Memories of Boot Farm and Court Farm by Doreen Boston (nee Hood)
Letter sent to Whittington History Society 21st January 2009
- The two farms were originally farmed by Charles Boston (Grandad) and his two sons, Charles and Wilfred. (Whilst initially at Court Farm, Charles and Lucy + young Charles William had to swap houses with Wilfred and Hilda at Boot Farm.)
- Charles William joined them when he left school to farm under C. Boston & Sons. They farmed about 50 acres, some owned and some rented.
- They grew: corn, hay, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbage, sprouts, carrots, swedes, parsnips, leeks, onions, beetroot, peas (years ago).
- Some land was left as grassland as they usually had about a dozen cattle reared for meat (including a cow for milking). The cattle were kept at Court Farm where the cowsheds were. It was always a bind to go out for the day and have to come back to do the milking! No electricity in the cowshed. Had lanterns!
- Pigs were kept at Boot Farm and one was killed for family use – the deep cellar under Boot Farmhouse was as good as a fridge in which to store the various cuts from the pig. Bacon was hung on the wall (as in other houses). We (my family at Wall) did that.
- Poultry (hens) were also kept in a big poultry pen at Boot Farm for eggs. (Pen later used as farm shop.) Cockerels were also kept for selling at Christmas and the back kitchen was a mass of feathers when plucking and dressing them for Christmas. (I always used to get fowl fleas when I went in the poultry pen – they liked me, Doreen!) Court Farm always had turkeys and there was a similar situation there at Xmas. Turkeys were more of a nuisance as they would be difficult to get in at night – roosting in the trees, etc!)
- Charles William and his dad, Charles, were the “mechanically-minded” side of the two families for farming and had two tractors and a lorry kept at Boot Farm, together with the farm implements. Wilfred preferred working with horses (I believe they had shire horses before I knew them). Contractors were brought in to do the dirty and dusty threshing of corn (Hentons) – the corn would be taken to the mill at Elford for grinding. Later, of course, combines came into use instead of threshing.
- Charles William was an only son, but Wilf and Hilda had four children – Winnie (midwife) – knows all the children in the area, having brought them into the world! (now retired and living at Armitage); Freda (PE teacher) taught at the Central School in Lichfield (where the Police Station is now) – married locally to David Swift – divorced and moved to New Zealand to teach – married again out there and had one son (paraplegic); Brenda (teacher) who married and lives at Leicester (has 3 children) and Trevor (works at Thorn Automation) and lives in bungalow by Court Farm (has two sons).
- There was no one to carry on farming after Charles William – all children deciding on other careers – so land owned was rented to Robert Gray, whose family had been good friends over the years.
- Charlie’s Mum was very hard working and grew lots of things in the garden to sell – rhubarb, lettuce, raspberries, tomatoes in a greenhouse, lovely sweetpeas, which she bunched up to sell (they were a picture to see from the road as you went by) and pyrethums (also bunched up to sell). She made jam and did bottled fruit; fruit trees were grown at the top of the farmyard. She made wreaths (from holly) at Christmas. She worked in the fields helping potato and pea picking, etc., and sold stuff at the door. She was also a very good cook; used to make Rabbit and Pigeon Pies. Always made a large Christmas Cake which lasted until Easter. The “men” would go in for an afternoon cup of tea and a slice of cake in the afternoon. When they worked within view of Boot Farm, she would stand in the field and signal “T” with her hands. She made butter from the top of the milk which would be kept in the cellar (collecting milk from several days until enough left to whip up). Made lovely Victoria Sandwich cakes as well.
- Also she, Charlie’s Dad and Charlie were very keen whist players. Went regularly to Whist Drives in the area and were lucky at winning prizes. She had family whist drives at home (which Rose Beckett will tell you). She also entered lots of competitions and won many prizes. The family did not have holidays until I came on the scene! The money from selling the garden produce was used towards buying a car for the family. They also had one of the first TVs.
Charlie Boston Senior
- Charlie’s Dad was equally hard working (although in his day Sundays were not working days) and was very good with mechanical things and with making things. He also did photography in his younger days. He was in the 1st World War and we have his medals and letters written from Ypres (I think you have seen these, Sue). We also have a framed photo of him in his uniform. He was wounded and sent back to England. Still had shrapnel in his arm when he died.
- Charlie Snr used to travel to Birmingham market with vegetables on a horse and cart when Charlie was young, starting in the very early hours of the morning. They subsequently bought a lorry and used to sell cauliflowers in Burton market off the back of it. They also supplied Jones Greengrocers’ shop in Burton with vegetables. The families were good friends. Subsequently it was decided that a stall was required instead of a lorry and none were available, so they stopped going to Burton.
Doreen Boston (nee Hood)
- Like all wives of farmers, I was expected to help with the farming! (Loved it.) I have been hoeing; potato planting (an extremely dusty and dirty job with soil and grit on your face and in your eyes), picking, loading, sorting and camping potatoes; plant setting on back of planter; loading cauliflowers for market and selling off lorry at Burton; leek setting (see photos); pulling carrots and camping them. (Local pickers were employed for potatoes and carrots.) Have been out in all weathers and got soaked and mud splattered. The weather was always a problem. We wanted sunshine in one field for the hay and for the corn and rain in another for plant setting! Having no irrigation, it was a worry for the plants when it was dry. I think it was 1976 which was a very dry year when we tried watering some cauliflowers in the field opposite the school with saucepans!!
- I worked as a Local Government Officer, initially in the Town Clerk’s Office at Lichfield City Council at the Guildhall and subsequently, on amalgamation with Lichfield Rural District Council – following Local Government re-organisation in 1974 – at District Council House (formerly Rural Council House) for 42 years. Following my marriage in 1959 and then having my daughter, I went back to work part-time at first and then full-time (another part of Charlie’s mum’s life was looking after Linda for me). I covered all types of subjects whilst working – at the City Council: Committee work, Land Charges, Quarter Sessions, Council House Sales and Mortgages to name but a few. On moving to Lichfield District Council, I dealt with Council House Sales and Mortgages in the Chief Executive’s Department. Then moved to Audit Section in the Treasurer’s Department for 4 years and back to the Chief Executive’s Department to be Secretary to Director of Administration (Ken Brownlow) (the photo is with his successor, Joe Meakin). Following Joe Meakin’s departure to pastures new, I became Secretary to the Chief Executive (John Thompson) until I retired in 1995.
- Whilst working part and then full-time, it was always a case of “can you come and help us with plant setting, potato setting, etc, etc. I enjoyed doing farm work though, working outside – still prefer to do outside things. Thinking back, I don’t know how I managed to do everything. We had no income for 3 months, however, in the summer from the farming, so it was a good job I was working. Unlike today, though, we saved for what we had and were not living off the bank!
Charles William Boston
- Charlie was a modest, quiet, gentle, unassuming honest and trustworthy man, with a gentle sense of humour, who was always happiest in his own environment. He loved his home-life, family, friends and his beloved cat.
- He always had youngsters out of the village around him when he was working, eg potato picking, wanting to help or ride on the tractor and trailer; he was very much a part of their lives.
- Charlie was born on 31st May 1926 in Church Street, Whittington (opposite Court Farm) – NOT a Nurse Darby baby, but the last one before she came.
- He moved to Court Farm with his family at 7 years of age. He went to the local Village School and passed a scholarship for the Grammar School, cycling to Lichfield with Doug Deakin. He went there until he was 16 and then left school to work on the farm with his Dad and his Uncle Wilf.
- When he was young he was in the Church Choir for a while. He also joined the Youth Club and liked playing table tennis. He loved cricket and having played it at school, he then played for Whittington, mainly as a batsman, where he was known as “Dabber”! When he was Secretary he spent many hours trying to find players for the team each week. He was also Captain and did win the Cup one year. He also used to run Whist Drives for the Cricket.
- During the War he was in the Fire Service.
- Charlie loved playing Whist. He used to go to Whist Drives with his Mum and Dad and in fact met Doreen at a Whist Drive at Wall. He went to two whist drives a week in recent years until Christmas last year.
- He was married to Doreen at Wall Church in 1959 and had his bungalow “Chareen” built where they have remained happily throughout their married life. Linda, their daughter (a Nurse Darby baby) was born there and she was always Charlie’s “pride and joy”.
- Charlie started selling vegetables at home in quantity and a “farm shop” grew up. Everyone knew “Charlie’s Farm Shop” – it was never advertised. He grew good quality, tasty, unwashed vegetables at low prices (it was obvious he would never be a millionaire!) and people came from miles around to buy. He was specially noted for his carrots; they were so tasty.
- Charlie never fully retired. He was keen on his big garden, still growing his vegetables. He enjoyed working in the garden, but was restricted following a slight stroke in 1999. He made a fairly good recovery and during the early years was able to get about and do some gardening. He was, however, helped tremendously by his friend, Dickie Moore, without whom life would have been very difficult. He was indeed “a friend in need” not just in gardening, but in every other way, and Charlie thought the world of him.
- Initially an Aston Villa Football fan, he changed his allegiance to become a very big Walsall Football fan. He and Doreen travelled frequently to Fellows Park before Walsall FC moved to Bescot. They only went there a couple of times, but Charlie would not miss listening to Radio WM every Saturday to hear the game or results.
- Charlie’s daughter, Linda married Chris in 1989 and they live in the old farmhouse. They have two boys, Alex, who is 11 and James, who is 9. James seems keen on cricket, so the family hope he will follow in his grandad’s footsteps.
Well, that is life on Boston’s farming from my point of view. I have digressed at times and no doubt the other Boston family (Court Farm) will have different views on things. I hope I haven’t said anything to upset them.
My daughter, Linda, and her family, as you will know, live at Boot Farm and it is now very different from when Charlie’s family lived there. She has retained the character of the house, with the beams and furniture, etc, but it is now much cosier with an Aga and central heating. It has also been extended and a double garage built. If only the old people could see it (or can they?!) Coal fires in the old kitchen, where you snuggled up to keep warm (& got chilblains!) and made toast with a toasting fork are long gone. The old brick-built wash tub in the scullery where you boiled the clothes and spent all day doing the washing and hanging it out after scrubbing the dirt out of the clothes (and having cold meat, mashed potatoes & piccalilli (made by Charlie’s mum) for dinner on Mondays, those days are far gone with washing machines and driers. Also having to go outside to the old brick built lavatory in the cold, although the cellar was filled in – with oil lamps etc! – and the pantry demolished to make an inside toilet, whilst Charlie’s mum was alive and a bath installed in one of the bedrooms.
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