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Brian and Marion Read


Marion Read (née Cumby) remembers growing up on Low Farm, Postwick Lane
as told to Barbara Ayers

    Unusually for a Norfolk village, I would imagine, farming hasn’t featured prominently in Brundall’s history, at least not since the beginning of the twentieth century.  There was horticulture, Reads of Cucumber Lane and Morses Roses, but the only farms we’ve heard much about have been Gowings of Braydeston Hall and George Smith’s small farm where Braydeston Crescent is now.  It was very interesting therefore to meet Marion Read and hear in detail about her childhood at Low Farm, Postwick Lane, Brundall.
Marion was born in Langley in 1940 and moved with her parents to Low Farm, in September 1947.  They rented 72 acres from Norfolk County Council to start with, taking it over from Mr Littlewood, but after a little while 22 acres was taken away and made into two eleven acre smallholdings which were taken on by the Grooms and the Barbers.  Eleven acres was not enough however to make a living and you can read, on page 146 of The Book of Brundall, how Bob and Dot Barber used to have to take on other jobs in order to support their three children.
    There were cows, heifers, calves, bullocks, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese and a horse on Marion’s father’s farm and the crops were wheat, barley, oats, sugar beet, kale and mangel.  Eggs were sold to Knights who came from Stody Lodge at Melton Constable and at Christmas Marion’s mother used to ‘dress’ chickens and turkeys.  There were about 10 cows which were milked by hand at first and then there were machines that milked two cows at a time.  The milk was tested and if there wasn’t the required amount of fat you didn’t get paid so much for it and if it was too watery you were accused of diluting it.  Marshes at Acle were hired for the cattle during the summer and one year it was so dry that the milking cows were moved there which meant going night and morning to milk them.      There were only Marion’s parents working on the farm and one man, Victor Mayes.  Marion’s mother made butter and cheese.  She only started making cheese because sometimes, by the time the milk had ‘rattled round the countryside and got to the milk marketing dairy at Harford Bridges on the Ipswich Road it was sour’.  It would be returned to you the next day so rather than waste it Mrs Cumby made cheeses.  These were very popular with Marion’s teachers at Blofield School!
    The mangel and kale were cattle feed and the sugar beet was grown for the British Sugar Corporation at Cantley.  Sugar beet was very labour intensive:  You had to plant them with the drill and then the horse at the time hoed it up the middle of the rows and then men chopped them out with a hand held hoe to about eight inches apart and then at a later date they would come back again and would what they called second them, which is if there were two plants together they would separate them one from the other to leave just a single plant.  Then again when they were ready to be lifted to go to the factory for sugar they were pulled up by hand and a small tine fork was used to get them out of the ground.  They then had to be topped.  Before they were topped they had to be shaken to get the mud off them.  When you took them to the factory you were penalised if they had too much mud on them.  After some time a new machine was brought out which squeezed sugar beet out of the ground and left them in two rows to be shaken, topped, and gathered up into a heap for the lorry to pick up.
    Some of the fields were near the railway line and on two occasions a spark from a train set the ripe corn alight and the Acle Fire Brigade had to be called out.  The grain was cut with a binder and the children would chase the rabbits.  Some of the older men of the village like Mr Snelson and Albert and Lenny Greenacre used to help with the harvest and the threshing.  About eight sheaves were stood together in stooks so the wind would blow through to dry them and everyone hoped it wouldn’t rain too much!  It was then taken by tractor and cart to the stack yard where it was built into a stack and stored there until winter when it was threshed when the threshing machine came.  You hoped the grain was hard and you took a sample to the corn hall in Exchange Street.  It would be felt and even bitten to see if it was hard enough and they would offer a price.  The best price was given for barley if it was malting barley which was sold for beer.  As if all this wasn’t enough the Cumbys used to store Bramley apples outside in straw through the winter until March time and people would come to the door to buy them.  ‘They did get to taste of the straw a bit!’
    You won’t be surprised to learn that, after seeing at first hand the hard work for little reward of farming, Marion opted for office work on leaving school, much to her father’s disapproval.  She married Brian Read from Norwich at Brundall Church.

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