Nigel’s mum Irene (nee Fletcher/later Segrave) and father Franz Schoepp lived in one of a pair of cottages on the corner of Church St, opposite the Church & Manor Lodge. Irene’s mother had married Allen Segrave and he had bought the cottages when the manor was sold off around 1950.
Nigel’s father Franz was a (German Czech) P.O.W. who had been conscripted towards the end of the war and captured after about only 3 weeks. He had spent a year in Maryland, USA working on the land where the locals were sympathetic, then given a choice of going back to his native home (where there was still problems between Germans and Russians) or going to the UK. He chose the latter and worked on various farms as a P.O.W. such as Willow Farm, Haslingfield run by Winton-Smith, producing meat products. While working on a local farm in Harston he met Irene, Allen Segraves’ stepdaughter and they married. Franz worked on the Seagrave farm for about 10 years, then worked for the Willers- carpenters/wheelwrights.
Frank Swan married Dorcas (Allen Segrave’s sister) and their adopted daughter, Peggy married Victor Clarke. Frank had a house next to Green Man Lane. After Frank died Peggy & Vic moved to another house- possibly one Frank had owned.
Nigel’s early life
When Nigel was 4 years old he moved to Charity Farm (their home farm) where his grandfather Allen Seagrave lived, as he liked farming, and stayed there until after he was married. Nigel’s family then lived in Queen’s Close for 23 years and later moved into Hurrells Row.
When Nigel first started at Harston School in Jan 1956 his classroom was in the Village Hall. He is the boy to the right in the photo. At one time they had a whole series of school films shown at the village hall, including the Keystone Cops. By the spring term Nigel’s class moved into the new infant block which had two new classrooms. Pupils started at three dates through the year so new children came in at Easter into the new classroom. The old playground still had its old walls around it, with two gates- one at each end to give access to the new playground that stretched towards the new infant block. Next to the infant block, where the swimming pool is now, there was an old climbing frame at various levels that they all climbed on despite the fact that it was always broken- no worries about health and safety then. The Pemberton Arms allotments were next to the school when Nigel was there but later when the school hall was built around 1971 a new road was built off Station Road to it and the allotments became the new school playing fields.
When Nigel was at Melbourn Village College from 1962-66 Long’s coaches used to do the school run and used to park the coaches at the top of New Rd (before more houses were built there) or in Manor Close where the Longs lived. They ran 3 old Bedfords, but did update with some newer coaches. They also ran outings and trips for groups of people. Bill Long ran the coaches with son Richard.
Nigel’s first job was with The Eastern Counties Bus Company where he worked for 5 years as a trainee fitter. He went back to Charity Farm and worked there for 13 years. Because Charity Farm is so close to Harston the Seagrave family have been more linked to Harston than Haslingfield even though it is in the latter parish.
One of his early memories of Charity farm in the 1950s was when he was put on the back of a large horse that was taken to the Lawrances for shoeing just when horses were being phased out. At the age of 4 Nigel worked on the tractor before school- he knew how to stop/start the tractor while the adults put the bags of potatoes on. Then a law came in so children couldn’t drive the tractor till they were 13years old. The tractors and ploughs would go across fields but if they had to go on the roads you had to put straps around the metal spikes on the wheels.
Nigel has a distinct memory of walking behind his dad, Franz, Stuart and John Seagrave while they scythed a ‘headland’ round the edge of the field to give the binder room to work as it cut the corn to the side of it and threw it out the other side. Later on they didn’t bother to do this job, just allowing the binder to throw what was cut onto the field and lads/men would pick it up out of the crop and put it on the edge of the field out of the way for the next time round with the binder. They bought the binder in the 1950s and used it till the 1960s (as combine harvesters later combined the cutting and threshing- when they had the Eversden farm). They still used the binder in the 1960s for oats as it ripened unevenly so they would cut it, stack it to dry and thrash it later in winter. Once the grain crop was cut and the machine tied it into sheaves/bundles, the men put about 8 of the bundles into a shock- probably 6 leaning together and one at each end, which were left to dry out in the fields. They were threshed later, during winter, in the yard. This was usually done by a contractor who went round yard to yard. Men from each of the farms would join to create a gang of threshers who went round to each other’s farms, about 10, to do the threshing. The grain would then be stored in bins/silos on Willow Farm in Harston.
The Seagraves were also agricultural contractors- doing jobs for other people who didn’t have the equipment such as combining and hedge cutting. The Seagraves used their binder to cut the crops for Trigg Farm as the Thompsons had no machinery, then the Thompsons would deliver coal to the Seagraves farm. This contract work also included clearing the Green area in Queen’s Close and seeding it, in the 1950s. Nigel remembers that when they used the combine on the Hurrell’s fields behind Queen’s Close, all the children came out to watch.
The Seagraves also used to farm land they rented from the Arnolds in the Manor, including the Mill Field and Long meadow between the Barrington footpath and the river opposite the church and mill in Harston. The meadows were used for cattle and hay. When the Mill was shut they re-routed the river around it and put a weir in. The spoil they dug out was put on the old meadow and ruined it, as it was never levelled out and lots of Willow was allowed to grow. The footbridge also went when the Trow firm created an extension to the Mill buildings. After Smith sold the Mill, Jackie Green bought it but cut right through the drive wheel so that ended its use as a mill.
There was also a small dairy herd at Charity Farm. They would walk the cattle to graze on the Long Meadow by the river and sometimes they grazed them on the side of the road to Haslingfield, not something you could do with today’s traffic. The milk was picked up on a daily basis by the milk marketing board- they would pick up and take away the churns put out on stands. They also had chickens and Nigel can remember his Nan? washing the eggs and packing them into big cardboard egg trays ready for them to be picked up by lorries to take them to the Packing Station at Soham. Every day there would be someone picking up or delivering something. One man came every Thursday to sell books, clothes, etc- his Nan calling him Friday Face. People had more time to chat then, too. Smart’s grain merchant would come and chat to Allen Seagrave when he came to buy grain or sell them seed – perhaps a new variety. On different days would come the baker, or butcher or the co-op van. Nigel’s Nan had an order book she would note down what she wanted and give it to the delivery man and he would find it all from his van. In winter Wren’s fish & chip van would come from St Neots to the village on Wednesday lunch time and at 9pm on Friday nights. Someone had to stand outside the farm at night to catch the van as it left Harston Village and passed the farm on the way to Haslingfield. The fish and chip man would hammer on a metal plate on the side of the van to make people aware he was there. In summer there would be 10 children waiting on the Button End corner or by the bridge for the van. Nigel’s mum bought their daily needs from the Grocers at 1 Church Street, initially run by Harrisons, then by Samuels. Nigel also went there on Saturday mornings to get a fresh loaf.
In addition to Charity Farm, which was their base, but rented from the council, the Seagraves also had fields (but no yard) in the Eversdens and bought Willow Farm and the small area of land with it in Harston. Willow farm land had originally belonged to the Wisbeys who sold it after they stopped digging at the adjoining gravel pits and moved on to create the gravel pits at Hauxton in the 1950s (ended by 1970s). They had one field there and one crop a year- wheat, barley, sugar beet. The sugar beet went to Harston Station then by train to Ely to the factory there. At Willow Farm Stuart used to have about 60 breeding sows with the piglets fattened all the way through and John reared cattle, probably renting land at Grantchester to graze cattle. The pigs would be taken to Garhans in Coldhams lane to be slaughtered or Playalls at Bassingbourn, who had their own shop in Royston. John had about 40 cattle which he fattened then sold at the Cambridge Cattle Market in Cherry Hinton Rd (where cinema now is). Willow Farm now acted as a base for all the crops to come in from the Eversdens to be stored before it was sold to grain merchants or some used to feed the animals while they had them in the 1980s. The first building on Willow farm went up in the 1950s but it didn’t really take off until the 1970s, with more buildings being added as they gradually transferred everything- pigs, cattle, machinery- from Charity farm, as they could see they would not be able to retain the tenancy from the council. (Although Allen Segrave had bought two cottages on the corner of church St for £300 around 1950 he didn’t have the wherewithal to buy Charity Farm from the council). From about the mid-1980s the Willow Farm yard use gradually changed as the pig and cattle numbers declined. Since then the buildings have been let out to 3 or 4 different tenants. (Mike Mills who does Grounds Working, a firm that put TV cables into new homes, Gig Tents for hire- Shamas? and Charles White stores his coach there). At one time Jill Thorne lived in a double decker bus on Willow farm land- in fact she had two spells of living there. Look East interviewed her and when asked ‘do you have running water’ she replied ‘yes, through the roof and down the walls’! A Museum, Nigel thinks from Ipswich, saw her on TV and as she was intending to move asked if they could have the bus. They had to bring a new set of tires to put on the bus before it could be taken away.
Charity farm land was originally split into two fields, with two different tenancies. Together there was about 70 acres. A track divided the two fields and local people they knew used to use this more direct track to walk, cycle or ride to Barrington. When Allen Seagrave rented Charity farm he had eventually taken over the holding next door as well in the 1960s, so there was a farmhouse vacant that he bought, where his son Stuart still lives. There was no electricity on Charity farm until then. Water was always on tap but the old pump used to be in the yard. When Allen later died Charity farm was passed on a couple of times but is now owned by Thriplow Farms although the yard was sold off separately. One of the barns has now been converted into a private residence.The 6 acre triangle of land on the left as you leave Harston (that the Seagraves used to farm) later became allotments provided by Haslingfield parish (owned 3.5 acres, as did County Council!)- some of which are rented to Harston residents.
Because Charity farm was reduced in size, there was no longer a job for Nigel. He next worked at Penn farm, part of John Rayner Farms, mostly dealing with wheat. He worked there for 13 years until John Rayner died and he was made redundant. By then he had met and knew Paul Ridgeon well as he was a neighbours of Penn Farm, and when a job became available there on Paul’s hobby farm he took it. For the last 18 years he has worked there helping take care of 65 acres of garden and pastures used for haymaking. As Nigel’s work on Penn Farm is only a 40 hour a week job this has allowed him to help Stuart with work on Willow Farm and the Eversdens, particularly helping out at harvest and other busy times.
Nigel more recently used to cut The Chestnuts field, by the river and bridge, owned by the Manor (Pearce-Goulds) for hay and top the grass in the Manor fields where the sheep grazed. Vince (Black?) has now taken over the Chestnuts and Crows Meadows by the river and fields either side of the footpath to Button End to graze rare breed sheep and pigs. At one time the Chestnuts meadow was more open to the public and on a nice day lots of people would be found there having picnics and enjoying being by the river. It is now clearly fenced off and private.
The Hays have farmed a lot of land, some rented (eg from the Hurrells), some owned. They have bought land either side of the Foxton/Royston Rd – the west side (Hoffer Brook to Foxton) from Bert Stevens (including the yard opposite Manor Farm) and the east side from Dereck Stevens (who used to have his base in Foxton). They also own New Farm bought from the Manor. The Hays owned what is now Orchard Close, but it was probably too small to farm successfully so they sold that and probably used the money to consolidate their land elsewhere.
Robert Hays and cousin William work together in their farming business. The Hays took over the tenancy of Rectory Farm (owned by Jesus College) from Bert Stevens, who had farmed it in the 1980s and William lives there, while Robert lives in Baggot Hall Farm. They farm the field to the east of Rectory Farm, and the ‘Lutton’ land to the north owned by Jesus College.
The Radfords, Chapmans & George Lacey farmed Manor Farm and some land on the left on Foxton Rd which Hays now farm?
The Crows farmed Beech Farm as tenants of Jesus College. The grandfather Frank farmed first, then his son Keith (also at Barton) took over in the late 60s linking the two farms, then Johnny. Now the Hurrells have taken over the tenancy – they were already farming some land for Johnny. It is mostly arable although Frank Crow did have a dairy herd.
Manor Farm used to be a council farm run by the Austins but they lost the tenancy. They did manage to keep the tenancy of some fields to the east of the railway belonging to Thriplow/Walstan Farms but they moved their farm base/yard to Haslingfield on Cantelupe Road where they still operate their agricultural contractors business from. Colin Manning works with Tim Austin who runs the business now.
Other local information
At the end of Hurrells Row there used to be a TV shop before the clock shop around 1960/1. Nigel bought their first TV from there.
Next to the Green Man was a shop and at the top of Chapel Lane was a paper shop. To the right of the Green Man at no 53 was the earlier Post Office where Nigel can remember going in through the door at the side with his mum and there being a long counter to the left.
Nigel also recalls when the present Post Office used to have a door on the corner where it still has the corner off, but bricked over. It also used to have a bay window but this has been removed and an extension built right across the front, like it is today. It used to be a shop first run by Ed Burl, then became a Post Office in the 1960s. Ed Burl’s son Colin ran it for a while. Originally the Post Office section was to the left of the present door.
To the right of the coach and Horses was the Doctors surgery. The waiting room was downstairs but you saw Dr Townley upstairs.
Nigel used to watch the football at The Park and occasionally a horse would run across the field as they weren’t fenced off. They also had fairs there in the 1950s & 60s but they stopped when one of Hurrell’s horse got a dart in it.