Tales from Pinfold Farm Yardley. 1911.
My mum loved to write and every now and then she would put pen to paper about growing up on Pinfold farm in Yardley in the early nineteen hundreds. Occasionally, pieces of her writing would be published in the Evening Mail in Birmingham and were enjoyed by lots of people.
After mum died in 1995, many of her bits and bobs had become lost in the annals of time and so it was with huge delight that I rediscovered some of her recollections, sixteen years following her death. It`s thanks to my wonderful cousins Jean and Anne who passed her notes on to me to record here, some of those memories will endure. The second part of the recollections have been written by my cousin Ann but these first memories are those of my mother, Bess.
Chapter 1. The Farm.
My brother`s name is Seba but we all called him Sid. My name is Lillian and everyone calls me Bess. Here are some details of our life as children at Pinfold Farm in the early nineteen hundreds. Sid was Christened Seba Mansfield Huntley after Seba, a great grandson of Noah and brother of the mighty warrior, Nimrod. This name was a traditional one in the Mansfield family. Mansfield is the family name of our mother who also had a brother called Seba. The brother, Sid’s uncle Seba, met an unusual end. He was haymaking in the fields when he was stung on the tongue by a bee or a wasp. His tongue swelled up like a balloon and choked poor uncle Seba to death.
We were born at Pinfold Farm in South Yardley, at a time when the farm still functioned as a farm with cows and smells and things. We lived there with our parents and our sister Muriel for some years. The farm was originally called Penfold Farm because there used to be a pound or pen there, where stray animals were kept until collected by their owners. From trade directories, there have been Mansfields farming in Yardley from at least 1820, when a William and Mary were listed as farmers. It is not until 1875 that we find a Mrs. Mary Anne Mansfield farming at Pinfold Farm. She could possibly be our grandmother or perhaps our aunty Annie.
The farm is still there on the corner of Mansfield Road (it was in a state of almost dereliction, but happily is now being restored. It is a Grade 2 listed building.)
The farm is now rather grandly called Pinfold House but it has lost most of its land, only retaining a small back garden that drops away to a no man’s land leading down to the canal which runs through Yardley. The no man’s land used to be a sand pit, serving the local community and I remember local people collecting the sand by the barrow load. The pit was controlled by the residents of a house beside the old canal bridge.
Next to Pinfold House there is now a complex of redundant garages and such like but here used to be the farmyards. Sid referred to them as the rick yard, fold yard and milking shed but there may have been other yards and barns. Certainly there was a fully equipped blacksmith’s shop (but no blacksmith.) The fold yard was also used to pen stray animals until their owners could collect them upon payment of a small fee. One item of farm machinery that Sid remembers is a horse `whim` in the fold yard where the poor horse would walk round and round in circles driving a chaff cutting machine. On windy days there was a good deal of dust generated by this machine. There was also a deposit of grain of course which attracted the sparrows.
One day as Sid recalls, he became aware of a rat using the pond in the yard. There were several pipes that led into the pond and Sid was unsure which one the rat was using. Sid kept watch, sitting in a shed with his catapult at the ready, waiting for the appearance of the rat. Our mother became aware of his absence and came to find him. When Sid had explained what it was that he was doing, she suggested that he would do much better using his father’s walking stick gun. He knew where the gun was and mother supplied the cartridges. Sid sat down again in the shed and waited perhaps for an hour when suddenly, the rat appeared. Sid took careful aim, raising the gun to his eye and peering down the barrel, but the gun had no shoulder stock. When Sid fired the gun, it jumped back in his hands and bounced off his face. Sid never knew whether he hit the rat but his face and eye turned black and blue, giving him the unenviable task of explaining his injuries to our father.