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'The Arbury' - The Memories of Mr Cardinal - Part Three

Back to the Arbury 1930s/40s harvest...

The Arbury

Part Three

By Gordon Cardinal

The carts used were the two wheeled tumbrel carts. The sheaves would be pitched onto the cart with a long handled pitching fork as the cart moved from one 'stook' to the next. Whoever was leading the horse had to call to the man on the cart 'HOLD TIGHT!' as the cart began to move to the next stook - so the cry of 'HOLD TIGHT!' could be heard all around the Arbury fields.

After carting the corn, some fields would be gleaned with a spring tied horse rake and gathered up for the farm chickens. Gleanings were the ears of corn not picked up by the binder. If you didn't want anyone to glean your field, two sheaves of corn were left standing in the field. 

That was the sign for 'No Gleaning'.

Some of the Manor Farm corn was stacked in a field along Arbury Road, but most of the small holdings stacked their corn in the Rick Yard.

All the stacks were built square. One man would be the 'builder' and everything stacked as he said. As the stack was being finished, he would be standing in a space on the side of the stack - near the eave of the stack. This was known as the 'stage hole'. Then a light thatch roof of straw would be made over the stacks.

The Rick Yard would come alive again at Threshing Time. The big steam engine with the threshing machine would come along Arbury Road and up the Manor Farm drive. The engine would drive the belt which in turn drove the 'tackle'. The sheaves would be pitched into the 'drum' of the machine, and the corn would be 'threshed' out of the ears. The straw travelled through and came out in a bale at the other end. 

The corn came out of chutes at the side. Sacks were hooked to the chutes to catch the corn. As each sack became full, a shutter was pushed down, to allow you to hook up another sack. The sacks of corn would be loaded on to a cart and taken into a shed reserved for keeping the corn in.

The trouble would start as the stack got lower. Someone would run a roll of wire netting a few yards out all around the stack. Everyone made sure their trouser legs were firmly lifted up. We boys would arm ourselves with stout sticks. Men would bring their dogs and put them inside the wire. As the stack got lower, so the rats would start to run out of it. Lots and lots of rats. What a scene - men shouting, dogs barking and fighting rats, boys outside the wire running around to club the rats that jumped the wire.

The Rick Yard was certainly the place to see the action. I remember being told that on a clear day you could see Ely Cathedral from the top of a stack. Ely... what a long way away that seemed to us then!

As a field was nearly cut, men and their dogs would come and stand on the off-side of the cutting and wait for any rabbits or hares to run out.

When we were carting the fields next to any fruit trees, we would draw the horse and cart close to the trees so that the person on top could reach a few apples to share out.

Manor Farmhouse, Arbury Road circa the 1940s. At this point it was the home of County Land Agent Charles Bennett and his family. It stood opposite what is now the Arbury Town Park and Arbury Community Centre.

Of course, it wasn't all work back then - there would be the odd day out. The Arbury Road Baptist Church Sunday School outing to Hunstanton was an event we all looked forward to.

And we had fun on the Arbury.

I remember one year we found a couple of orange boxes in the Rick Yard at Manor Farm. We boys decided to make a boat and sail off up the watercourse, which crossed the farm. We made our boat and hid it in some bushes, down near the edge of the watercourse, where it was easy to launch, on a plot called 'Boy's Pit'.

On the day, we arrived with whatever food we could manage and launched the boat at 'Boy's Pit'. We got in, but we had not realised that wooden boxes would let in water.

We sank.

The rest of the day was spent drying out on the bank. It was more than we dared to go home wet.

The field name 'Boy's Pit' came about, so I was told, because, many years before we came on Arbury, a boy had drowned there. A lot of water used to flow in the watercourse and I expect the water was fairly deep at that point.

The listing of Manor Farm field names from the 1909 sale particulars. 'Boy's Pit' is written in plural here, but according to several people who contributed to the Arbury Archive in the 1980s, it should be singular. The tale was always of one poor, lost lad. Mrs Hinchcliffe, who spent many happy childhood days at the farm in the 1910s, said in 1986: 'There was one field name that gave us the creeps: "Boy's Pit". Some poor boy had drowned there years before.'


Part 4 of Mr Cardinal's 'The Arbury' is here.

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