Do you remember long-lost St Julian's Farm?
- Credit: ©Colin and Mary Crofts
Nothing remains of St Julian’s Farm but memories...
The family of the last farmer Archie Muir have recalled what it was like farming at the Watling Street site after the war.
They left in 1955 and the whole area was bisected by the M10. All of the fields were replaced with streets and houses, that is, except Greenwood Park and St Julian’s Wood.
After one of the residents, an archaeologist and member of the Arc and Arc (SAHAAS), became fascinated by an old wall in his garden, an enthusiastic team led by Kate Morris has been exploring the history of St Julian’s ever since.
The farm was part of St Julian’s estate; the mansion vanished in 1800 but the barn and farm buildings lived on.
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Horses had been the ‘Chelsea tractors’ of their day and were given the best accommodation.
Fergus Muir recalls the stables were quite unlike the rest of the farm buildings: "What a handsome building it was! Obviously brick corners and 'framework', but those light coloured rectangular panels. I wonder if they were flint or clunch [hard chalk blocks]?
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"I think it had a tiled roof. The actual stable had a pretty substantial division between the stalls – much bigger than a cowshed one. Mangers, of course. The floor was designed for mucking out, with a channel just behind the horses. The floor, I think, of dark blue bricks with a walking surface in a deep criss-cross pattern, was a non-slip surface when wet.
"I have a pretty clear memory of being with my father when he fed the horses on a dark late
afternoon, I guess a Sunday, the horseman’s day off, in particular the very atmospheric yellow light of the oil hurricane lamp lighting.
"The horse’s saddles – really enormous ones – hung high up on the internal wall. They remained, long after the horses went. I suspect they hung there until the day we left. I have just one memory of a saddle being used.
"There were two Percherons and a shire horse. Dray horses were used as carthorses and they did some ploughing. Four ponies that did the milk round for the dairy were kept at the farm."
The farm had its own bull in the bull pen in the farmyard itself. The cows were shorthorn, a good all-round breed, but St Julian’s herd were not pedigree.
Stephen Muir tells how the cows were milked: "Milking involved a long day, five in the morning and three to 3.30 in the afternoon.
"Young stock cattle and dry cattle (not milking) were kept in loose boxes or in a field. Dairy cows each had a stall when they came in with food, salt and water.
"Milking was all done by hand: there were at least three milkers with three legged stools that went from cow to cow.
"A milking machine was installed sometime after 1947 because that is when electricity came to the farm. In the early war years they only had gas in the house."
The dairy was run by Bill Muir, Archie’s older brother, the head cowman was Albert Barratt, Harry Woodgate was another cow man and Ted Hickman was a stockman.
Stephen remembers Ted as being very old and that he lived in the cottage attached to the farmhouse with Miss Hickman who helped in the farmhouse.
The Whiting family, who had several sons, lived in one or more of the farm cottages. The second son, Douglas Whiting, was the tractor driver. The farmhouse cottage was occupied by Mr Bean, a cowman.
I would love to know if the farm workers of those days passed on stories of old times to their grandchildren. Families by name were Barrett, Bean, Childerley, Hadley, Hickman, MacNally, Seabrook, West, Whiting, Woodgate and Worbey. Others unknown may just have done seasonal work.
Fergus Muir contacted me in 2019 and introduced the Muir family to us. My heartfelt thanks for all their help in compiling this article.