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1941: Cuckfield farmer reflects on changing work practices during his 60 years of happy marriage

Updated: Dec 27, 2022


The Mid Sussex Times Wednesday November 12, 1941

DIAMOND WEDDING AT CUCKFIELD.

FARMING RECOLLECTIONS OF MR GEORGE PICKARD.

FROM HAND REAPING TO TRACTORS.


Mr and Mrs George Pickard, of 4 Ivy Cottages, Whiteman’s Green, Cuckfield, celebrated their Diamond Wedding on Wednesday. The celebration was a notable one in the fact that two of the bridesmaids at the wedding 60 years ago, at Colgate Parish Church, Lower Beeding, were present to offer their good wishes, surely a record in the history of diamond weddings.


4 Ivy Cottages at Whiteman's Green in 2022

There was a constant stream of visitors all day long, calling to offer congratulations in addition to 21 telegrams and many cards.


But the one message which Mr and Mrs Pickard value most is that from the King and Queen. It was as follows:

“The King and Queen send you hearty congratulations and good wishes on your Diamond Wedding day.”

Private secretary.


A representative of the Mid Sussex Times interviewed the happy couple, still hale and hearty, at their home, and in a long talk with Mr Pickard gathered his life story, interpolated with humorous episodes, told by the 81 year old bridegroom, with that merry twinkle of the eyes which showed how much he appreciated glimpses into the laughing side of his past life.


Mrs Pickard who is 83 kept in a modest background, but she is really


A MARVELLOUS OLD LADY.

She still does her household duties, does not wear spectacles, except for reading, does fine patchwork and knitted jackets, and quite enjoys a trip to the cinema, although her husband has never yet been inside one. In reply to our representative, Mr Pickard said his life on the land of more than 60 years - he is a retired farmer - covered the whole of the period of the change from hand work to machinery.


“In my young days corn crops were cut by a scythe or sickle, and the work was done by gangs on piecework terms. Some of the best reapers, ('rippers' was his term), could cut as much as an acre a day. I recall that in 1877 we cut at the Herring's Farm at Shoreham 250 acres of corn in about a fortnight.”


An English scythe used in cutting the corn c1937 (image courtesy of BFI film 'An English Farm 1937)

The workmen were called ‘foreigners’ by the local people for some of them came from as far away as Tunbridge Wells. Fields were measured out in proportion to the strength of the gangs, one man getting so much, two men a little more, three more still and so on. Mr Pickard was actively engaged in the farming at Lealands farm, near Groombridge, until he came to Whiteman’s Green 11 years ago.


“Why Whiteman’s Green?” asked our representative,

”Oh,” replied Miss Pickard the daughter, “my father heard this house was for sale and when we came home he said ‘I think we will go to Whiteman’s Green, for from what I can gather the folk there seemed to live as long as they like!”


“As I was saying”, interjected Mr Pickard, “at Lealands Farm our first experiment in machinery was with a side delivery binder, the first binder to come out, and we went on until we had tractors and the newer binders working on the farm. They save the horses a good bit”.


Proceeding Mr Pickard said “in those far off days they

WERE HAPPY ENOUGH WITHOUT CINEMAS OR MOTOR CARS.

They never had any bank holidays, and were lucky if they got off with 12, 14 or 15 hours a day! They were so tired at the end of the day but after supper they were glad to go to bed and rest and prepare for the next day”.


Mr Pickard is the last surviving member of a family of nine. His father was for 25 years bailiff to Mr G. F. Broadwood, the famous piano manufacturer. Mr Pickard recalls that his father took him away from school when he was 13 years old. At the time he was attending Newdigate school, near Dorking, walking four miles to school in the morning and four miles home, in the afternoon, 8 miles every school day!

My father said, “You will have to stop at home to work this summer. I replied I did not mind the work, but at the end of the sewing he said I might have another winter at school. I declined, and never went to school again. I walked for miles to school before I was eight years old”.


Continuing his recollections, Mr Pickard said before the tractors came they always used four horses to the plough because of the clay sub soil. In addition to these four horses a light horse was kept for the light cart and they usually bred one or two foals. His first and only farm was at Groombridge. Previously to that he had been farm bailiff for 10 years at West Hoathly, his farming at Groombridge extended over a period of 32 years and then he humorously remarked “I sacked myself”.


He paid tribute to his landlords who, he said, treated him very well. The farm was owned by three sisters, and after them came Mr H. Mountain, who ordered that all rents to old tenants should not be raised. He also kept the rents of the cottages at the old figure. The present rent of his farm was at least double what he paid.

THE RENTS OF COTTAGES IN THOSE FAR OFF DAYS

varied from 1 shilling and sixpence a week to 3 shillings but few of them had more than two bedrooms. “I never had much time for amusement”, proceeded Mr Pickard. “Our chief amusements were fairs at Crawley and Horsham and the point-to-point races at eridge. He confessed that on one well remembered point-to-point meeting he got very merry and came home by train. Next morning his friends played a practical joke. It was a blazing hot day in June, and they drove his horse and cart home, one holding a huge umbrella up and the other being clad in oil skins and all the lights on the cart were burning!


Mr Pickard is a non-smoker and his favourite beverage is cider, which he makes himself. Supplies of water on the farm and cottages were either well water or water from the nearest stream. It used to be said that the further they fetched the water the better it was.


With regard to lighting the farmsteads and houses, Mr Pickard recalls the use of the old tallow dips. He had seen his grandfather like two of these to read Baxter’s paper, published at Lewes. On one occasion his Grandfather became so absorbed in its reading that the tallow dip burned down to his finger to the huge delight of his grandson. The paper came out twice a week and it cost 8d a week, 6d for the weekend edition and 2d for the Saturday supplement. He recalls the opening of the railway from Three Bridges to Horsham in 1857 which cut right through the farm. On one occasion a train was delayed for some time when their cows wandered leisurely along the track for two miles.


And now to introduce

THE “YOUNG” BRIDESMAIDS

who honoured the celebrations. They are two nieces of Mrs Pickard, now over 70 years of age. Mrs F. Parsons and Miss M. Martin, both of Horsham. They still live in the same road at Horsham where the wedding reception was held 60 years ago. The handsome wedding cake was made by Mr R Tree, of Cuckfield who also made the cake for the golden wedding. There were a number of very useful gifts from relatives and friends and many flowers, white chrysanthemums chiefly. Mr Pickard was a member of the National Farmers Union up to his retirement and said in his opinion it had done a very fine work.


Mrs Pickard's connections with the land is as long and as intimate as that of her husband. Her father farmed at Bolney, and she helped on the farm in times when not much was said about women's work on the land.


Mr and Mrs Pickard have four daughters. Their only son died eight years ago. There are three grandchildren and one great grandchild.


For more on farming in the early part of the 20th century please follow the link… (1) English Harvest (1938) - YouTube

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