Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wartime Farm

Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn returned to our screens on Thursday in the first of eight episodes of Wartime Farm.  The team, who have previously farmed during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, now get to grips with the demands of feeding the Home Front.

The impact of the war on agriculture was immediate as British farmers were directed to plough up and cultivate grassland.  Not all were quick to comply in the Swindon district and in the spring of 1940 four local farmers received heavy fines, the first of any such cases to be heard in Wiltshire.

With fines fixed at £2 an acre, Malmesbury farmers Mrs F. Pitt of Marsh Farm was fined £10, John Weaver of Whitchurch Farm £26, E. & S. Savine of Filands Farm £10 and Gilbert Organ of Brockenborough £40.

The court heard how each of the four defendants had volunteered to plough the land, and every possible opportunity was given them to do so.  However it was reported that the majority of farmers had responded well and Wiltshire had exceeded its quota of 40,000 acres.

When labour shortages hit local farms, Swindon National Farmers’ Union appealed to the Government to allow boys under the age of 12 to assist with haymaking and harvest work after school and during the holidays.  Union member Mr R.W. Horton said it was extraordinary that boys who wanted to work on farms in their spare time were not allowed to do so.  And by the summer of 1940 more volunteers were needed to tackle the problem of ragwort, described as a pernicious and poisonous weed, which was rapidly spreading over many parts of the south west.  An appeal was announced for school aged children, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to take part in ‘weeding squads.’ 

In the spring of 1941 the launch of a National Farm Survey saw increased efforts to further maximise agricultural production. In the parish of Lydiard Millicent both Upper and Lower Shaw farms were inspected in late February 1942 by F.E. Price. Upper Shaw proved to be in a slightly better condition overall, although both farms were given a B classification on the grounds of 'personal failings.'

Mr. Price was kinder to the Hook brothers farming 61 acres at Upper Shaw describing them as "rather old fashion in their methods." He was more critical of Angus Webb who had 106 acres at Lower Shaw, claiming he had a "lack of farming knowledge and no inclination for hard work."

For more information about farm life in the 1940s order the free Open University booklet Wartime Farm and remember to tune in to BBC2 Thursday September 13, 8 pm to watch the TV farmers at work.

Pictured below are boys from Gorse Hill School at work on Carrington Farm, Wootton Bassett

Making hay at Mr E.J. Webb's Haydon End Farm, Haydon Wick.

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