Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’

Maintaining some tension in a rope

July 2, 2016

This item was recently given to us at Market Lavington Museum. It came, originally, from Vicarage Farm in Easterton.

rope tension weight for use with horses in stables

Rope tension weight for use with horses in stables

This is a roughly made metal ball, a little smaller than a cricket ball, with a large hole right through it. It had an agricultural use in the days of horses.

Imagine a horse tied up in a stable at the end of a hard day’s work. It needed to be able to sit or stand and have some chance to stretch its legs. But if given a long rope there was a chance it could get its legs tangled in it which would do it no good at all.

The solution was simple. The lead from the horse was passed through a substantial loop fastened to the wall. Then the lead was passed through this ball and then the free end of the lead was fastened to the wall. The sketch below might give the idea.


Using the tension weight

The weight on the rope meant there was always a small amount of tension that kept it taut near the horse. Of course, the horses were hefty farm animals used to hauling heavy loads. A metal (sometimes they were wooden) ball on a rope was no problem to such a beast.

Thanks to Philip and Elizabeth for this interesting item.


A ploughing match at Market Lavington

January 20, 2016

The following extract appeared in The Cottagers Companion for September 1837.


This appears to have been quite a local concern judging by the premium winners. But it seems even the losers were awarded five shillings which is 25p in present money. But someone getting an income of 25p in 1837 would be getting something like £350 now – not a bad sum for losing!

But perhaps the big winner was the farmer who allowed his land to be used. In a few hours he has had quite a few acres ploughed – about 10 if most of the 21 entrants completed their half acre.

It is interesting to see that oxen were used for two classes and clearly were not as speedy as the horses.

There are still ploughing matches in Wiltshire. The Bath and Trowbridge Ploughing Society are holding one on 4th April at Oxstall Farm, Bradford on Avon.

Threshing in 1976

November 5, 2015

We have seen something of this occasion in a blog post in September 2012 but this colour snap catches the dust and grime of the threshing process.

Threshing in Market Lavington - 1976

Threshing in Market Lavington – 1976

Now let’s be clear. This was not normal back in 1976 although it would have been back in the 1950s. By 1976 tank combines, similar to today’s leviathans but much smaller, held sway. But a few farmers then (and now) saw a profit in the straw which could be kept neat and tidy and bundled for thatching. One such farmer was the redoubtable Roger Buckle and this is his threshing kit in use alongside Spin Hill back in the summer of 1976. Threshing wasn’t usually a summer job but then 1976 was the year of the drought and there was no need to leave stooks out to dry and then stack them for attention later. Sheaves of binder cut corn were carted straight from field to threshing machine. A part of a trailer with sheaves can be seen behind the thresher.

It was a labour intensive process. Roger Buckle is the big chap up top and he was feeding the sheaves into the thresher. A chain of chaps were making sure sheaves arrived as needed by Roger, some pitching them up of the trailer and Roger’s assistant would have them ready so that he never stopped feeding them into the machine.

The sacking man made sure sacks of grain were filled and fastened and then joined the stack of sacks.

At the far end of this thresher there is a device called a reed comb which gathered the de-grained straw, made sure it was neat and tidy and tied it into suitable thatching bundles. Another person was needed to manage that end of the machine.

And some poor chap had the grotty job, working in the dust of the chaff which fell out of the bottom of the threshing machine. It was important to keep that under machine space clear so that the threshing drum did not clog up with rubbish.

What a grand sight.

Tractors: Market Lavington leads the way.

June 26, 2015

Today we are looking at an article published in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald on April 19th 1973. But it is about an event which took place in 1916 – the first use of a tractor in South West England.

The tractor was being trialled by T H White and Co, originally a Market Lavington company and the 1973 article was to mark the company moving into newer premises in Devizes.

Back in 1916, a tractor was clearly worthy of a photo and here is the photo, as published in 1973.

The first tractor in the West of England - Market Lavington, 1916

The first tractor in the West of England – Market Lavington, 1916

We are reminded, of course, of how much newspaper technology has moved on in the last 40 years. But the caption is clear to read.


The article was written by T J Witchell who was an apprentice with T H Whites back in 1916. It’s well worth a read.


Click the image to see a larger version


Of course, the Market Lavington interest is that Mr Watts was the farmer at Church Farm.  Does this mean Knapp Farm?

Now we’d love a real copy of that photo. Has anybody got one they could let us copy?

A view of the village in the 1960s

June 9, 2015

The presence of Lavington Hill and Salisbury Plain is a draw for photographers, keen to get what looks like an aerial view of Market Lavington. This one dates from the 1960s so is fifty years old now.

Market Lavington from the Downs - 1960s

Market Lavington from the Downs – 1960s

This would be taken from somewhere near where the reservoir is now. We can see the road down Lavington Hill wending downwards from near the bottom left corner. The village itself looks distant and is not amazingly distinct. We can make out St Mary’s church near the left.

The village and the church

The village and the church

Perhaps most interesting is the farm trailer on the recently cultivated strip.

The trailer on the hill

The trailer on the hill

This now has the look of something from past times, which, indeed, it is. A small two wheeled trailer is laden with small bales of the kind that a single person can manhandle. The load looks like hay but these days that area is always arable so it is more likely straw. For comparison let’s look at a bit of May 2015 grass cutting.

2015 farming - poles apart from the methods of the 1960s

2015 farming – poles apart from the methods of the 1960s

A huge 4 wheel drive tractor is travelling at high speed (20 mph?) through a field being cut for silage. It cuts a huge swathe on each pass. One cutter is in front of the tractor and two others are to the side and behind. The tractor cab roof bristles with lamps. A field of several acres is cut in a quarter of an hour. This would all be beyond the imagination of the 1960s farmer.

A show schedule

June 5, 2015

This is another recent gift from items discovered at Spring Villa. It’s an agricultural show schedule from 1902.

Wiltshire Agricultural Show schedule for 1902

Wiltshire Agricultural Association show schedule for 1902

OK, so what’s its specific connection with our parish? Well first of all, it was where it was found and secondly local farmers were almost certainly exhibitors. But mostly this schedule would have been put together by the secretary of the Wiltshire Agricultural Association and he was James Welch who lived at Spring Villa. He’s named on the back of the schedule.

James Welch of Market Lavington was the association secretary

James Welch of Market Lavington was the association secretary

The schedule lists all the different classes of item which could be exhibited and which might win a prize. The value of the prize is given. Most of the classes are for livestock. There are 21 different classes for horses plus extras for harness etc. Sheep and pigs have four classes each and for cattle there were 15 different classes.

For this blog we have chosen the cheese category. Wiltshire is not now a county we associate with cheese.

The different cheese categories

The different cheese categories

Clearly cheese making had been important. Class 50 is for the best one hundredweight (just about 50 kg) cheese – Wiltshire make and class 51 was only for past or present students at Wilts County Council Cheddar Cheese schools.

And clearly, from class 52 we can see that North Wilts cheese must have been different from Wilts cheese.

Cheese was produced in Market Lavington. The cheesemaker we know of was Mr Seymour who operated at Frieth Farm in the extreme north of the parish.

Work at Homestead Farm in the 1950s

May 27, 2015

Homestead Farm was just beyond where St Barnabas School now stands up Drove Lane which was once called Cemetery Lane because there is a cemetery just below the school.

It was never a big farm but in those days of yore a small farm could support a hard working family. The hard working family at Homestead Farm was a branch of the Gye family and in the photo below we can see that they had enough income to run to a tractor.

A loose hay stack looks to be under construction, brought in on a trailer which might well have had a horse drawn origin.


Work at Homestead Farm in the 1950s

Work at Homestead Farm in the 1950s

We believe Mrs Gye is standing on the stack whilst her husband is forking material up from the side. A girl, probably Betty, is standing on the right in front of the stack.

There is clearly a small pen surrounding a hen house. This doesn’t look much like egg production for sale, but rather for domnestic need. In the distance we look over the top of Northbrook, down into the village centre and then up to Lavington Hill and Salisbury Plain.

Let’s take a closer look at the tractor and people.

That looks like a grey Fergie!

That looks like a grey Fergie!

The tractor looks like a Fergusson, the ubiquitous tractor of its day and these days often called ‘little grey Fergies’. Mr Wordley, the agricultural engineer based in the Market Place certainly sold these tractors but possibly not this one with registration LWV 899. That would seem to have been first registered in Wiltshire. Possibly somebody can tell us a date of manufacture.

It isn’t the clearest of photos but it certainly tells us a story of times past.

The Farmer’s Guide of 1925

April 13, 2015

Commercial companies exist to sell their products or services. The Farmer’s Guide was really an advertising magazine produced by Carters, the seed company. It was quite lavish back in 1925 with a colourful front cover designed to imply that you’d get prize winning crops if you used Carter’s seeds.

The Farmer's Guide - a Carter's seed catalogue for 1925

The Farmer’s Guide – a Carter’s seed catalogue for 1925

That’s a fine picture of Carter’s pedigree roots – awarded the premier prize at the London Dairy Show of 1924.

Inside the pages are all black and white, but still well illustrated.


One of the joys of this 90 year old farm magazine is the reminder that farming was very different back then. In 1925 the horse still reigned almost unchallenged and the scene of the farmer loading his trailer with enormous cabbages seems like something from a near forgotten country idyll.

Apart from the reminder of just how many horses there were, modern people would do well to realise that grass is a major farm crop and may have cost a considerable amount to plant.


One more page – the autumn harvest!


Here we have horses and children at work, harvesting the oats

This is a lovely item. Sadly it is a tad fragile and so doesn’t come out on display very often.



January 8, 2015

Flax is a field crop not grown all that much locally although we understand that the need for cloth – linen is made from flax – meant much more was grown during World War II.

In more recent years flax made something of a comeback and its gentle blue flowers, for many of us, compared very favourably with the garish yellow of the oil seed rape.

Here we see a field of flax in the year 2000.

Flax growing in Market Lavington in the year 2000

Flax growing in Market Lavington in the year 2000

This field, behind the former petrol station where Shires Close now stands, had once been the village ‘rec’ or recreation ground

This field had once been the village Recreation Ground

This field had once been the village Recreation Ground

It’s a pretty looking crop so it’s rather a shame it isn’t grown more.

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering

December 22, 2014

We are looking, today, at an aerial photo which shows the area where Rochelle Court now stands. We think this photo dates from the mid-1960s.

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering - mid 1960s

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering – mid 1960s

Let’s try to get our bearings here – for the area was wholly different back then. It was occupied by Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering which had formerly been Wordley’s.

Down at the bottom right of the photo we are looking at The High Street.

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering - mid 1960s

Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering – mid 1960s

Chimneys on this side of the road are on the Green Dragon. The white building facing us was Harry Hobb’s shop. It is now a private house.


At bottom left we have the Market Place – then as now a car park. The white house we see is The Market House (number 4 Northbrook). It still stands. The black area was hard standing for ‘Wilts Ag’.

At top right we have the building which was once the Vicarage.


That, of course still stands and is now a part of the nursing home.

Now this area has entirely vanished and is now Rochelle Court


We are looking at the offices of Wilts Ag which had once been a part of Ivydene – home of Fred Sayer, the bus company man.