Working Lives

The Horseman (1938-1950s)

Location: Suffolk

Mr Baldry talks to us about his life, working on farms, meeting his wife in Southolt, carrying dinners to the men working outdoors and collecting water.

I was 13 when I started working. I didn’t stay in that job long, I went to work at White Hall to see after the pigs. I had to work half a day on Sunday too but I got a sixpence a week rise. That wouldn’t buy much today would it? You tell some of the young ones what we done and they wouldn’t take it in.

The owner of White Hall, he’s been dead a long while now. He had 10 sows and he used to fatten all the pigs up. Sometimes we had 70 or 80 and sometimes nearer 100. He used to fatten ten bullocks every year too. He had a pony and trap, and I used to see after the pony. I used to go Sunday mornings and I wasn’t allowed home until I’d harnessed his pony, put it in the trap, took it up to the gate and stood there while they got in. Then I could go home, about quarter to eleven. That’s how we were treated then, we weren’t treated very well, still, we got through it.

When I left there I went to Southolt Park and then I was called up in the army when I was 18. When I came out of the army I went to work at Sycamore Farm, Southolt and that’s how I met my wife. That’s how I met her. And I can tell you, I can see her standing there when I first see her.

I went up there to ask them for a job, and while I stood talking to him against the door this young girl, she come into the kitchen and she say, ‘Kiss your daddy goodnight, dear’ and I never did forget it. All them years ago. Sixty years ago, that’s a long while ago. She looked after the children, they all had a maid then. That’s where she was, and I worked, and that’s where we married from. I lived in Southolt until we moved into the council house.

When Poplar Farm and Grove Farm were bought in the same year, I think if I’m not mistaken they were about £1100 each. They were both the same size, just over 80 acres and I think that I’ve got the auction paper somewhere.

I believe that I started working at the Grove in 1938 and worked there for just over 30 years. They had six horses and I was a horseman right up till they sold the horses.  We farmed the two farms you see, well three farms really because we had a little farm, Oak Farm, at Fingal Street, just past the station. Then we farmed the rectory land, that’s laid down now you see, the Parson had it for horses.

The horses were kept at the Grove and it’s different to what it is now you know. People talk about times now, but by God they don’t know nothing. For years I got up at 5 o’clock in the morning to look after the horses, I baited them right up till they were sold.  They then had all tractors and I drove a tractor for the rest of the time.

We used to go from farm to farm, and that land was joined. That’s the funny thing because Poplar Farm and the Grove Farm were joined you could get from one to the other without coming round by the road. I had nothing to do with the Grange.  We had a few meadows but nothing much, the biggest part of it was corn and sugar beet.

I used to do the two farms, ploughing and drilling, everything like that. The field on the corner was Poplar Meadow. It was very heavy land, very heavy land. Draining, ditching, hedge cutting, I done all them.

It’s a funny thing, when the Grove house and land were sold they made over £100,000, I kept the paper. That was 86 acres and it was sold in lots. This field where these council houses are used to belong to the Grove, and I ploughed and drilled where this house stands. I farmed it a long while. That’s a funny thing, all these council houses, they’re all built on Grove land, it wouldn’t seem possible would it?

Wages, time off for harvest and carrying dinners

The wages weren’t high, that they wasn’t. Do you know what I got when I started work at 13? Two shillings and six pence a week. And on top of that we had to work 50 hours a week, well 54 in the summer time. I remember at one time, after rent, I had a little change out of a pound. I’ll read this to you, ‘Tenancy commenced 11th June 1938, rent 3 shillings and 6 pence a week’. See I told you that I had change out of a pound.

We used to have five weeks off for harvest. We used to carry the dinners because back then all men had their dinners out. If you lived a hundred yards away from the house you still had to have your dinner out. That was the custom. They used to have breakfast out, dinner out and ‘fourses’ out. They’d have beef pudding or pork dumpling, as we used to call them. We used to have to walk miles. You had to walk to wherever your father worked you see. They used to carry their breakfast and we used to take the dinner, and if that was too far off we used to carry the ‘fourses’ with dinner. Still we were happy enough.

Collecting water

Water was all outside in those days. We used to use water out of the pond, years we done that, right till I moved into the council houses. Bedgefield Road, well that’s where I lived and we used to get our water out of a stand pump. But there wasn’t a stand pump down our road, we had to cart all our water from the main road just round the corner. We used to have to go there with baths and pails for washing water and everything. Before they laid mains water and when I first went into the council house I used to cart all our water. I used to bring it round with a horse and water cart.

Keeping mementos

I keep all my things, they are interesting. I lost my wife you know, two year last February, we’d been married 58 years. I‘ve got our wedding certificate, pensions books, rent book, insurance.  You may not think it but I’ve got every rent card since I started with the council, all of them right from the start. The first rent card I had here was January 1950. I’ve got photos from when I was in the army. I’ve got one of Stanley Stern, I went to school with him. He’s been dead a long time. We weren’t in the same regiment, he was in the Machine Gun Corps and I was in the Royal Field Artillery.

I don’t know, I think that people were more happy and contented then than they are today. I think that it’s a case of the more you get the more you want.

Mr Baldry (b. 1924) recorded at Fingal Street near Diss, Norfolk, approximately 2007.

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