Changing Times...

GRANGE Farm at Kesgrave, is now a large modern housing development. Housing stretches from Rushmere at the edge of Ipswich, to Martlesham. Recently I featured a photograph taken on the farm in 1945, sent to me by Arthur Brett who worked all his life when it really was a busy farm.

GRANGE Farm at Kesgrave, is now a large modern housing development.

Housing stretches from Rushmere at the edge of Ipswich, to Martlesham. Recently I featured a photograph taken on the farm in 1945, sent to me by Arthur Brett who worked all his life when it really was a busy farm.

By the 1950s agriculture was changing from being labour intensive to more automated techniques. These were the last days of steam and horse power. Colin Campbell of Chilton Road, Ipswich, worked briefly at Grange Farm in the early 1950s and tells us a little of what life was like there for a young man. Colin said: “I was employed as a labourer at Grange Farm, Kesgrave, from January to May 1951. The pay was one shilling and nine pence per hour (about 9p). The government subsidised the pay for ex servicemen and students, intending to go to agricultural college, at the end of my time there. The money rose to two shillings and two pence. I soon realised I would never make a farm hand”.

“The farm was mainly arable. Heffers and bullocks were fattened, and there was a small dairy herd. Two horses were kept for work where speed was not the main consideration. There were large greenhouses where the farmer Mr Jolly specialised in carnations”.

“The farm water supply was pumped from the other side of the A12, where in the valley an American serviceman had painted a full length life size figure of St Francis of Assisi with his birds on a small thatched building. By the entrance to the farm was the commemorative chapel to Squadron Leader Rope of the R101 airship which crashed in France in 1930. The chapel was built on his death by his wife, a Jolly by birth.

“Philip Jolly was a practical farmer who often 'paraded' the labourers and gave them their tasks, many of which ran over several days. The first job I had was 'hedging and ditching', cleaning out a drainage ditch at the lowest side of the field and burning the rubbish. Trimming and laying hedges. I did the burning, but I was able to see how skilled the craft of 'laying the hedge' was. No one was being taught this, it was too labour intensive. I was trying to join farming in the last days of the agriculture labourer. The work was being taken over by machines.

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“Muck spreading was a job where you needed to make sure you were the correct side of the wind! The amount spread was determined by the mounds deposited from the tumbrel which collected a load from the cow sheds and stables. Rabbit wiring was another task to protect the crops from the pre-myxamatosis population.

“Beet hoeing really got me beat! I was at least three or four times slower than anybody. For some reason I could never master the skill of weeding and thinning at the same time and I was soon taken off the job. The Brett brothers were the best at this work”.

“The Jollys rented land from Red House Farm at Tuddenham where they had a stack yard. The stacks were built in different shapes dependant on the type of grain. The hay stack was round, the barley and wheat oblong or square.

“In 1942/43 my summer holidays were taken up by farming as a schoolboy labourer to help the war effort and I had seen the amount of work needed to build these stacks. There was a clean firm base on well drained ground, wired to reduce the amount of vermin. There were firm paths between each stack made so the traction engines elevator with binder/baler and thresher could handle two stacks in one move. The top of the stack was thatched. This was because once the corn was reaped it had to wait until the thresher was available. Many farms, unlike Grange Farm, were just not big enough to employ the labour required. At threshing time all available hands piled into the farm lorry and went to Red House Farm at Tuddenham. Two men cleared the thatch on top of the stack. I was on the elevator taking the corn down to the threshing machine. One man cut the twine on the sheaves. Two more were on the straw ladder. The bales were stacked on a waiting cart.

“The threshed grain came out of a shoot into a sack, which when it was full was passed to another labourer who weighed it and sowed it ready for it to be lifted to a waiting lorry. The barley was going for malting. Other grain was stored in the large barn at Grange Farm waiting to be sold.

“Another job I had was working the chaff shoot. This was one of the lightest but dirtiest jobs. The ears of barley stuck in everything. It was also a very hot job close to the heat from the coal-powered, steam-driven traction engine. Once the process started there was no stopping until the job was finished.

“These were the longest, dirtiest, hottest days of my life and yet the most satisfying. As I sewed up the last sack of chaff I heard someone calling for the dogs. Two Jack Russells appeared with handlers. Each man had a stick, and we surrounded the bottom of the stack as extra wire mesh was put all round it. I was soon to see why. Two men with pitchforks removed the straw base and the dogs jumped into what was now an arena. It was full of rats of all sizes. The dogs started their slaughter. They were very quick with the kill. Those who jumped the wire were dealt with by the waiting hands.

“I enjoyed my few months farming. They were an excellent introduction to ways that were disappearing fast. I never learnt to top and tail sugar beet quickly, or was able to lift a one hundred weigh sack of potatoes with one hand. Also I never fully mastered that versatile tool the 'bull hook' or the hoe.

My next job was as a clerical assistant at HMS Ganges. The heaviest thing I carried was a pen.

“While at Grange Farm I found numerous bronze age type arrow heads. Across the whole farm were small Neolithic and Bronze Age instruments. At the far end of the farm by Portal Avenue, where Mr Jolly had another field, were Roman and British remains.

“The road nearest the front of The Grange was possibly a continuation of the major grass track of the Neolithic and Bronze Age-part of the way joining Bramford and Ufford.

Saxon remains have also been found over the farm, which had been arable land since the ice receded thousands of years ago.”

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