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Farming in the Second Half of the 20th Century

Elsfield farmers

Following Mr Watts at Hill Farm was his son-in-law Frank Hays, followed by James Garson and his family who came to Elsfield in 1965. James not only ran the farm in Elsfield but was also a consultant for several estates up and down the country, stretching as far as Scotland, where he loved to go fishing. His wife Faith describes how his work developed:

“He went out and helped others who had huge estates advised by either solicitors or accountants and they were in a muddle. Sometimes the husband had died and the land had been left to the son or a wife who was being diddled by a farm manager or in trouble and James would then take it over and sort it out. He’d visit it either once a week or once a fortnight. He had four young women helping with the office side of things and three men, one of them an agronomist, who all had different jobs.
That was where lovely Jane fitted in. She did all the original book-keeping in long hand. Elizabeth Lees deserves the credit for all the original hard work, helping James, who just accumulated workand accumulated. He just went on working hard. It got too much for one man and he retired in 2000.”
Keith Bradford
Keith Bradford

Retiring at the same time as James Garson was his foreman in Elsfield, Keith Bradford. Sue and Keith Bradford arrived in Elsfield on 3rd June 1965, their wedding day. They set up home at 2 Christ Church Cottages where their three children were born. Keith was a tractor driver before being promoted and Sue had been a nanny.

In 1965, Mr Willis lived at Forest Farm and farmed there. He had mostly dairy cattle. When Mr Willis retired the land was split between James Garson and David Brown, son of Jack Brown. The Bradfords went to live in Forest Farm when Keith was made foreman.

The crops grown were wheat, barley, oats and oil seed rape. This latter crop was considered by many people to be a grain new to England in the 1970s. It had, however, been grown in this country since the 16th century. It was grown extensively in the east of England, in Lincolnshire in particular where it was highly valued because of the oil it yielded. It went out of fashion in the early 19th century because of the import of cheap oil.

Christ Church's Longhorn cattle
Christ Church's Longhorn cattle

The Browns had pigs and sheep while James Garson had a herd of suckling cows at one time and the Christchurch Longhorns were brought up to Forest Farm to winter. In summer, they were sent back to Christchurch Meadows in lorries.

There were also pet animals. When Sue and her family moved along the road from Christ Church Cottages to Forest Farm she walked there with her pet lamb and ewe. She also had two pet geese. Sue had various jobs in her capacity as wife of the farm foreman. She would feed the students who were generally lodged in empty cottages in the village. They would come in the summer to help with farm work from Reading University and Harper Adams College.

At the end of harvest she would spend a considerable amount of time on the phone organising the lorries to fetch the grain (mostly barley and wheat). James Garson also had land at Finmere, the other side of Bicester. Keith would sometimes have to take the combine up there, in which case she would have to bring him back by car.

James Garson planted a lime tree outside Forest Farm which Sue watered every day till it became established. It is now fully grown.


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