When Dale Farm was a working farm it was known as a 7 horse farm; this meant that the size of the farm needed 7 horses to work it – hence our stable which accommodates 7 horses. Times have changed; it now takes the work of 1 man (part time) and lots of machines e.g. a tractor, a combine and a forklift to work the farm.
The farmhouse and garden were sold off 25 years ago to our predecessors and good friends (Bill, Mary, Mike and Kaye). They can also tell a tale of the impact of new technologies on the history of the building; they bought the property as a home and as premises for their new educational publishing business which needed masses of storage space for the books, room for all the delivery vehicles to come and go and office space for all the staff. A similar business today could no doubt be operated by 1 person and a laptop.
The Burrell family retained the land around the farm and Richard farms it today. It is now purely arable; potatoes, wheat, and spring and winter barley. (The barley goes to the local malting company then up to Scotland and is distilled in to Tobermory single malt whiskey – coincidentally one of Paul’s favourites!)
Richard’s Dad kept extensive diaries and can tell you weather conditions and key events in the life of the farm going back decades. They tell us that the layout of the farm was as follows:
- Our house was the farmer’s house (the same farmer whose finger was claimed by the old turnip picker you can see in the woodland)
- The B&B was a cottage for the farm labourers – a later extension, hence the different bricks.
- The self-catering studios comprised the dairy
- The summerhouse was the cowshed and turnip room
- The stable was the stable and lambing shed – ancient obscene graffiti can still be read etched in to the stalls!
- The big barn was…well, the barn and granary
- The turning circle was the original pond
- The old well still exists outside the front door (now capped off)
- The boiler room was the laundry and the current reception area still houses the original ‘copper’ water heater. A coal fire was lit underneath to heat the water in the ‘copper’ which was filled and emptied with a ladle. This was the only means of obtaining hot water in significant amounts for washday.
So I have mixed feelings about some of our new technologies. I’m sure that back in the days when the farm had a dozen people working on it, it was more of a community and a much more sociable place to work; I’m sure it was also dangerous and extremely hard work. I know that I certainly wouldn’t want to be ladling water out of the copper every Monday to do the laundry…