Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stocks Farm 1950 - 1970

Stocks and Harvestgate Farms in about 1973
Click on the heading to see some early photos of the family at Stocks. Click here for some photos of the farm and the valley

Following Patrick's farming training at Headbourne Worthy, Litchfield and Eridge, my parents bought Stocks Farm in 1950 with advice from Carlisle Sayer of Strutt & Parker and Jim Harris, an old friend from Litchfield days. Click here for a description of life at Stocks in the early days.

The Tithe Map of 1839 shows the farm being part of the estate of Edmund Lomax, who also owned most of Exton, but by 1930 it was part of the Leydene Estate owned by Lady Peel; Stocks being sold off separately when Leydene became the naval signalling centre. We bought it from a man called Hughes. The estate originally included a fine Georgian house in Meonstoke - the Manor House - and a huge thatched barn next door, both which were sold off immediately - the barn to the Biggs family who have it still. The manor later became home to John and Ruth Howard; Ruth being Annette's first cousin.

There were three cottages in Meonstoke and two on the down (known as 'Blackhouse') for the men, the foreman of whom was Reg Whitear. George Smith lived in one of the village cottages and Tyrell at Blackhouse, next to the Whitears. A cowman was employed for a short while - Taylor - as well as a shepherd - 'Shep' Frampton- who joined Patrick from Litchfield. John Spreadbury was taken on in 1950 and later his son Andrew. In 1956, Ernie Stiles joined them. John Spreadbury became head man when Reg Whitear died in 1965.

To begin with Patrick reared sheep and beef cattle as well as growing potatoes, sugar beet, wheat, oats and barley, but in time he gave up the animals and the farm became essentially a grain farm and one of the finest in the Meon Valley.

We loved living at Stocks and it was always full of ours and our parents' friends. In 1956 we had a hard tennis court put in and many games were played there. In the early days also, Annette used to drive us down to the sea at Hill Head almost every sunny day in the summer, until in the very hot summer of 1959 we came back from a holiday in France to find that Fuff had dug an enormous hole at the end of the garden with a mechanical digger where a large swimming pool was constructed, of which great use was made for the next forty years, not least by Annette, who swam every day in summer.

We also loved playing cricket - on the lawn or in the small yard beside the back door. Piers and Herry took on the names of their favourite cricketers of the time - Piers was Subba Row and Tony Lock and Herry was Peter May and Jim Laker. Bales of straw were arranged to stop the ball behind the wicket and it was till possible to score a six by hitting the ball over the chesnuts - a feat just about impossible today. Piers became a very useful cricketer at St Ronan's on the strength of all that practice!

We could also use the farm machinery - particularly the tractors, from an early age. Herry regularly did some of the 'corn cart' at harvest time at an age far younger than would be allowed troday.

We attended our schools and universities from Stocks, but holidays were mostly spent at home or staying with friends, although we did have holidays in Wales and in France.

In 1970 we bought the neighbouring Harvestgate Farm, owned by the Biles', when they retired, and in the early 1980s, Little Stocks Farm, bought from the Hendersons, who moved to Scotland. Stocks and Harvestgate Farms retain their separate names even today.

For a brief history of Stocks and Harvestgate farms from 1970 - 2002, when they were sold following Patrick's death, click here

Return to Archive Index
Early Memories of Home Life
Schools 1950 - 1967
Engleberg Winter 1963
Early Encounters with France
European Tour 1967
Friends 1950-1970
Parents' Friends
Early Social Life
Pubs of One's Youth
Stocks Farm 1970 - 2002

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