Memories of Wilfred Haine

Wilfred J Haine, the writer of these notes, was born in Little Wolford in 1912. He was buried in 1990. He spent his early life in Little Wolford. His brother was Robert J Haine and his mother Marianne Horne, RobertÂ’s second wife, and daughter of Frances H Horne. These notes describe life on Tower Farm in the early twentieth century. As interesting is the relationship between the Haine and Horne families, both Congregationalists. Robert Haine and his first wife, Sarah, were founder members of the Branch Church in Little Wolford, founded on 7 February 1895. Robert was one of the first Deacons there.


Tower FarmI was born on a farm called Tower Farm in 1912 between Stratford on Avon and Chipping Norton. It was part of the estate of an elderly bachelor, the Earl of Camperdown, who owned about twenty square miles of farm and woodland, including three villages, one of which was Little Wolford.

One of our fields called The Cliff had a big oak split right down the middle by lightning. One field bordered the gardens of his mansion, Weston House. We could look over the wall and see the glasshouses where grapes, peaches and apricots were grown. As children we were intrigued by a summer house with a wooden table shaped like a toadstool. We were privileged on one occasion to have tea there by kind permission of the head gardener.

Next to The Cliff was a field called Ashen Leas named, I imagine, after the ash trees there. Then came Three Barrels which had three circular mounds at the top. Hill Severals was the next; I don't know why it was called that. It had fairy rings and mushrooms - if you got up early enough to be first there!

The farm was split by the main Stratford to Oxford road, and on the other side the fields were: The Nine Acre, The Plain, The Marsh, Lambs Close, Front and Back Orchards and The Plough Land, as well the farmhouse, rick yard and farm buildings. To judge by the straight hedges of The Plough Land, the present farm probably dated from the time of the enclosures, and our Plough Field was probably common land.

There were four farmhouses around the village similar to our Tower Farmhouse, and they were all built very solidly of hard grey sandstone. Ours had six bedrooms in the main part of the house, plus a very grand toilet decorated with tiles and a pan with a pretty pattern. It had a flush and led out to a septic tank in the garden. Actually it was for ladies' use only, and the gents had to go 110 yards from the back door to a more primitive place with three different-sized holes. It was rather smelly and not a pleasant job for the man who, every six months or so, had to load what had oozed out the back into the muck cart. The man concerned was Tommy, who had the odd and not so pleasant jobs dropped on him. After a time he left to become a gardener to an elderly lady, which he found more to his taste.

To return to the house, the back of the upstairs had a dormitory for the young men, and a smaller room for the maids. We had no young men living-in but, for quite a short time, we had a maid. The windows were iron-framed and large, as I found to my cost when a pillow I threw, went through one. It was my brother's fault really - he shouldn't have ducked! The grown-ups didn't accept that, and my pocket money suffered.

The rick yard and the barns provided a fine playground for me and my brothers. There were four fine - and I now realise - old waggons, but what puzzled me was the name painted on the front: "EDWIN A HAINE SOMERTON NEAR YEOVIL". That wasn't my father's name, nor was the address right. It was only later that I found the explanation: my father came from Somerset, and had probably worked with his brother, my Uncle Ted, who had married Aunt Emm.

Before her marriage she had been dairymaid to the Queen, on the Isle of Wight. Whether my father's knowledge of cheesemaking came from her or not, I don't know, but after Uncle Ted's death my father moved to the Midlands where the rents were cheaper, and set up cheesemaking at Tower Farm. The waggons came loaded with implements etc., taking two days on the journey. Shorthorn cows came too and formed the nucleus of his herd. Joe came as well, an old bachelor, who wanted to stay working with my father. He became the pig man, and we children spent a good deal of time with him in the pig yard, feeding and cleaning out. He was a very upright and conscientious Wesleyan, but came to a very sad end. When quite elderly, he was involved in a court case through no fault of his own. He was terribly upset, and didn't live long afterwards.

The economy of the farm centred round the cheesemaking. Mangels were grown, sliced into chip-like pieces, and fed to the cows mixed with chaff, while the cows were being milked. Sometimes nodules of cow cake from South America were added. A Ruston & Hornby engine drove the chaff cutter, or the mangel slicer, or a small corn mill, or a circular saw for making firewood. It was a noisy engine, which started on petrol and then went over to paraffin.

The cows were often put out to graze on The Plain Field, and to bring them for milking they had to go quite a distance along the main road. That was often the job for my brother and me. He was two years younger than me and looked quite cute. I was a bit tubby. The drill was that one of you, usually me, went in front to check the cows and turn them into the lane, whilst the other had the dogs and walked behind (they didn't need driving). We were told "Don't take any notice of cars - make them wait!" Well, on one occasion, which I remember clearly, a car stopped behind the herd and the driver, seeing such a cute little fellow doing what they thought was a man's job, produced half a crown. I got nothing and felt cheated.

The milk was put in a huge copper vat, a big bucket of milk was heated by the boiling water in a copper, and then the hot milk was poured into the vat to warm it up. Rennet was added and the vat was covered. This made curds and whey. The whey was run through a complicated system of pipes to a sump in the pig yard. There Joe ladled it out and mixed it with barley meal to feed the pigs.

The muck from the pigs ran down into the centre of the yard, and the slurry was pumped into a water-cart and then spread on The Plough Field. The muck from the cows and horses was collected in their yard, carted out and spread on the field - a job for when the ground was hard with frost.

My father grew wheat, oats and barley as well as mangels and a few potatoes. We were largely self-supporting, which was useful when food was in short supply during the First World War. A sack of wheat went to the water mill a few miles away and came back as flour and bran, which my mother made into all the food we needed. My father skimmed some milk and churned the cream into butter, and we had fruit and vegetables from quite a large walled garden.

I don't think my father liked killing anything. I never knew him kill a fowl, and a butcher came to kill and cut up the pigs. The only time he used a gun was when the rooks or crows were eating the seed corn. He would get really angry and run and fetch a gun. Then he would go back and fire it at the birds. I don't think he ever hit one, but it scared them off for a while. The best thing was to have a little boy permanently out there, to shout! We weren't too keen to offer to do that.

There were four or five big cart horses to plough, pull the mowing machine or binder, or pull the carts and waggons. From time to time they needed new shoes and when things were busy, two of us boys had to take, usually two horses, to the blacksmith in the next village. Quite often the smithy was empty and when we asked when the blacksmith was, we were told he was at the pub and would be back when they closed. It was a long wait, but there was no help for it as he was the only blacksmith in the area.

The horses, although so big to us, were quiet enough, but you knew about it if they stepped on your foot. There were also two light horses - Silver and Charlie. Silver was a very good trotter, he could do 14 miles an hour they said, and drew the trap which was for special occasions. Those in front faced forward, and those behind backwards. My mother was proud of herself in her tall black hat and her best clothes, riding with my father, or driving herself in the trap. I had one unfortunate experience in the trap: the trap seat was quite high off the ground, and I was going to Stratford seated between my two half sisters. In the back were eggs and butter and produce to sell in Stratford auction market. About a mile from Stratford something frightened Silver, and he fell down and broke the shafts. We three more or less fell on top of him, and the eggs and produce spilled all over the road. I had a nasty gash to my leg and as it bled a lot, they tied a handkerchief round my leg - I still have the scar. A kind farmer picked the horse up and mended the shafts with string. What could be salvaged of the eggs and produce we put back in the trap, and we went on to Stratford. They took me to the Bancroft Gardens and bathed my cut leg in the River Avon - that was before the river became polluted.

Charlie was the horse of all work. If there were pigs to go to the market or a couple of calves or some hens, they were put in the float never the trap - and a net thrown over them to keep them in. Sometimes it was quite a load but Charlie had to pull it. Once a heifer fell into a culvert and couldn't get out. A rope was put round its neck and the other end tied to the float, and Charlie pulled her out. To hoe the mangels, Charlie had to pull the horse-hoe and I had to lead him. I hated it, especially if the rows were full of thistles. My father sometime rode Charlie, and he would take us in front of him, which I enjoyed.

From the time we could walk almost, we had to help out with simple jobs like feeding the hens, collecting the eggs and searching for nests in the ricks or barns. Sometimes there would be fifteen eggs in a nest and the hen sitting on them. Occasionally a hen would appear with a dozen chicks she had hatched in some hidden nest. The trouble was that the fox might get her. After harvest the hen houses were dragged out to the stubble as there was plenty of food for the hens there. The trouble was that they had to be securely shut up, for fear of the fox, and the hens were reluctant to go to bed. You had to stay until all the hens were in and often it was quite dark by then. I wasn't very brave, and used to race home like mad imagining all sorts of nasty things were chasing me.

Although brought up on a farm, my brothers and I were very ignorant of the facts of life. I saw the cock chasing the hen and mounting her holding her comb in his beak, and felt ever so sorry for the hen. Then we peeped over the garden wall and saw the bull doing his duty on a cow and I was really shocked. But what literally sickened me was peeping over that same garden wall and seeing the butcher killing the pigs. He seemed to enjoy it. I couldn't watch, and you can imagine my feelings when, perhaps the next Sunday, he was the local preacher in our little chapel.

My father came from Somerset, and his first wife bore him three boys and two girls. When the mother died, the oldest girl, Roberta, took over the management of the house. This is where my mother came into the picture. Her mother came from Leicester and when, at an early age, she was the only one left in her family, she was adopted by an aunt. All my grandma's family - brothers, sisters and parents died of consumption. My grandma always suffered from a weak heart, they said, but she lived to over eighty.

She came as governess to the children of a grocer in the High Street of Moreton in Marsh. There she married Mr Francis H Horne. Until not so many years ago, his business board was up facing the main road, as well as in front of the warehouses and stables of the railway, which ran to Moreton from the canal at Stratford. The motive power for the railway was horses. However, the Great Western Railway Company bought it up and closed most of it down. It was then that my grandfather rented the buildings, and his notice board read "Francis H Horne, Coal Corn and Cake Merchants". He did a good trade selling to the gentry all around - coal to heat their houses, corn to feed their horses and cake to feed their cattle.

My grandmother had four boys and three girls. As they needed to be educated, and she was a governess, she started a small school together with some neighbours' children. She employed a teacher at Blockley, and then came back and took over the school. Meanwhile my father heard it was a good school and sent his son Arthur there. Arthur had a pony which he rode the five miles to Moreton in the morning and back home at night. During the day the pony spent his time on the front lawn, tied to the railing.

They said my grandmother was quite a formidable woman - though not with me. She was always very kind to me and played board games, letting me win! They said that no young men were brave enough to court her three daughters, because they dared not face the mother.

However that may be, my father married my mother and took the head of Wellington School off to Tower Farm, to what must have been a difficult position as stepmother to an established family. She managed to overcome their prejudices, and by the time I was able to take notice, I believe they respected and loved her.

At two yearly intervals my mother had a son. I was the second. No doctor examined her during her pregnancies, a Nurse Barratt attended the births and all went well. When I was just over two I contracted whooping cough. As my brother had a tiny baby it would have been serious if he had caught it, and so I was sent to stay with my grandma and two aunts at Moreton. I had it quite badly and to ease my breathing they took me to the gasworks, because that was said to help. I was treated very well, but taking me from my mother at that very early age had an effect on me, and I think afterwards I was often homesick when away from home.

Roberta, my oldest half sister, married a Stratford man and I was invited to stay there. He fetched me in his motorcycle and sidecar. It was a pitch black night and about four miles from Stratford a man stepped into the road and stopped us. Charlie, Roberta's husband, talked with him and they set off down a side road. I was left alone in the sidecar. The lights, one on the front and one on the sidecar, were acetylene, and they hissed and spluttered. It was a very long time before they returned, and I had imagined all sorts of dangers to myself. The man's car had broken down and they couldn't put it right, so I sat on the man's lap into Stratford. I was put to sleep on a camp bed in the bathroom. The taps dripped and the pipes gurgled, and sounds from the street sounded strange after my country home. I was really homesick and cried myself to sleep.

My first years of school were with our aunts, who had taken over from my mother when she married. We were weekly boarders and at first my mother drove us there in the trap on Monday morning and fetched us home on Friday. Then we got a bike and we used to use it to go to Moreton and back. One started on the bike and the other started to walk. The first rode for half a mile or so, then put the bike in the hedge and walked on. The first walker picked up the bike when he reached it, and had his ride - and so on all the way to school.

One weekend Charlie came to stay. He had come driving one of the early cars. On Monday morning he said "Don't get the bike out and don't fetch the trap. I'll drive you to school." We were all excited an imagined the sensation we would cause when we arrived at school by car. But it was not to be. After a mile we came to a hill and the car couldn't make it. However, the reverse gear was lower than bottom gear so we backed down the hill, turned the car around, and ran up backwards. It made it with some pushing, and we turned round and proceeded to the next hill where the engine gave in again. In trying to turn the car round, the back wheels sank into a ditch. I believe a carthorse came to the rescue, but we didn't see that as we were on our way to school - walking!

In early summer the main activity was haymaking. A lot of hay was needed for the animals in winter. One man would get up at daybreak in June, and take the horses and mower to cut the grass whilst the dew was on the ground, as it was easier to cut then. Horse drawn machines then tuned the hay to dry it and put it into rows. Finally it was pitchforked into waggons, and then from there onto the rick. Sometimes we had to lead the horse, and on the shout "Hold tight" for the benefit of the man on top of the load, we led the horse on a few yards.

Ricks built with damp hay heat up, and I remember one doing that in the rick yard. An iron rod pushed in came out red hot. However, it didn't set on fire that time. But we did have a fire which might have been very serious: it happened at threshing time. The threshing tackle was taken from farm to farm - the threshing drum pulled by a steam engine, which worked the thresher by a big wide belt. To pull the drum into position alongside a dutch barn full of sheaves of corn, the driver needed some extra power, and so he put on the blower. Sparks came out of the chimney and set fire to the corn which blazed up. The engine driver drew the drum to a safe distance, and brought a bucket of water from the engine. Two men on the corn, at some risk to themselves, started throwing blazing sheaves off the rick. Everyone else ran for buckets, and for help from everyone at the house. Someone pumped water into the horse-trough, and we all ran with buckets of water to the fire. It was touch and go, as once the fire got into the barn roof it would have been hopeless, but we won. It would have been useless to try for the fire engine. There was no phone, and it would have taken at least an hour to get them. Farmers at that time had to rely on their own resources.