Mrs Barrett, a lady farmer in Marston Vale, talks with her husband and Carmela about her experience in coming to live in Brogborough
“So, tell me what was it like for you because although you had grown up in the country you had been in service so you were sort of, kind of, worked most of the time in service. What was it like to go and work on the farm?
(Mrs Barrett) Oh I loved it.
You liked it. Wasn’t it more hard work than in service though?
(Mrs Barrett) Well, it was hard work but it was like totally different and I just liked the open air and the freedom sort of. Then, I mean when I was in service, you had to do as you were told, whereas to work on the farm, especially with my fiancé as was then, it was a bit different, y’know.
Is it because there was romance around it was more attractive than perhaps it could have been?
(Mrs Barrett) I suppose it helped, I suppose it did help. But I just enjoyed it all and… I’d already started to hand milk when I was tiny, well, tiny, ten, eleven, via one of my friends. Her father had some cows and I did learn to hand milk then. Then when I went to work on the farm I really took it up, and we had the house cow until we started milking again. I can’t remember when that was. But I used to milk this house cow, her two calves… they had to be killed when they had the foot and mouth, which was a shame.
So then you got married after you’d farmed a while and then, we talked about this last week, you moved to Bedfordshire, how did you feel about moving here, leaving your family behind and… ?
(Mrs Barrett) I was quite happy doing… Yes. The fact was that where we lived was a small little house we were sharing with Dick’s mother and sister. His younger sister was home then and it was nice to think we’d have a big house we could split it in two, share it. And of course the war was just finishing then.
(Mr Barrett) That’s not, that finished!
So you came to look at the place and you liked it?
(Mrs Barrett) I’ll tell you a story about that too. We found this farm in the Farming Weekly, to let. The agents were JR Eve and Sons in Mill Street, Bedford, but to get there then,there was petrol rationing still. So we cycled from our farm in Berkshire, we cycled to Oxford and got on the train into Bedford. We went down to see JR Eve and Sons in the estate office and we were sat there being interviewed by the old gentleman in there and he sat and looked at my husband’s hands. I can see him doing it now, and he realized that he’d worked with his hands, and I think that went towards getting us this farm. Anyway, we had a taxi out from Bedford to North Common Farm… we walked around and looked over the fields and what not, then we had to walk up to Ridgmont Station, get the train back to Oxford and then cycle fourteen miles back home to our farm. But that was how we came to look up here.
And you were pleased with what you saw?
(Mrs Barrett) Ooh yes, it was ideal as far as we were concerned, ’cause we hadn’t looked at anything else, had we dear? And the house of course was big, it had five bedrooms and plenty of downstairs rooms and … all the cowsheds and big old barn, it was ideal.
Did you feel very excited about this move, you were going to start your new life here, a nice big place and a new place?
(Mrs Barrett) Oh yes, yes. I mean we were, I was twenty-one, yes, something like that. I mean I was already pregnant with my second child then… oh yes, it was all hunky dory, yes!
You told me about the differences in the farm land and the work that you did… apart from rearing calves what else did you do that was involvement with the farm?
(Mrs Barrett) Well, almost anything that wanted an extra pair of hands. When we first came up to Bedfordshire we had two men working for us ’cause I had the children little then. I couldn’t do as much then but as the years passed we finished up with only one man working and, Dick and him alternated with the milking. And then as the children grew up, I mean my daughter was born in ’51 and after that I really got going. I mean all through the seasons, haymaking and harvest, they always wanted more help. My sister and I used to stand each side of a big baler, push the wires through to tie up the bales. I can’t remember… There again with the thrashing they wanted a bigger side, we would help them with thrashing. Mind the thrasher didn’t last long because combines came in and we didn’t do as much arable as Alf did we? We went a bit… But I mean there was all the housework to do and I did have an automatic washing machine later on, can’t remember what year… But of course where we came from we did have electric run by a generator, but when we came to Bedfordshire it was mains electric.
Was that better?
(Mrs Barrett) Ooh yes, because I had an electric cooker and eventually I had a Hoover.
So was it a kind of modern farm in comparison to what you were used to?
(Mrs Barrett) Well, the house was older but the buildings were more modern weren’t they love?
(Mr Barrett) Outside toilet!
(Mrs Barrett) Yes, when we first came up to Bedfordshire we didn’t have an indoor toilet, it was outside in a bucket… ”