Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Hay time at Eccleshill

Madge and I with Cousin Robert (the one in the middle)



My first story will be about Hay Making when we used Horses for all the heavy work. Also a brief description of the water supply that quenched the animals.Imagining where Thorpe Edge estate is now, there were fields enclosed with stone walls, numerous clear water Springs, also two clear streams, one running from Five Lane Ends towards Greengates, this stream was the boundary between Idle and Eccleshill. The other stream ran out of an old quarry in one of the fields, to join the former stream in a field next to ours belonging to a family known as Pounds, who besides being farmers had a fleet of Hire cars and used to do Wedding and Funerals. The last Stream that I mentioned must have had an underground coarse because it fed numerous troughs on the farm where we slacked our thirst, and even to the this day I have never tasted water nicer. Besides these water troughs there was one in our first field down lands Lane, also one at the bottom of that field which was built in to the wall and supplied both the field and the Lane where the cows would drink as they were being driven home for milking. This water was so pure that Water Cress grew in the troughs.

In those days there were Hares, Corn Crakes, the sound of the Cuckoo, besides loads of common birds. The field names were as follows:-Three corner field.—Knowles, –Elm field,–Far field,–Pasture.–,–Six Acre,– Long field,–Hills,–Tom Smith.—Little Acre,–Red Gate,–First field,–Middle field.—and Harpers The field named the hills can still be identified because it was too steep to build on.We made hay in the following fields:- Long field, Knowles, Elm field, Far wood, Red gate, First field, Middle field, Harpers, Tom Smith, and Little Acre, the remaining fields we used for grazing.

Grass Mower�



Hay time usually started in late June and continued into early August. We as children would help for most of the summer holidays, we also had help from older people who mostly worked in the local mills during the day, and then came to help us in the evening and on Saturday after dinner. There would not be any work done in the fields on a Sunday even if the weather was fine.

Me on the Shaker




An old saying of my Grandfathers was as follows—-A wet and windy May fills the barns with corn and hay.

Some off the names of those who helped us Hay Make were as follows:- John and Wilson Parish, Albert Lonsdale, Eddie and Norman Mortimer, Eric Smith, and Jack Kirby, also Two Girls Barbara Walker and Jean Orton who were friends of my sister Marjorie.Before we could start hay making, there were many preparations to be done on machinery, the horse mower, hay turner, hay shaker, hay rake and the sweep. Carts and wagons had to be modified by adding wood shelving’s and hay hecks, these wood contraptions were to extend the perimeter of the carts and wagons so that they could hold more hay. We also had to prepare the ground where the haystack would be built by laying wood stakes on the ground to let the air circulate under the Haystack

Father on Horse Rake


It was quite exciting the first day we went to mow the grass, because it would be the first time the horses had been coupled together for quite a long time, they would be very high spirited, so the first time or two round the field could be quite dangerous if the horses got too near to the field wall. We would usually mow about five acres in a day. After the grass had been cut it would be left for a day or two to wilt, then for the next day or two it would be turned and teased out with the Shaking machine. When the hay was dry it would be raked into rows then loaded onto the carts and wagons, with one person on the load placing the hay so that it would not fall of as it was being transported up the lane to the farmyard. Those people who know Eccleshill , will also know how steep the bank is that rises from Greengates to Eccleshill, and of course Lands Lane which we had to take the Hay up was just as steep, so each load of hay had to have one horse in the shafts in one in the trace gear which was hitched up in front of the shaft horse, helping to pull the load of hay up Lands Lane. When the load of hay arrived at the farm yard, another load would already have been emptied, and that one would return to the field for another load, this was the high light of the day for us children, because we were able to scramble onto the empty cart, and ride back to the field.

Father Loading the Hay.he is the one on the load and Alfie forking the Hay


Building a Hay Stack was quite a skilled job, my father always performed this task, the stack had to be built with the sides sloping slightly outwards, and the middle of the stack had to be higher than the sides to keep out the rain, as any water penetrating the stack during the winter would cause the hay to go rotten. When the Hay Stack was finished, the sides would be trimmed off to make the stack look neat, finally it would be thatched to keep out the weather.

These were happy times, usually plenty of home made lemonade for the children, and home brewed beer for the men. The High light of the haymaking day was in the evening when the last load had been emptied, every one gathered round for home made teacakes and apple pie, Albert Lonsdale used to bring his piano accordion and as it was coming dusk he would sit on the wall and play some well known tunes. After this the horses, which had been fed and allowed to cool down, were taken to the field so it would be after mid-night when we finally got to bed.

I hope this gives you an insight into the Hay Making season at Bank Top Farm.

John C Stott