Category Archives: Pinfold Farm in South Yardley

Pinfold Farm. Epilogue.

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Eventually, after the death of my grandparents in the early nineteen fifties, Sid and Bess decided to sell up the farm.  It was a sad day with all the paraphernalia that existed to keep the Victorian farmer at one with the world.  Gone were the duck guns, walking stick gun and their powder flasks.  The four poster bed went, the table and chairs too. A heavy wooden sideboard was also sold and when it was manhandled away from the wall where it had stood for a century, beneath it, written on the stone floor backwards in chalk was the word, “wait”.  Naturally, Sid and Bess wondered if it was a message from the resident ghost, trying to tell them something.  Bess wiped the chalk away but the following day the word had returned so that is where it stayed.  The sisters and Sid moved out and the farm was purchased by a man from along the road, Mr. Leonard.  He was most proud of the ghost and a write up appeared in a Sunday newspaper with a picture of an old lady in a crinoline dress.  It was not the ghost of course but one of dear old aunty Annie.

Sid stayed at 263 Yardley Road where he plied the trade of a florist (quite successfully) until he moved to pastures new in Throckmorton.

Muriel went to live with her aunt Lillian in a small cottage in Knowle. When Lillian died Muriel then went to live with Bess, my mum.  Aunty Mu passed away when I was about thirteen years old.

My mother and father lived out their lives in a wonderful, rambling flat above the Midland Bank in Acocks Green.

Pinfold Farm or Pinfold House as it is now named, remained in a state of great disrepair for many years. it was recently auctioned and bought for around £85,000.  It is currently being lovingly and sympathetically restored.  It is a Grade 2 listed building and a wonderful example of a Georgian period house.

 

 

 

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Pinfold Farm. Final Chapter. Cousin Anne`s recollections of WW2.

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Cousin Ann Huntley’s war time recollections.  1939

My nana shopped for her meat at Cunningtons on theYardley Road. Tom the butcher looked after her well and she could always get plenty of black market butter. At my nana’s house everything was washed up and put away at two in the afternoon and nana would go to her bed to put her curlers in and have a rest. Aunty Lil would play patience, aunty Mu and my granddad would go to sleep. Peter the spaniel would lie on the rug by the fire and make bad smells. Muriel would fetch out the Zoflora and splash it about to hide the smell.

Nana would get up at aroundfour o’clockfor tea with her hair all brushed and her rouge and makeup on. Wearing a smart frock with a necklace and rings on her fingers, she would make a pot of tea. This was the only menial task she would perform, she had never cooked anything in her life and wouldn’t know how to.  Tea would consist of very thin bread and butter spread with home-made jam or lemon curd, sometimes there would be very thin cucumber sandwiches and always a lovely home-made cake and jam tarts.

In the evenings, the family would sit around and listen to ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’ on the radio.  In the large garden grandpa grew lots of lovely flowers and lots of soft fruit.  In the middle of the lawn he had a pear tree.  Grandpa would take out his penknife from his pocket and slice up a juicy pear for Barbara and I (incidentally he also prized dandelions out of the lawn with the same penknife.)

In 1939 war was declared and we had moved toAldershaw Road.  Daddy was a driver and was exempt from service.   Mummy was expecting my brother John at the time and tension was very high.  We lived near the Rover works at Acocks Green where the munitions were being made and this building was targeted night after night.  The sirens would sound out and we would be lifted out of our beds and taken down to the bottom of the garden to take cover in a cold, damp air raid shelter which was constructed from sheets of corrugated iron and covered with earth.  Inside were bench like seats.  Mummy would carry a box with her containing all our birth certificates for safe keeping.  When the ‘all clear’ siren sounded, daddy would go up to the house and make a cup of tea for us all and bring it back to the shelter.  Sometimes when we went back to our beds, we would find pieces of shrapnel which had gone through the roof of our house on to our beds.

One night – the night of theCoventryraids, it was particularly horrendous and my mother was heavily pregnant.  Daddy put us all in his motor and took us to Dorsington, near Stratford-upon-Avon to stay with our aunty Ag, Uncle Jim and cousins Valerie and Richard Hodges.  On the journey and just before we arrived in the pitch black night, we drove through a flood.  My mother panicked, she thought we had driven into the river and would meet a worse end than the one we had just left.

Brother John was born on December 31st that year.  Later, we were evacuated to my other grandfather’s house at Long Marston where at five years of age, I attended the village school.  At the little school all the pupils from five to fourteen were taught in one class room.  There was a large, black coke stove in the room and a big girl called Megan taught me to knit. In the toilet, newspaper was cut into squares and hung on a piece of string – for loo paper.

My grandfather had a housekeeper called Suzie.  She used to take the train toStratfordon a Friday to shop and would bring back fish and chips for the adults and fish cakes and chips for me and Barbara.  My grandpa Davis kept hens and grew his own vegetables. Barbara and I would go out into the hedgerows and collect pigeon eggs to make cakes as everything was rationed because of the war.

We moved back toBirminghamwhen John was still small.  At five minutes to eight every morning the siren would blow at the Rover works and that was our cue to leave home and commence the hour long walk to school. We ate sandwiches at lunchtime with the Trenfields, there were no school dinners in those days.  The Trenfields would say we were rich and they were “poooooor.”  Nana did not approve of the Trenfields, she was a bit of a snob and so we ended up being given a halfpenny each to cover the bus fare so we could go home for our dinners.  Grandma would serve up a whole leg of mutton for dinner on a huge meat dish.  Carrots and onions would be floating in the lovely gravy. Sometimes we would have rabbit stew with triangles of crisp toast to mop up the gravy. Each day we had a huge milk pudding and a fruit pie with custard.

Aunty Lily was a talented seamstress and would make lovely dresses for Barbara and me. We always had new clothes for Easter from nana and new brown sandals with white ankle socks which were the Easter tradition.  I don’t remember being given Easter eggs.

During the war sweets were on ration coupons and we would have our sweets and chocolate shared out on a Sunday.  I remember walking home from school one day and offering a friend called David Gallon a sweet from my bag of goodies.  I had only two squares of Cadbury’s chocolate left and he broke one off and ate it.  My heart sank for that chocolate, now we have too much of everything.

My lovely sister Jean arrived later but that, as they say, is another story.

Scribe’s note: Ann still has the box that her mother kept the birth certificates in during the war. My daughter Rebecca wears one of my grandmother’s rings, a little finger ring of gold with a tiny garnet in it and when I see it, I am reminded of my grandma who I never met. She died from breast cancer a few weeks before my birth but I have in my mind’s eye, an image of her as clear as day, pouring out the tea at Pinfold Farm.  

                                                           

Pinfold Farm Chapter 9. Canal Capers.

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After the First World War there were three horses on the farm, Captain Tommy, Darky and Daisy.  They could sometimes be found in the rick yard and at others in Tiffield (now the name of the road) with the cows.  It was Daisy’s job to take the trap out when the family went visiting.  In her later years poor old Daisy became quite feeble and suffered with rheumatism.  On occasions she couldn’t get up off the ground after her sleep (I know the feeling well!)  Captain Tommy was a good, strong horse and rather attached to Daisy so he would help her rise by grabbing her mane and pulling.  Captain Tommy was an ex-army horse who had served inFrancepulling gun carriages.  His military upbringing showed when one of the all too frequent funerals of army personnel took place across the road at Yardley cemetery.  No sooner had Captain Tommy heard the regimental band playing than he was rushing around his field, ears pricked up and prancing in recognition of past comrades.

Across the road from Tiffield is theGrandUnionCanal.  One afternoon when my grandmother and grandfather were courting, they had walked down to the tow path for a stroll when suddenly they heard a splash.  My grandfather charged down the tow path until he came upon a bald headed man in the water.  Throwing his coat off my grandad proceeded to rescue him with assistance from another passer-by.  They got the man to the bank safely, apparently he had been attempting suicide.  On another occasion again while he was out on a stroll, he noticed a throng of spectators including a sailor in full uniform, up on the canal bridge.  They were all watching a woman struggling in the water.  She was up to her waist, frantically trying to save her child from the bottom of the canal.  My grandfather plunged in and rescued the child from what might otherwise have been a watery grave.

Pinfold Farm Chapter 8. A Busy Father.

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Unusually, Bess and Sid’s father didn’t farm. This was left to their Uncle Tom with Frank Bradley’s assistance and to these two men fell the tasks around the farm.  Most of these were associated with pastoral farming, with half a dozen cows, two horses, hens and chickens.  The hardest labour would have been haymaking in the rick yard.  Though Sid and Bess’s dad wasn’t the farmer of the household, nevertheless he regaled the children with tales of a deaf and dumb cockerel and a one-eyed chicken.  The poor chicken eventually died from starvation because his beak never went to where his eye told him the food was!  No, their father wasn’t a farmer but he did work hard.

His day job, in modern parlance, was to work as a clerk for the railways at Curzon Street. He set off early in the morning and returned late in the evening for they worked long hours in those days, even in offices.  He partook of his evening meal at wherever Sid and Bess happened to be, then it was back to work again at the off-license where he would assist the children’s mother.  This activity finished at eleven o’clock and then it was to bed.

At the weekend father would harness up the four wheeled dray and set off on his beer delivery round in Acocks Green, returning with the empties.  On some occasions he took the dray further a field to Saltley to collect coke for the fires in the house and the brewery boiler room.  There was also a regular trip to Ansells` Brewery in Aston to collect spent hops.  These would be mixed with chaff and so on to be fed to the cows in winter. Despite all this activity, the family became poorer because Sid and Bess’s father (my grandfather) had two weaknesses, horses and drink.  This is not to say that these were excessive, more that they presented a constant drain on the family purse.

The job at the railway conferred travel privileges on Sid and Bess’s family, they could travel cheaply along the London, Midland and Scottish Railway routes as far as Ireland if they felt the urge.  Despite this, my grandmother took no part in this facility and the furthest she ever travelled was to The Bull Ring in Birmingham city centre.

Across Yardley Road from the farm were some other barns which did not belong to Pinfold.  It was here that a man called George Leech pursued his living.  George was a ‘Jack of all country trades’ spending much time as a horse dealer and also working as a milkman.  He wended his way to his customers driving a pony and trap with the churns on the back.  Customers came to Mr. Leech with their jugs to be filled from the measure on his churn.  He usually wore a brimmed hat and on rainy days, the water would collect in his brim and could be seen to be added to the churn by accident, as he bent over to fill his measure.  He was not the only milkman to ply his wares in the area because there was also an old man on a bicycle who sold milk from the back of the bike although how much milk he could carry on a bicycle is questionable.

To return to George Leech Sid recalled that once, George bought a pony for his daughter at Henley Market.  On his return home the young girl was most searching in her questions about her new pony who she hadn’t yet seen asking,  ‘what colour is he, how large is he’ etc.  When she asked about how long it’s tail was her father replied, ‘Just long enough to cover it’s decency!’

Pinfold Farm Chapter 7. The Ghost.

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Bess and Sid often spoke of Pinfold farm being haunted.  Bess recorded that the apparition of an elderly lady, clothed in a grey dress down to her ankles, her white hair gathered into a bun, appeared to many people at various times at the top of the staircase at Pinfold Farm.

Sid spoke of one spooky event that occurred when their father was at the end of his life. Bess had contacted him to say that if he wanted to see his father while he was still alive, then he should hurry to his bedside.  Sid did rush but sadly, he was too late.  He was standing there beside his father’s bed, head bent quietly in sorrow when he heard a mighty rushing and rustling noise on the stairs, a noise which roused him from his grief. Sid turned and opened the door to the stairs to discover that all of the wallpaper had fallen off the walls.  This may be coincidence but what made the wallpaper fall off at that precise moment?

On another occasion guests were being entertained at the farm overnight.  The farmhouse was large and had a long landing at the top of the stairs which led to all of the bedrooms. Two couples were accommodated either side of the stairs.  That night, after all in the house had retired to bed and were sound asleep, the visitors were awoken by loud bumps and bangs on the landing.  They rushed to open their bedroom doors, they flung them open in fact only to find themselves gazing at each other.  There was nothing visible to cause the noises which had by then ceased.  Sid’s two sisters Bess and Muriel, shared a bedroom and often spoke of ‘bumps in the night.’

During the family’s ownership of the farm, Sid and Bess’s father had cause to rent it to a family.  TheMansfieldsmoved out to live at263 Yardley Road.  The new tenants also experienced the ghost when one dark evening the old man of the family was making his nightly trek to the outside loo.  He was suddenly stopped in his tracks when he saw a lady in a crinoline dress on the path before him.  His errand forgotten, he hastily returned to the house in a very frightened state to relate what he had seen.  Needless to say, the lady had gone when others went to investigate the old man’s sighting.

The outside loo features in two episodes of these tales and from my mother Bess’s notes it would appear that it seems to have been a deluxe throne room.  It was in the garden, no water to flush it of course but it did have three seats, large, medium and small.

More humourous recollections concern Sid and Bess’s aunty Annie.  She must have been a prim, Victorian lady and was usually dressed in a crinoline frock with a white apron in front.  She used to sit with her money on her lap counting the value of it and when folk passed her by, she would cover her money with the hem of her apron.  It was the same aunty Annie who was treading warily to the outside closet one night guided by the glimmer of her candle.  The glimmer also attracted a marauding owl who swooped down to the candle and aunty Annie.  There is no record of what happened to the candle or to the owl for the startled aunt fled in a panic from the scene.

Aunty Annie seems to have been the moneyed member of the family for she had built two shops and a house inYardley Roadand also possibly financed the building of houses inTiffield Road.  She herself lived in one of the shops or at 263.  Sid and Bess often had meals or slept there as children for their mother and father worked long hours at the off license.

In the back garden at aunty Annie’s house was a large and very old apple tree from which she insisted on having the first fruit as her right.  On the morning of her death, the apple tree died also and was found fallen across the garden, its leaves scattering in the breeze.

Pinfold Farm Chapter 6. The Brewhouse.

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Further alongMansfield Roadthere is an off-license with a house attached.  This had been given to Bess and Sid’s mother as a twenty first birthday present, the family were evidently well off in those days.  It was kept by their mother (my grandmother) as a beer off-license.  She didn’t live in the house part of the premises although they were furnished. Sid recalled that the new off-license replaced his mother’s earlier brewing enterprise where the beer was sold from the farm itself. She brewed her own beer in premises close to the farm at the rear of the fold yard.  There could be found two large vats and behind these, the boiler house.  The produce of all this industry was a beer called Mansfield Beer which was sold fresh from the barrel.  She also sold stout but this was delivered in barrels to the farm and was bottled there.  Sid and Bess would stick the labels onto the bottles.

The off-license was a popular place, with people coming for their beer from up to a mile away and before opening time, a queue had often developed. There would be all manner of working men or their sons standing in line, clutching their jugs or bottles ready to receive the beer.  Some of the sons who had been sent on the errand by their fathers would often partake of a small sample on the way home.  You can probably imagine them thinking, “I’ll just have a little sip.”   This resulted in their hasty return to the off-license with the charge of ‘short measure.’  My grandmother overcame this by sticking paper across the top of the bottle cap to show whether the bottle had been tampered with. There also existed the equivalent of today’s can clutching lager lout. Two regulars, one was a gardener and the other a pot-bellied coal man, used to buy their beer from the off-license and then walk to the rick yard next door. There they would stand beneath an elm tree and upend the bottles, pouring the beer down their throats without pause. Then it was back to the queue again.

To help around the farm and to do the brewing, the family employed a man fromKidderminstercalled Frank Bradley, Frank was a red faced, bull necked man with an accent so thick, you needed a translator to understand him.  Still, he did the milking and must have made a good job of the brewing.  Like many a farm labourer in those days, Frank slept in and ate with the family except that he had his own table, under the window where uncle Will shot sparrows.  At this table Frank sat, reading his comics which he thoroughly enjoyed, bursting into gales of laughter at the choicest pieces.  He slept in his own room which was small and situated over the brewhouse.  During the day he had found his own room in the barns near the fold yard and this was called “Frank’s Hut.”

He was a ‘queer fellow’, recalls Sid and cited two examples of his oddness. To move the heavier items around the farm there was a four wheeled truck, rather like a railway porter’s trolley.  One day, Bess was playing on this trolley in the fold yard when it rolled away with her and dumped her into a vat of water.  Frank burst into laughter and was so helpless with mirth, he was quite unable to pull her out, so someone else was called for the task.  On another emergency Frank was again unable to assist, when the farm collie took hold of Bess’s arm and wouldn’t let go.

Frank was regarded as quite old and so he surprised them all when he left the farm to get married.  That heralded the end of the home made beer business and from that point onwards, the beer was bought in.

Scribe’s note: In 1983, I lived in a house on the Yardley Road which was being renovated. Beneath the floorboards at the front of the house we found an ancient bottle of Mansfield Beer which somebody, (I like to think it was Sid,) placed there for posterity. A little message from the past, from my grandma to me.

                                                                                       

Pinfold Farm Chapter 5. Transport.

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The pleasure of sitting in Ted Lee’s car must have awoken a yearning in Sid because while he was still in his youth he bought a belt driven Triumph motor cycle on which he patrolled the neighbourhood. He went further a-field on it of course, he drove to Lapworth to go fishing and to Chessett’s Wood where an aunt lived. The aunt was probably on his father’s side of the family because on one memorable occasion, Sid’s father (my grandfather) rode pillion with him on a trip down there.

After driving through Knowle, Sid encountered a very sharp left hand bend around which he had to negotiate the bike and his pillion passenger. Sid of course leaned to the corner but his father didn’t. Happily for them both, the corner was negotiated but only because both sides of the road were used! A lecture on how to ride pillion on a motorbike was thus administered to Sid’s father before the journey was continued. His father liked the motorcyle but never learned how to control it properly.   He tried it round the fold yard but with too many rev’s and a great deal of on/off clutch action, it was a good job the machine was belt driven.

Sid replaced the motorcycle with a Clyno car, a two-seater with a dicky seat. This car became Sid’s pride and joy and he enjoyed taking various friends and relatives for rides in it.  For his uncle Will, it was his first time in a motor car and he wasn’t terribly impressed with the seats.  They were far too low! 

Uncle Will went into the brew house and rummaged around until he emerged with a beer crate. This he placed on the passenger seat and perched himself upon the crate.  Now he was at the “proper” height, for a pony and trap at least.  He then allowed Sid to drive him around the local lanes.  Uncle Will could see quite clearly over the hedgerows but Sid recalls that he blushed quite red with the embarrassment.

 

Pinfold Farm Chapter 4. Great Aunt Lizzie.

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Lily had a younger sister May, who was a much smaller version of Lily except that she was not in the least romantic, in fact she was rather dour and spoke but little. She was however, always kind to Bess and sometimes in the afternoon they would both go into May’s small bedroom up in the roof, with its sloping ceiling.  Under the window May kept a large trunk, it mostly contained clothes but deep within was May’s pride and joy – a doll.  She kept it wrapped in a shawl and it was a beautiful doll that she called Jane.  It had a wax face with blue starry eyes and her body was made of kid.  She wore a blue dress with a pinafore, a white bonnet with pink flowers and little white kid shoes.  May would allow Bess to sit on her bed and nurse Jane while May changed her clothes and combed her hair.  What happened to the doll is not known but she was dearly loved.

The mother of Lily and May was great aunt Lizzie.  She was a truly terrifying old lady, tall and upright with white hair and a deep voice.  She always wore ankle length dresses with high necks and sometimes she had a jet brooch at her throat.  She frequently quoted the bible and often exhorted the children to “turn the other cheek,” etc.  One day great aunt Lizzie discovered one of the hens eating its own eggs in the hen run.  Her reaction was immediate.  She fetched a chopper from the woodshed and while she held the unfortunate bird down with her foot, chopped off its head.  The body of the chicken got up and ran for yards before dropping to the ground, twitching.  This sight produced nightmares in the children for weeks.

Great aunt Lizzie had a long standing feud with her sister Ann Maria. They didn’t speak to each other for twenty years and not even on Lizzie’s death bed did a word pass. Forgiveness was not in their nature!

Apart from the horses and the horse drawn carriages, Sid and Bess’s experience of travel was limited.  It was thus greeted with great delight when a farming friend of the family, Ted Lee, visited them.  Ted had farmed Dovehouse Farm inSolihulland had just sold the farm saying that he’d had no idea just how much he was worth.  With some of the proceeds of the sale Ted bought a brand new Model T Ford.          It was a great honour and a privilege for Sid and Bess to be allowed to sit in it and be ogled enviously by passers by. The family had once been taken by Uncle Ted, as the children referred to him, to Dovehouse farm for dinner and the children were most excited with the joys of car travel. Uncle Ted even asked them if they were going fast enough, they were doing thirty miles an hour but to Sid and Bess, it seemed if as they were flying.

Sid related a story about an employee of Ted Lee. The man was a long serving farm labourer who lived happily with his wife in a tied cottage at Dovehouse Farm. One day the ‘phone rang and the call was for this labourer.  Now remember, the telephone was a new fangled invention and very few people had the privilege of owning one.  This being so, the labourer had never spoken to the ‘phone and refused to come and talk to the instrument.  The matter was urgent and so the police were contacted and asked to take the news to the farm hand.  It was to tell him that his brother had died and left him his farm in Wiltshire and all his money.  The labourer refused his inheritence saying,  “I don’t want no dyud man’s money. Me and the wife are happy here and we don’t want no dyud man’s money……..”

Pinfold Farm Chapter 3. The Guv`nor.

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When The Guv’ner was in his sixties, he developed a lump in his groin which of course he never mentioned.  One day, Sid’s mother found him doubled up in pain on the wooden settle in the kitchen, his head on the table, groaning loudly.  She was terrified enough to send for “the chap” as they referred to a friend called Frank Bradley, to go and fetch the doctor.  The doctor was a dapper little Welshman called Price who often called in at the farm on his morning rounds.  Purely social his visits were as he was well acquainted with the presence of the pewter jug in the kitchen cupboard.  On these visits he would stand with his back to the fire, a glass in his hand and try and convince Willum that the world was indeed round and not flat as Willum firmly believed.

On this visit however, he quickly diagnosed a strangulated hernia which required urgent attention.  The family were united in refusing to allow The Guv’ner to go to hospital as people died there, so it was decided that the urgent operation must be carried out at the farm.  The front parlour was rapidly prepared, furniture was carried out and clean sheets were spread about.  The large kitchen table was carried into the room and scrubbed until it was spotless.  All the spare oil lamps were assembled in the room as there was no electricity in the house.  Every utensil was filled with water to be boiled on the kitchen range.  The Guv’ner undressed and put on his nightshirt and in due course, an eminent specialist arrived along with his registrar, two nurses and an anaesthetist.  This major operation was then carried out on the kitchen table with absolute success.  The Guv’nor made a complete recovery and lived on for many years.

Another eccentric member of the family who Bess recalled was second cousin Lily who was a dress maker by profession.  She was of medium height with black, frizzy hair which she washed with a paraffin rinse because she firmly believed that this action would stop her hair from turning grey.  As she was rather fat and perspired freely, she did not smell as sweetly as her name implied.  Lily favoured floral material for her dresses which usually had four pointed cuffs, sashes and lots of frills.  Her face was pale and full, like the moon and she had a large brown mole on the side of her nose.  She had lost a tooth here and there but she was an incurable romantic and never lost hope that one day, a handsome young farmer would come along and sweep her off her feet.  Sadly, he never did.

To watch the daily ritual she undertook in preparation for a meal was a feast by itself.  She would lift a seat cushion and then take two elastic bands and a copy of the evening newspaper.  She draped the points of her sleeves over each wrist and put a band on each one.  This was to prevent the cuffs from trailing in the gravy.  She then took a folded sheet of newspaper and cut a large, ‘U’ shaped piece out of it.  This was then opened and placed over her head like a huge bib.  The object of this was to catch any bits of food that fell from her fork because she shoveled her food into her mouth with amazing speed.

On summer Sunday evenings when the family were all assembled, Lily, wearing one of her latest creations, would go into the garden and pick as large a flower as she could find, usually a full blown rose or a deep red peony. The flower would then be pinned to her ample bosom. She played the zither quite well and sang in a high, sweet voice. The family were then treated to a recital of ballads such as ‘Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar,’ ‘The Sheik of Araby,’ or maybe, ‘Where My Caravan has Rested.’  The songs were accompanied with many elaborate hand movements as she played the little harp.

Pinfold Farm Chapter 2. The Kitchen.

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A picture of the kitchen gradually emerges from Sid’s memories and Bess’s notes certainly confirm the picture. The stone floored kitchen seems to have been the most occupied room in the farm. The wall that looked out over the foldyard had small arched windows with bars and by one of these was a small table. Along another wall was a wooden settle and I imagine that in the centre of the room there would have stood a large table that was used for preparing meals and devouring them on less formal occasions.

The dominant feature of the room was the large open fire.  It was alight almost all the time and at times was used to cook the familys meals.  In Sid’s recollecton, it was fired by buckets of coke, sometimes two or three at a time. Across the hearth stretched a long spit, suspended by two black iron “dogs”, which rotated the meat very slowly.  Beneath the meat there stood a very large pan to catch the meat juices as they fell.  The juice was used by whoever was passing by to baste the meat to ease the burning.  Gravy was also prepared on the fire.  Sid remembers his aunty May (Wakefield) crouching there with a ladle or spoon full of sugar held over the fire. When it turned brown it was used as the gravy browning.  For other cooking there was a coal or coke fired double oven that had large, flat plates to heat the black iron cooking pots.  On one of the walls was Sid’s father’s muzzle loading duck gun and some powder flasks.

Sid’s great uncle Will, who was probably his mother’s uncle, sat in the kitchen at times with a loaded gun and shot the sparrows who searched the chaff in the foldyard for grain. The wretched corpses were then gathered up and made into uncle Will’s favourite delicacy, sparrow pie.  Uncle Will also had a very proud boast; he had never done a day’s work in his life.  He often stood outside the farm, leaning on the fence by the brewhouse with his big belly protruding and exchanging the time of day with passers by.  “How be master Willum?” came the query. “I moan’t grumble,” came the reply.

At other times he could be found within the house, often with his gramaphone complete with its brassy trumpet, playing his favourite tune.  This was a recording of the famous Harry Lauder singing “Keep Right On to the End of the Road.”  It seemed to be played repeatedly with Uncle Will accompanying the chorus.  Bess recalls him as being rather eccentric.  He didn’t believe the world was round nor could he understand the presence of aeroplanes.  But there are other stories about Uncle Will or ‘The Guv’ner’ as he was known and the following quotes are almost verbatim from Bess’s notes.

One day Will was taking a ride on the shaft of a hay wagon when he slipped off and the iron rimmed rear wheel rolled over his right wrist.  He rose to his feet, got back on the shaft and brought the horses and the wagon safely back into the rickyard.  He then went to the pump and pumped ice cold well water over his crushed wrist until it went numb. He then went into the kitchen where his sister, Ann Maria, sat by the open fire in her black leather chair. He told her what had happened to him and he instructed her to bring a cloth and some scissors.  She cut the linen cloth into strips and tightly bound his wrist.  He took a long swig of whiskey from a pewter jug which was always kept in the kitchen cupboard.  He then lay down on the black, horsehair sofa under the wall clock.  He remained there for best part of a week, only getting up from beneath the check horse blanket when he needed the lavatory – a good-ish step to the end of the garden!  At the end of the week he gradually resumed his various tasks around the farm and in due course, made a complete recovery using his wrist much as before.  He sometimes complained of “the rheumatics,” but at no time did it occur to him to trouble the doctor.