John (Jack) Wales: Evocative walk; Earith farming 1930’s and earlier
(John Wales speaking and standing in Earith High Street)
Jewson’s gave casual work to many villagers, portering wood from barges to their yard.
But farming was the biggest Industry (around the area) and with the busy weekly market in St Ives livestock was put on the local train to Somersham and then distributed to local farms by pony and trap.
Earith was part of the parish of ‘Bluntisham cum Earith’ but in area was quite small in relation to Colne or Bluntisham, being enclosed on two sides by rivers so the bulk of the area was wash land, – land that flooded in the winter time but excellent grazing in summer, especially the dry ones.
There (were) only two actual farms in Earith — Rickyard Farm at the west end – 60 odd acres of arable surrounded by orchards of the Colne and Bluntisham fruit growers and New Farm owned by the County Council on the north side of the village but this was a very poor farm being on gravel land and subject to drought in a dry summer.
There were other farms of very good land but these were over the High Bridge in Haddenham parish and the Isle of Ely.
They were all farmed by Earith men and Earith men worked on them and two of them belonged to my Uncles.
The Harp Farm, buildings and cowsheds opposite the railway station, the land itself further down the causeway on the left just past Gipsy Corner and farmed by Herbert Hard then, on the right Hermitage Farm owned by Mr. Wright — a large farm employing a lot of men from Earith and Haddenham, and still going today.
The row of cottages at West End on the left were owned and housed men from this farm.
A drove ran past the Hermitage Farm down to Snows Farm owned by my Uncle Harry Dring and another Uncle, Ted Burling, farmed down Cracknell Drove which led off Long Drove which went to Aldreth.
The whole of the centre of Earith, bounded by Back Lane, Meadow Drove, Cooks Drove, was all orchards and most of the land down Earith Fen and all the washes, of course, were grass.
With all the grass the emphasis was on cattle and horses for grazing and especially cows for milking and there were at least 15 or 16 herds of cows in Earith.
About half of these were classed as big herds employing milkmen, as it was all done by hand, about 10 or 12 cows and the others of 3 to 5 cows were milked by their owners before they went off to other work.
Earith was full of little, independent men earning their own living perhaps milking 2 or 3 cows, farming a 2 acre smallholding and having a small orchard and growing not only top fruit but soft fruit like gooseberries, red and black currants as well.
All the transport was by pony and trap, or horse and cart, and the railway, which took away the milk in the mornings and delivered the papers.
The fruit went to London and the Northern markets in the afternoons.
(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)