up that 200 acres and I put a piggery up on Real Farm and I was able to make a good living without the land at Reach and I think he always regretted what he’d done to me because even on his death bed when he poured out all that, you know how hard he’d been on me and all this you know, so, which didn’t make any difference to us but you know, it’s not a good idea to have the landlord living next door to you.
Mary This is what I was going to say, where did he live and where did you live?
Arthur Well we both lived in the big house at Apse Manor.
Arthur He lived in the top half which was really separated from where we were, it was a separate unit but it wasn’t, it … my father told me that you know, it wasn’t going to be easy with the landlord living next door to you but he thought that everything would be alright and he didn’t live, probably I suppose 1977 he died so he never ever saw what happened to me but my mother did, you know, when we went to Cliff Farm she was still alive then so, you know, really and truly we had a wonderful life although it could have been better. I think Mavis could probably take 20 visitors in Apse Manor, yes.
Arthur Yes, yes she did extremely well with guests there because we had a board up on the main road and when they came in and saw a manor house, oh you know, so all in all I think we… there were so many farmers what, because he was a difficult man, Mr Fisk was but, who told me at Newport market, “Don’t get doing that nipper, you’ll regret doing all that” and all this and that but no, I didn’t regret it and yes, we did, it was a good farm.
Mary So how long did Mr Fisk live in Apse Manor with you there?
Arthur I don’t know, honestly, probably four or five years he was there, yes.
Mary And what were the sort of things that he didn’t like about your modern ways of doing things?
Arthur Well he, when you grew corn, he used to like the cattle to walk over the stubbles, whereas I would put the cultivator in as soon as the corn was off to get rid of all the weeds and the couch, used to grow a lot of couch out there, so I tried to clean the fields in the autumn as quick as I could, while the dry weather lasted but that was his biggest, “Well you know, that’s somewhere where the cows can go in the wintertime, on dry ground” you know so I think that was probably, on the arable side, there was nothing on the livestock that there as anything wrong with my husbandry on, on the livestock but, it was his idea of what it should but it wouldn’t have been what the textbook would say (laughs).
Mary Yes. So you kept cows there?
Arthur No, well just suckled cows, yes which had a calf and beef cows.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur We never milked.
Mary So you milked at Moor Farm?
Arthur Moor Farm, yes.
Mary But then you didn’t ever milk again in your farming career?
Arthur No, no.
Mary Oh right, OK. So what breed of cows were your sucklers?
Arthur Um, well they started off with Red Port cross Hereford because he used to have Red Port cows there and then he crossed them with Herefords and that but we had, he went up to Yorkshire and bought some bought some Belted Galloways and so we had probably a dozen Belted Galloways which, I don’t know, probably you’re not.
Mary The cows with the belt (laughs), yes.
Arthur With a white band, yes, well he went to Churchers College in Petersfield, Mr Fisk did and when he was on the way to Petersfield, up on the Downs were these black and white belted cattle and so he got it in his head and so he went up to Yorkshire and found this breeder up there and he brought these animals back from Yorkshire, and when we were on holiday when we were at Apse and we went up to Scotland, we came back to Yorkshire where this farm was and we met the farmer what sold him the Belted Galloways so, yes, you know, they were very flighty and you know, when they calved they were very protective over, you know, you had to be careful with them. They were alright roaming up on the Downs but as soon as you wanted to get anything, you know, get close to them or put them in somewhere they were, you know they could be a bit of a trouble so they didn’t last too long with me. When, after that four or five years went, I got, I gave up the 200 acres and just kept the 270 on Apse Manor side, I got rid of all the suckle cows then and I just kept pigs.
Mary Right. So how many pigs would that have been?
Arthur We had 80 sows and their offspring and we’d fatten them up. We used to get, you know, 20 porkers a week we used to sell to Newport, take them to Newport every week so it worked very well.
30 minutes 14 seconds
Mary And where were animals slaughtered at that time?
Arthur Ours were slaughtered at Scarrots Lane, Mr Bennett and also the FMC, they were up Horsebridge Hill, you went off up there, I don’t know what it was called that Slaughterhouse but you know.
Mary And so when did these Slaughterhouses close?
Arthur I would say in 1983. The one up Scarrots Lane, probably, no wait a minute, let me get this right. Yes, I think Scarrots Lane probably 1980 and then Hawkesbury was the other one, Hawkesbury They closed because the FMC took over Hawkesbury and then they were, I don’t know, FMC they folded or something and it meant that there was no slaughterhouse on the Island then and pigs were not the best thing to travel and I probably, I can’t quite remember. I went up to Cliff Farm in 1983 and I never took no pigs with me so it must have been ’81 or ’82 when the slaughterhouse finished and that was it, you know?
Mary Yes, and why did the slaughterhouses close?
Arthur Because of the supermarkets.
Arthur The Island slaughterhouses, they relied on the family butchers and when the supermarkets came to the Island our slaughterhouse wasn’t big enough to supply a supermarket so it was the supermarkets what killed the slaughterhouses.
Arthur Just as simple as that. You got, like down Shanklin in my young days there were probably five butchers and you went round the Island, all the butcher shops there was and they all had to go to Newport for their meat but when they disappeared, these slaughterhouses never had nowhere and they weren’t big enough to supply a supermarket.
Arthur So it was the supermarkets what killed the slaughterhouses.
Mary So at Apse Manor you had sucklers for a while and you had pigs. What did you grow?
Arthur Um, probably 200 acres of corn, yes, barley and wheat.
Mary And did you use that to feed the pigs or sell it?
Arthur Not, I didn’t feed them no I bought, for the pigs I always had a compound mixture brought in so I sold, all the corn went off, the grain, yes I never tried to, no, I haven’t crushed that much corn in my life (laughs), no.
Mary And by this stage was Mavis still doing chickens or was she too busy with the B&B?
Arthur No, when she went to … it was only on that first farm we had chickens.
Arthur When we went to Moor Farm, no we didn’t have no chicken. When we went to Apse Manor we probably had 500-600 chicken there which I had to take over but we had a girl what worked for Mr Fisk, she worked for me and she used to do all the poultry there and even supplied eggs to Cliff Tops Hotel you know, Mr Fisk did, so there was an egg round that we took over.
Arthur And so I did keep poultry there you know, probably always had a lot of Christmas chicken, yes.
Mary Yes, and how many people did you employ because at Greenwood you didn’t employ anybody?
Mary Did you employ people at Moor Farm?
Arthur At Moor Farm I had one. A few times I had casual workers in for the potato harvest. When I was at Apse Manor I had three work for me.
Mary Right, and where did they live? Did you have tied cottages for them?
35 minutes 22 seconds
Arthur I didn’t at Moor Farm but at Apse Manor I had four cottages went with the farm so, but they, only one lived in the cottage, yes. I was going to say Peggy Spratt’s father lived in one.
Mary Oh right, yes.
Arthur Yes, he, because he, well he was passed it but I mean he used to do a bit of gardening for me when he lived at Apse Manor because that was the reason they came up here you see, was the fact that when we sold, well when my mother died then and we went to Cliff Farm or we were at Cliff Farm, we were able to sell the cottage what he was in and put him up here so that’s how they came to come here because I own this one and so then we sold that one off where they were. Yes that’s how that came about.
Mary So why did you decide to leave Apse Manor and move to Cliff Farm?
Arthur Well the simple reason was that I had two daughters. There was no way that I was going to put, I mean when my father was alive, I shouldn’t be telling you this.
Mary Do you want me to switch this off here?
Arthur No don’t put it on there.
Mary Let me just put it onto pause. Yes we’re recording again now, so we’ll just say at this stage, you moved to Cliff Farm after Mr Fisk died. So tell me about …
Arthur I’ll just get my daughter, she’s waving her hand out there.
Mary Oh right. We’re recording again now. Yes, so you moved to Cliff Farm and can you tell me how big Cliff Farm is?
Arthur Cliff Farm was 70 acres.
Mary Oh, so smaller than Apse Manor?
Arthur We’d gone back, yes.
Mary And what was the soil like there? What could you do with it?
Arthur Not much.
Arthur You could only grow grass.
Arthur It wasn’t, I (laughs). Difficult to say, it was, it trod up bad in the winter, you couldn’t, Cliff Farm is a down farm, it’s all hills.
Arthur Good cattle ground for the summer but they had to be taken off the land in the winter and housed because they would tread up the field so much.
Arthur There was perhaps five acres which was sandy loam but the other, well you wouldn’t attempt to plough it, uneven. Dew ponds up there, there were, you know?
Mary Yes. So you didn’t really have much choice about what you were going to do with it?
Arthur Only grazing. I took, there was a flock of sheep there which I took over at valuation. They were Cluns. I’d never had sheep in my life before and we did keep them because I’d kept 70 acres of Apse Manor back so we had enough land to keep the sheep up there but after two or three years we got rid of them and just kept animals and then we, I suppose diversified into horses.
Mary Right, because how old were the girls by this stage?
Arthur Well Jacqueline, I’m just thinking, Jacqueline was definitely married at Apse Manor Farm when we were there. I don’t know whether Maria was as well but they were really, but they didn’t, I’m sure they were both married because I don’t think they ever lived at Cliff Farm, no, no I don’t think they did so no, they were both married before.
40 minutes 22 seconds
Mary Yes, but the girls had been interested in horses?
Arthur Only the eldest one.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur Jacqueline was the horse girl and still is now, but Maria no, no she didn’t, well come out in a rash and that sort of thing so no it was only Jacqueline and so I suppose, how I come to start with horses at Cliff Farm was that there was a Mr Newsham at Sandown who had beach ponies.
Mary Oh yes?
Arthur And I’d have known him nearly all my life when I was at Greenwood Farm and he had to get out of the fields he had down at the bottom of Sandown and so he brought seven beach ponies up to me at Cliff Farm so that was my first introduction to horses, like that and it proved far more profitable to have horses than it did animals, you know I think in those days we probably got perhaps £10 for a horse per week and you know, 15 horses was £150 whereas if you made £150 profit off of an animal in two and a half years you were lucky (laughs).
Arthur So it proved, we’ll say, a good line of business for us and we used to make perhaps 3000 bales of hay and I was able to sell it to horsey people other than at Cliff Farm and yes the last few years of farming were probably as good as, or better than the first ones we had (laughs).
Arthur Yes, and Mavis used to do bed and breakfast at Cliff Farm. No, we had a good…
Mary Yes, how many guests would she have at a time in the bed and breakfast?
Arthur Well it, down at Apse I’m pretty certain at times, well must have had 20, you know it was a big house. Up at Cliff Farm it was probably, yes it could have been six you know, yes four to six, yes.
Mary But plenty of repeat business?
Arthur Yes, yes. Well, I think probably (laughs) the last ones perhaps don’t come and see us now but there is certain ones what (laughs) come to the Island and come and see us, you know. Yes, over the years I suppose. A lot of them, especially, the worst part was at Apse Manor when you had a cow calved and someone could see the calf and the next year would come back and asked you about that calf and you’d completely forgot about that calf but that was the only thing that they remembered when they were on their holiday and so it was very difficult. I didn’t like it in the end when people used to, you know, because I couldn’t really give them an honest answer because to me it was another calf but for them, that was the highlight of their holiday.
Arthur So it could be a little bit (laughs). Oh gosh, when we were at Moor Farm there was a lady come there and she insisted that she wanted to see me milk the cows and I was pretty determined that she wasn’t going to see me and she liked the pub. She used to go up that Griffin every night and come back, you know and if I looked out the bedroom window sometimes she would sit on the wall outside, waiting for me to milk, you know. Well, she done a moonlight flit on us you know but she told Mavis that she worked down at, night time going down the British Legion at Shanklin so Mavis went down the British Legion and caught her down there and she got her money, yes she did. Never forget that, and the first person ever I installed down Moor Farm when Mavis was, I think she went to the pictures and there was this couple come down and they had an old Austin 7 car and they’d come from Scotland and he was a Celtic football supporter and he said his wife used to take her umbrella, they always, when the players come in, you know down the tunnel, or up the tunnel, she would sit on there with her umbrella and if any of these players she thought were wanting a hit, she would hit them, or try to. I could never get over that, I’ve never heard of anybody thinking or doing anything like that and I never forgot it and that was the first couple that we ever installed at Moor Farm (laughs).
45 minutes 57 seconds
Mary How far is Cliff Farm from the sea, because I was going to say, are there special challenges to farming near the sea? But I suppose you didn’t grow much at Cliff Farm did you?
Arthur No we never, no. When you’re up on top of … you can see the trees, at Cliff Farm I suppose the north winds held us back in the spring. Cliff Farm faces north and you know, it was always a late farm for grass. You know if you had the cold winds you caught it. If it was the south winds they would blow over the top of it but you know, that was probably, east and north east were sort of set in. Not where we lived, I mean it’s quite … I suppose a couple of hundred feet where the farm house was to where the land was you know. It was quite steep land there you know, not, I don’t know what my father would have said if he knew I bought Cliff Farm (laughs). He wouldn’t have reckoned much of that but it had a lovely house to it you see, the house was built the same time as this bungalow and that was the attraction for us. We’d lived down Apse Manor in a big stone cold house and to go up to a warm house like Cliff Farm, it probably kept us fit. We would probably have arthritis and all sorts of things if we’d have stayed down Apse Manor, which a lot of people would have thought, “Well, what’s the silly fool doing to sell that?” but I mean I would have had to work hard to have paid the mortgage off down there and what for? You know, I’ve had a better lifestyle by going small again than I would have been if I’d stayed big you know.
Mary That’s right, and presumably you didn’t employ anybody at Cliff Farm did you?
Arthur No, I did for a short while, one I brought from Apse Manor but it was only a short while you know because I’d kept the … probably 30 acres back from Apse Manor where there was a sand pit and so I used to, in those days Vectis bought sand off us so I did sort of have a bit of an income off the sand pit so I did, you know, it warranted me to employ up there but you know, as soon as we’d gone into more horses there was no need you know.
Mary So of all the animals that you’ve worked with in your life, which did you particularly like?
Arthur Well I like the beef cattle better than the dairy. I loved milking my father’s cows because money didn’t come into it but as soon as I went on my own and I had to pay the feed bills I realised that how I was working, when I was working for my father, I could not feed my cows (laughs) like he fed his and I tended to be, the brain was working, can I afford to give this cow so much caper or not, you know, yes and it spoilt it for me, absolutely, yes. The five years when I was at Greenwood, no I, there’s nothing … the hardest thing in my life was when I got married and being used to having my father and a worker and working with someone, to go and live on a farm on your own. That was the hardest thing that I’d ever had to do because I only had the wife to talk to but I found that you know, it was sort of a lonely sort of a life, yes. I was only 21, I was fortunate because there was an old boy what was my neighbour and I used to be able to go over and talk with him and he, well I suppose he was in his 70’s but in those days we only had grey Fergie tractors and he said to me, “Don’t buy no machinery, you come and borrow mine. Whatever you want, I’ve got it, you borrow it” and for five years, all the time I was down Greenwood, or four years because I think he sold out on the fifth year of harvest down there, he sort of, well, was like a father to me and that helped. I also had a friend who I’m still friendly with now, John Smith at Grove Farm, it’s quite close, we could walk to one another’s place and I used to go and help him, because at times you know, we still go out once a week now (laughs). But to be on, when you’ve been used to working with, on a family farm and then going on your own and that was a bit isolated up there.
52 minutes 14 seconds
Mary Yes. What do you feel about farming as a business from a social point of view because is farming quite a lonely business?
Arthur It depends on yourself. In my day we didn’t do much socialising, it was different. I suppose even when I was at Moor Farm we didn’t go out much but when I went to Apse Manor, I shouldn’t be telling you.
Mary Do you want me to switch the recording off?
Arthur No, I fell out with the NFU when I was at Moor Farm but when I went to Apse Manor Farm they, I was asked to become an NFU member again. I started going to one or two meetings and it wasn’t long before I was roped in to be Junior Vice Chairman and so I went through the NFU and my social life changed completely then. Up to that time we didn’t really, I suppose in our early days when the Young Farmers clubs were going we used to have a Young Farmers dinner at Shanklin and one at Newport but when we didn’t go to the Young Farmers and that sort of closed down but in 1983 when I became, I don’t know, well I was Junior Vice Chairman I expect in 1983, we started going to more social things then with the farmers union and so yes, I suppose since then I have supported the various things in the NFU and the RABI. I’m on the committee of that.
Mary One of the things I didn’t ask you at the beginning, can you tell me a bit about your education? Where did you go to school?
Arthur I went to Wroxall School and then to Ventnor Secondary Modern and that’s where I left school from Ventnor. I only had a secondary modern education.
Mary Right, and you didn’t go to college at all, just learnt on the job?
Arthur No. My father told me that I would be mixing with the wrong sort of people if I went to these colleges, he said, “Whatever you want, if I can help you I will” but he wouldn’t let me have a horse because, “No, no you’ll get into bad company” so you can imagine that I was brought up very strict in that respect (laughs).
Mary The other thing about your upbringing, can you tell me how important the church has been through your life?
55 minutes 48 seconds
Arthur It’s always been part of my life because as a boy, we used to go to chapel in the morning and then Sunday school in the afternoon and it wasn’t until I was 13 I think when … I don’t know, I suppose when I studied milking cows (laughs), hand-milking cows I was able to get out of going to Sunday school in the afternoon because I could help my dad milk the cows which was, you know against what my mother thought but I expect I was about 13. So we did, I’ve always gone to chapel up there.
Arthur And then when we were about 15 or 16 years old we went to Shanklin, well it was the Methodist youth club in Shanklin, very strong in those days, and we used to, every Sunday night we’d go to Shanklin Methodist and then there was a Mr Callus who was a youth leader and he used to take us to his house after that so up until I was probably got married, we would be on a Sunday night, go up to Shanklin Methodist and then go up to him and we, out in the field here, Ventnor school used to play football. When I went to Ventnor school we used to play football down Flowers Brook at Ventnor and there was a boy who dived for the ball what was just going over the cliff and he went over the cliff and he could be still alive and he got a scar right down here where he, you know, fell on this cliff and so my father had, I suppose we used to, I expect Shanklin Methodist youth club used to play football so Ventnor School used to come here three days a week in the afternoons, the coach would pick the boys up from Ventnor and bring them to Millbank and when it was my turn to play out there I didn’t have to go back to school (laughs). When we got … we were married at Shanklin Methodist and then we went to Sandown and we got friendly, we went to Sandown Methodist church and we got, there was more young people our age there and Mavis, the women … well ladies organise this and that, the Young Wives and so we got involved with the Methodist at Sandown then and when we went to Moor Farm, we still went back to Sandown Methodist and our children went to Sunday school down Sandown so, and then I suppose when we went to Apse Manor my father, when he died, we used to come back to Sandford, Sunday nights because of my mother and then after that, we, I expect when we were at Cliff we started you know, when my mother died we started going to Shanklin and we’ve been Methodist members down there ever since, a lifetime of Methodist and we have yes. My grandfather, Mew, when they were at Portsfield they were Congregationalists, well that was the chapel out there.
1 hour 15 seconds
Mary Well I was wondering if there’s anything else that you want to tell me but I wondered if we might go through the pictures and you could talk to me about the pictures that we looked at before and then I can scan them. I think we did, we ought to do them in this order didn’t we? So this first one is haymaking at Apse Manor Farm and you thought that was probably taken in 1925 did you?
Arthur Something like that yes. See that artist up there. This picture, he done that for us.
Mary That’s lovely isn’t it?
Arthur Yes, yes Gordon Smith, he’s still alive. Yes, so that’s the same picture. I would think that’s when it is, you know.
Mary Because you didn’t ever work with horses?
Arthur I did yes.
Mary Oh did you?
Arthur Yes, yes.
Mary Oh right. Where, here at Mill Bank?
Arthur At Mill Bank, yes. I expect I was 20 before my father bought his first tractor.
Arthur Yes and we were, the last (laughs) in the district to go over and it was a Gold engine 35 and so I have worked with, I never ploughed but you know, all the other jobs, we had a horse and cart and waggon and that sort of thing. I’ve worked with, you know, I have worked with horses and I never ploughed with a tractor until I was married, after I was 21 and no, so.
Mary Right, so when you farmed on your own account you didn’t work with horses?
Arthur No, but when I worked, I would say until I was 19, perhaps 19, my father never had a tractor so it was all new to me and so.
Mary The other thing I should have asked, you have brothers, or one brother?
Arthur Yes, two brothers.
Mary And are they farmers as well?
Arthur My young brother, Keith, he’s still at Mill Bank.
Arthur My other brother at Sandford, Ronald, he was a gas fitter by trade.
Arthur Yes so he never, I think that’s why I, if he’d have been a farmer I think perhaps I would have chose something different but when I realised that he wasn’t going to come back on the … well he wasn’t very interested I don’t think but it made me more interested in it. I was encouraged by my father that he used to let me keep chickens when I was a boy and pigs and I used to always have pigs and I used to, or was able to pluck about 100 fowls a week, night time, and I would go round the whole area round here on the farms, buying old fowls and I would come and pluck them and then take them to Mack Fisheries down Shanklin, or Colegates of Shanklin, about 110 a week I could and I used to make quite a bit of money. I could do a dozen easily in an evening but, 20, you know was a struggle but I could, and that was all by hand, I was pretty good plucking chicken.
Mary Yes, very good,yes.
Arthur And another thing that I did in those days which I don’t think is allowed now, you know down on the brook, down the stream down below, there’s you know, in different places there’s watercress grown and I used to go and look for watercress and then take them to Shanklin and yes, I could do 12 dozen bunches a week and at three shillings a dozen that was 36 shillings and I think I probably only earned about £3 from my father but well, we’ll say he was a good father to me but I mean I spent a lot of time working for myself (laughs). But, you know he encouraged me and yes, so that’s how well, we’re able to enjoy ourselves now.
1 hour 5 minutes 20 seconds
Mary Yes. Now, can you tell me about this picture of the family? So who is it on the front row from left to right?
Arthur That would be Auntie Berth Hookey and that would be my grandmother Mew. That would be my father and that would be, well that might have be Auntie Berth and that might have been Auntie Lil, I think she was the youngest next to my father, yes they were quite close those two. This was Uncle Henry Mew and that would have been, um, Annie Attrill and then it was my grandfather and that would have been my Auntie Amy and that would be Frank Mew, Reg Mew’s father. You know Reg Mew? Who worked up Godshill?
Mary In Godshill, yes.
Arthur Well that was his father.
Mary Oh right, on the extreme right?
Arthur Yes that was Frank.
Mary Yes, and so when do you think that picture was taken approximately?
Arthur I would say between 1918, he was in that First World War and he’s in his uniform isn’t he?
Mary Right, in War time.
Arthur They came up to Mill Bank in 1921.
Arthur And I would say that’s down Sandford. I don’t think that’s Mill Bank, no.
Mary Right, so between the start of the War and 1921?
Arthur Yes, yes for him to be in army uniform, yes that would have been.
Mary Yes. Now, this picture here is …
Arthur Yes that’s Apse Manor Farm. Now that, that, this is the original Apse Manor Farm, this was put on afterwards.
Mary Right, yes the bit on the right.
Arthur The bit on the right. When they put that on, it was the year, it was the time St Saviour’s Church was built at Shanklin.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur I, the Ball family from Cowes built, put that on there and they were also doing St Saviour’s Church and Chaplain the same time but, so, I’m not (laughs), I’m not much of a historian but I know Mr Fisk, he … well I lived there so I mean, we’ll say he used to tell me a lot of things about what happened at Apse Manor Farm you know, which, because Lord Alverstone owned like, he owned Apse Manor Farm.
Mary Oh right, yes.
Arthur There was a big sideboard there and this big dining table and we had the dining table, you know, when we were there but the sideboard was, when he used to … he lived at Sandown and he used to have a shooting party and they used to start at Sandown and they would go through the Borthwood Woods, America Woods and they would come to Apse Manor for lunch.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur Yes so it was real gentry. Yes.
Mary Oh yes. Now that next picture, Mill Bank?
Arthur That’s Mill Bank.
Mary Mill Bank is it? And is that one Mill Bank as well?
Mary With the monkey puzzle tree?
Arthur Yes and if you look at Mill Bank now, that part is taken away.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur My father … when my grandmother died, he had the bedroom and the front room, that were my grandmother’s, taken down. I think he … well he never ever told us but I think he thought so much of her that if it wasn’t there, it wouldn’t remind him. He didn’t ever say that to us but you know, everybody said, “Whatever are you doing that for?” you know, but he did and that must have been, probably 1958 when we moved, you know, when we got married because I can’t remember him doing that, well I can remember when it was done, you know.
1 hour 10 minutes 13 seconds
Mary And then, that?
Arthur That’s Moor Farm at Godshill.
Arthur When Mr Mitchell went down there I mean, he completely, I don’t know what he did but (laughs), he changed Moor Farm completely you know, I mean, I’ve met up … I’ve probably only been down Moor Farm twice since I left it, you know, I don’t think it’s a good thing to go back.
Arthur But I did have to go back because Phyllis Payne, Roy Payne, I don’t suppose you knew Roy Payne at Sandford, no?
Mary No, don’t remember him.
Arthur He had Sandford Dairy, you know.
Mary Oh right, yes.
Arthur That was where Payne’s’ were, well when, well in my time it was Fred Payne but then Roy Payne took over. Well, when he died, I don’t know, old Mrs Payne was still alive and somehow they took some animals to Moor Farm and I got asked by Mrs Payne to go and pick these animals up and Mr Mitchell was, did you ever come across him?
Arthur No, he was, well he was a military man, he even, if, he’d call you by your surname you know, one of those types. I went down to pick these animals up and he … it was down the drive because I parked the trailer on the side of the lane and tried to help him get these animals out and a lorry come down the road and stopped and he said, “Mew, you’re blocking up my workers, they can’t get by” and if anything annoyed me that did because when we got to the road he realised that I wasn’t on the road and he always spoke to me, you know, you’d see him Friday mornings down Shanklin, he’s always come out, “Oh how are you getting on?” and all this and that but I kept my distance!
Arthur She’s the only woman I knew who smoked a pipe.
Mary Oh really? Oh right.
Arthur When we were down, when he first moved, because it was funny really, well, not funny but when we put Moor Farm up for sale there was David King, one or two what, “Oh that nipper won’t get what he wants for that farm” and out of the blue one Friday morning I had to go to Shanklin station and pick up a Mr and Mrs Mitchell to look at Moor Farm and when I got to Victoria Avenue there’s these two waiting at the bus stop and he shouted out, “You wouldn’t be Mr Mew would you?” and I said, “Yes” and he said “I thought that muddy car must have been a farmer or something” so I turned round and picked them up and when I took them to Moor Farm he said, “You get about your work” he said, “We’re going to walk this farm” you know and when we got back, I suppose they’d looked round it and he said would I take them back to the station and when he got out he said, “Your agent will be hearing from me in the morning” he said and the next morning about 10 o’clock the phone went, “Oh Mr Mitchell’s going to buy”. It was just like that. We had all these spuds in the barn, in the cow stables down there when he’d moved, well I suppose moved in and one day this potato griddle broke and I wanted a certain spanner or something and he came in “What’s up?” and I said to him and he said, “Oh come here” he said and we went by the back door and there was all these tools and she come out the door and she shouted at him and put her boot on these tools, “You’re not, they’re my tools” she said, she wouldn’t let him touch those tools and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and afterwards we got invited down there for drinks or something like that and I would never go. Never went, I didn’t want to step, the way she was and the way she sort of, oh dear no, no, so we never ever went back.
Mary Yes, it’s probably best isn’t it!
Arthur (Laughs) Oh dear.
1 hour 15 minutes 3 seconds
Mary So that’s a postcard of Apse Manor and then, oh and then this …?
Arthur Yes, yes that was the one of Moor Farm.
Mary The catalogue of the farm sale for Moor Farm, so I’ll take a copy of that.
Arthur Yes take it because there’s two copies of that isn’t there?
Mary Oh right, oh lovely, thank you.
Arthur But if I come across these other catalogues, because they’re more interesting, well this one’s alright but that one of Cliff Farm at Gurnard, I think it come to about 85 or 90 Guineas, the whole farm sale and you can’t believe it that they, you know, went from there to Sandford and I know things were different in those days but, and Sandford Farm, I’ve got the catalogue of that and probably we’ve got … when we left Cliff Farm and come here I’m convinced we had like a shoe box with the catalogues because we got Apse Manor catalogue and Greenwood, you know, we’ve got all the catalogues of the farms where we, you know, they had sales before we got there and I just can’t find them, we’ve moved (laughs).
Mary Yes, yes. Now this picture you said is your father?
Arthur Yes that’s my father and that was Bert Dyer, one what worked, he worked for my father and they must have been taking them, the milk churn, I expect they were putting that in his van to go to Shanklin. I don’t think that was to go out on the milk stand.
Mary Is this Mill Bank?
Arthur Mill Bank.
Mary This is Mill Bank?
Mavis Over the road.
Arthur Yes (laughs). And that is the bungalow at Greenwood Farm.
Mary At Greenwood, yes, and that’s Moor Farm. Oh and that?
Arthur That is Cliff Farm.
Mary This is Cliff Farm yes.
Mavis Did you say you want coffee or tea?
Mary Tea would be lovely, thank you.
Arthur So you want Moor Farm? Oh that’s Greenwood.
Mary That’s Greenwood that would be a better one for me to copy.
Mavis There is a catalogue for (inaudible).
Arthur Yes, yes.
Mary So I think what we’ll do, we’ll call that the end of the interview now and then I’ll look and see, there might be some more pictures in here that I can scan but these are the main ones that are the pictures of the farms and so on, so can I say thank you very much for a most interesting afternoon, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.
Arthur Well have you?
Mary Oh yes, yes.
Mavis A little bit red in the face.
Mary Well it’s been such hard work.
Mavis Have you seen this (inaudible), up a bit when we went there.
Mary Yes, yes.
Mavis From Moor Farm.
Arthur Well, it’s interesting, well it’s nice to have someone what’s interested in, because my two daughters wouldn’t want to know but when I’m dead they’ll want to know more.
Mary They’ll want to know yes, they’ll have the recording here.
Arthur But I’ve got a friend like John Smith at Grove Farm and he’s got just as good or more history about his family than I have.
Mary Oh right.
Arthur And you know, I mean he’s written it all down, what, you know, for his family but we’ve well, he’s … we went to some friends and he took all this stuff with him there but his ancestors, they were at Winston Farm which is just up here.
Mary Oh yes.
Arthur Winston Farm, then they went to Languard Farm and then, that would have been his grandfather, yes grandfather. Then they went to Forelands at Bembridge and then his father, when he started, in those days you could rent a dairy of cows, you know, you didn’t buy, like the farmer would let out so much land and a cow stable and he started off at Bathingbourne and then he went to Upton and then he went to Nunwell Farm and he was at Nunwell Farm during the War and John, our friend, he was about seven or eight and the Army come and commandeered the buildings at Nunwell Farm and his father said to them that how was he going to milk his cows if they had his stable, so they didn’t have the stable, they didn’t have that.
Mavis Used his front room didn’t they?
1 hour 20 minutes 17 seconds
Arthur Well the officers took the front room of his house for themselves, the officers did, part of his house and they did these manoeuvres down there. He don’t know for sure but there were all these top officials and they reckon that Winston Churchill could have been one of them what came down there and they had this tank which, they experimented up over Nunwell Downs with and I can’t tell you exactly (laughs) about this tank but it was before it was ever taken, you know, in the War, and they also, they dug the trench for the water pipe which I think went up onto Brading Down and the farmer, John’s father, he’d have just drilled this field of corn, it was just come up about like that he said and they come and they said, “Well we’re going to go right up through that field” and they said, “Don’t worry” and they put hessian bags down and they took the corn out in like squares, whatever it was, laid it on the hessian bag and they went right up through this field with this pipe and then they come back and put this corn on and his father said when it come to harvest, he wouldn’t have known the difference.
Arthur There was no difference but they wanted to do it, they did it all night time because they didn’t want Germans coming over to see what they were doing, you know but that was all done night time and they couldn’t believe how they left it and you wouldn’t have known it was a 500 acre. You know, some of the stories they tell, it nearly brings you to tears.
Arthur He’d never talked about that part of his story before but I mean he went to Ryde School and his father was at Nunwell and one morning there was bombs dropped at Ryde and his mum and dad thought it was going to hit the school so his father got in the car to go to Ryde and John, he met him, he was on his way home. They hadn’t been bombed but the Headmaster said, “Go on home” and yes, so when he talked to me about that I thought well, you know, yes I expect his father was upset over it.
Mary Yes I expect he was.
Arthur And that he was alright to tell the tale but no, no it was, no I’m pleased that he told me these stories really because you know, and then he went in the War, he was in the Army and well I don’t know why he went abroad.
Mavis I thought he was in the Air Force.
Arthur Well Air Force then but he uploaded these bombs which you know.
Mavis Yes he did go abroad but I can’t remember where.
Arthur And when he told me, he was saying that he, I suppose had leave and he was in full kit and got off down Ryde and they were at Ponda Rosa’s and next to that.
Arthur Whitefield, the apple farm and he said he walked from Ryde Pier Head to there and a dog recognised him.
Mary Yes, yes. Lots of fascinating stories aren’t there?
Arthur There is, yes and you know but he…
Mavis Do you know Grove Farm at Adgestone?
Arthur Yes he moved to Grove Farm at Adgestone when he was, well I suppose, was he 22 or something?
Mavis Yes because they had three girls there.
Arthur Yes and they used to say Newport Market, “Our nipper won’t be able to afford the rent there”, just the same as they did to me and he’s been there all his life, yes.
Mavis And he sent them all to private school.
Mary OK, well I think we’ll switch off now then.
Arthur Oh gosh.
Mary Thanks ever so much.
1 hour 24 minutes 56 seconds
Transcribed December 2017 by Chris Litton