Rural Life in Ivybridge

Farming has provided a livelihood for many families in and around Ivybridge for generations. With extracts from ‘A History of Filham Ugborough’ by Alec Rogers, a local farmer, and using some of his personal diary entries, we review rural life in Ivybridge from the 1930s onwards.

 

Alec Rogers, originally from Holbeton moved to the hamlet of Filham on the outskirts of Ivybridge with his father, mother and brother John in 1928. The family had taken over Filham Farm. Alec at school age when they arrived, would continue to farm the land until the 1970s when his mobility deteriorated.

Harrowing with horses at Cantrell in earlier times

Rural Life in Ivybridge

Farming has provided a livelihood for many families in and around Ivybridge for generations. With extracts from ‘A History of Filham Ugborough’ by Alec Rogers, a local farmer, and using some of his personal diary entries, we review rural life in Ivybridge from the 1930s onwards.

 

Alec Rogers, originally from Holbeton moved to the hamlet of Filham on the outskirts of Ivybridge with his father, mother and brother John in 1928. The family had taken over Filham Farm. Alec at school age when they arrived, would continue to farm the land until the 1970s when his mobility deteriorated.

Harrowing with horses at Cantrell in earlier times

His father was a good market gardener and had a stall in Plymouth market selling direct to the public, whilst his mother enjoyed keeping chickens and a proficiency in producing all types of dairy products.

 

The neighbours included the Winsor family living in one of the cottages, Mr Tooley and his two sisters at Middle Filham and Mr and Mrs Algar at Filham House, who employed a staff of nine. Mr Tooley kept a large flock of sheep, but as the price of wool fluctuated heavily during this time, he found it impossible to sell for fear of a price rise. He therefore stockpiled the wool in every conceivable location on his farm. When he retired, days were spent sorting through the remaining wool, much of which had become rot infested. The new occupant of Middle Filham was Mrs Mary Douglas-Pennant, Master of the Dartmoor Foxhounds, bringing a herd of pedigree Guernsey cattle.

The Milk Marketing Board was established by statute in 1933 to control milk production and distribution in the United Kingdom. It functioned as buyer of last resort in the British milk market, thereby guaranteeing a minimum price for milk producers.
Ref. Wikipedia

Life was initially very hard and the great depression of the 1930s only served to reinforce this. The family kept a small herd of cows and the milk was initially sold to a Plymouth based dairy. The lorry however refused to come down the narrow lane to the farm so churns had to be transported by cart to Cross-in-Hand on the main road. However, when the dairy closed and the Milk Marketing Board was established, life began to improve with regular collections from the farm.

 

Working the land at the time was back breaking work, hoeing mangolds and turnips was very physical. When out working, there was no need to carry a watch as every ten minutes the loud whistle of the Cornish Riviera Express off the Goods Yard at Ivybridge could be heard and Alec would be thrilled to catch a glimpse of some of the great engines slowing crossing the viaduct before opening up with a roar to pass under Rutt, Filham and Davey’s Moor bridges.

 

Very little corn was grown at the time due to very cheap foreign imports. As a result, straw was scarce, so bracken from the slopes of Western Beacon acted a good substitute.

 

Winter evenings were spent around the log fire with a paraffin fuelled ‘Aladdin’ lamp. There was of course no television and so the wireless provided the only entertainment.

Mangold wine
ALEC’S MANGOLD WINE RECIPE
To each gallon of water allow one good sized mangold, 3 ½ lbs sugar, 1 lemon, 2 oranges. Wash mangold but don’t peel it. Squeeze juice from lemon and orange and boil the peel with mangold until tender. Put sugar and juice in vessel and pour liquor on when sugar is dissolved and liquor cold. Put into a cask and add a few raisins.
Fit to drink in 3 months.

CROP PROGRAMME FOR FILHAM FARM IN 1943

Ley Park, Barley seeds

Bull Field, Oats, Swedes

Linhay Field, Oats, Flatpolls (a well-known local variety of cabbage)

Cross Park, 3 acres Potatoes, Mangolds, Kale

Mangel-wurzel or simply mangold originates from Germany. The word ‘mangold’ means “beet” and ‘wurzel’ means “root”. They are often confused with turnips, but are related to sugar beet. Mangolds were primarily grown for animal fodder during the 18th century.

Harvesting mangolds at Godwell in days gone by.

Diary Note

Friday 22 January, 1944

Broke a coulter whilst ploughing under the Elm trees, where there was a mass of roots. Took it down to Spargo in Ivybridge who is so busy he couldn’t do it.

A coulter or colter is a vertically mounted component of many ploughs that cuts an edge about 7 inches (18 cm) deep ahead of a ploughshare.

Richard (Dick) Spargo worked from his forge located on the corner of Costly Street. He was the last of the Ivybridge blacksmiths.

He was a little man and appeared frail despite his occupation. His smithy was a gathering place for the retired, the out of work and the local policeman, who came in for a smoke while on duty. For years Dick Spargo served as a member of Ivybridge Town Council.

Ivybridge Cattle Market

Ivybridge Cattle Market, held on the third Monday of each month, along with other markets at Plympton, Modbury and Yealmpton were regular meeting places for the farming community. The auctioneer firm of John Maye & Co of South Brent purchased a walled garden in Station Road, Ivybridge, sometime after 1900 and established Ivybridge Cattle Market on the site, which today is the Health Centre. Alec and the family would regularly both buy and sell livestock at Ivybridge.

Diary Note

June 6 1944

As Dad and I were driving the cows up to the meadow this morning Mrs Brown told us that the Invasion had begun. The 8 a.m. news reported large airborne landings by the Allies. Things were very quiet as we drove to Plymouth, without any signs of the great events taking place across the channel. At nine this evening we heard the King give a more or less religious address to his people. Then the news, the landings on the beaches have been surprisingly easy. During the day only 56 enemy planes were seen. After the news came recordings of General Eisenhower, Gen Montgomery and inspiring Gen de Gaulle. How different the day has been from what I imagined.

VE DAY - 1945

On the evening of Victory in Europe Day, Alec attended an Ivybridge Young Farmers Club meeting at the King’s Arms. Afterwards everyone joined him back on Filham Farm where he took some magnesium flares from the Auxiliary Unit’s stores and went to the hill above Penquit. Alec had originally joined the Home Guard but later was selected for special duty within an Auxiliary Territorial Patrol at Ugborough (Churchill’s army). These volunteers had access to a range of explosives and other devices. The more agile young farmers on this night then climbed ash trees and lit the flares. A great blaze of light was briefly followed by the total darkness everyone had been accustomed to for the past 5 years. Then everyone’s eyes became aware of the lights of Ermington and Ivybridge and all around, a truly moving sight. Little lights were twinkling where cottages and farmhouses were celebrating this great victory. A night never to be forgotten for Alec and his young farmer colleagues.

Young Farmers Club

Ivybridge Young Farmers Club was founded in 1938 at a meeting in what is now Erme Primary School. In 1939, with the outbreak of war, it’s future was in jeopardy and but for the enthusiasm of Mr Gillard of Cadleigh and his daughter Peggy, would have faded away. The Kings Arms was the regular venue for YFC meetings and also the occasional dance. Land Army girls joined along with other young women working on farms but not in the W.L.A. One evening Ken Watkins, of Watkins and Roseveare Tractors Ltd, who took over the old china clay drying sheds at Cantrell, gave an interesting talk on the subject of ‘tractor maintenance’. Alec Rogers was the first secretary of the Ivybridge Young Farmers Club.

Filham Farm scored a first in 1954 when the hay-baler arrived to bale the Linhay field. The Wakeham Bros had just purchased their baling machine and Alec’s hay was the first to be gathered in. No more hay sweeping, no pitching to the rick, all the hay bales could be carried back to the barn by tractor and trailer.

Cocksfoot grass is a perennial grass species that is common throughout the UK’s meadows. Cocksfoot grass is grown commercially in agriculture for hay. It is also a common grazing plant for livestock. It was very popular in the 18th century particularly in drought prone areas.

CROP PROGRAMME FOR FILHAM FARM IN 1955

Crosspark: Ley

Cross in Hand : 2nd year Cocksfoot Ley

Pail Gate: Mangolds, Potatoes

Bull Field: Kale

Ley Park: Ley

Diary Note

Saturday 27 August 1955

Mr Backhouse brought out the ‘trial’ T.V. set … this great marvel of science has come to Filham.

In 1936 the BBC transmitted the first high-definition television service from Alexandra Palace in London, broadcasting the coronation of King George VI at Westminster Abbey. Televisions were small – their screens were around 9 inches.
At the beginning of the 1950s, television was only enjoyed by people with money to spare. By the 1970s virtually every home in Britain had one!

Mr Backhouse ran the local electrical appliance shop at 59-60 Fore Street. In his advertisements he described himself as an electrical and radio engineer. He supplied refridgeration, heating  and lighting equipment as well as electrical items.

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The Blizzard of 1962 - 1963

This blizzard was one of the worst in living memory for Ivybridge. Alec described conditions at Filham.

 

On Dec 22nd I worked in shirt sleeves drawing out kale for the Christmas period. As a precaution I left the kale in 3 big heaps in Pail-gate, Linhay field and top orchard. On the morning of 23rd these heaps of kale were frozen through and the ground on which they stood was frozen also. The temperature stood at 20°F in the yard at 6.30 a.m. on Christmas morning and the day passed with our thoughts mostly on the awful cold. On Saturday the 29th the wind howled from the east all day and as night fell the powder snow began to penetrate in every crack and cranny. With the cows all snug in their stalls and loose houses, and the young stock in the shelter of the lower orchard I felt quite satisfied with them well under control.

 

When I went outside the next morning I sank into the snow almost up to the top of my Wellingtons. Down in the shippens there was almost as much indoors as out and similar conditions prevailed in all the pig’s houses. I opened the door and found snow 3’ high inside. This was far worse than 1947 and after milking and feeding up, I went down to see Mrs. D. Pennant to discuss getting the milk up to Cross-in-Hand. After I had visited Filham House to see Jim Morgan. I returned and planned the following route for the tractor and churns. From Mrs P’s dairy, young Roger Greensland drove into Buddy Park and emerged in the lane above Miss Pennant’s back door, thence by clear road to pick up my churns, then through top orchard, digging a huge drift in Ley Park gateway. Then at once, another drift at Cross-in-Hand gate, into Cross-in-Hand field. At the corner we lifted the churns from the link box, over the hedge and placed them where we thought the pavement ought to be. The scene was fantastic, a motor bike abandoned at X in Hand and fifty yards down the road a lovely Triumph was almost buried in a great drift, side windows and aerial only visible.

Sloe wine
ALEC’S SLOE WINE RECIPE
Procure Sloes all ripe and round. Put in a pan with same measure of boiling water and let soak for 5 days. Stir every day then put 1lb sugar to each quart of juice and bottle.
Cross in Hand
Cross-in-Hand is well known since it stands at the meeting point of old roads leading away to four different parishes: Plympton, South Brent, Modbury and Ermington. The roads do not cross but spread out radially.

After the blizzard Mrs Douglas Pennant decided to move to another farm at Cadleigh and this marked the beginning of the end of farming in Filham hamlet. Middle Filham became a private dwelling rather than a working farm with the land being sold to the owner of Filham House.

 

By 1970, the volume of traffic on the A38 passing the cottages at North Filham and into Ivybridge was becoming a real issue. A by-pass was proposed to re-route traffic away from the centre of Ivybridge and by 1973 the new road had been constructed.

 

Also at this time Alec decided to sell Ley Park and Bull’s field, whilst Cross-in-Hand, Linhay field and Pail gate became the site for Ivybridge Rugby F.C.

 

In the 1990s Ivybridge Town Council purchased Filham House Park for sports fields and this area is now the home for Manstow Football Club and Ivybridge Cricket Club as well as junior rugby teams. It is also a popular recreational area for ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists and keen anglers of the Plymouth & District Angling Club, taking advantage of the 3-acre lake, home to roach, carp, chub, crucian, bream and tench.

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In 1992 Alec records in his diary

“ Down in the orchard, where the great pear tree still dominates the scene, the noise of the by-pass cannot dispel the peace of this place, which has been my home for 64 years”.

 

Reference:
Characters and Events of a Bygone Age by Alec Rogers

Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group are indebted to the Rogers family who permitted the hand written diaries to be used for the creation of this fascinating web page which offers an insight and flavour of rural life in Ivybridge.

Characters and Events of a Bygone Ivybridge
Alec’s books “Characters and Events of a Bygone Ivybridge” and
“River Erme – A journey through time”
provide a good source of historical information on Ivybridge and the surrounding area
Reproduced by kind permission of the author’s family
Click images to view a pdf version
River Erme A journey through time

RURAL LIFE IN IVYBRIDGE

Farming has provided a livelihood for many families living in and around Ivybridge for generations. With extracts from ‘A History of Filham Ugborough’ by Alec Rogers a local farmer at Filham, and using some of his personal diary entries, we review rural life in Ivybridge from the 1930s onwards.
Alec Rogers, originally from Holbeton moved to the hamlet of Filham on the outskirts of Ivybridge with his father, mother and brother John in 1928. The family had taken over Filham Farm. Alec, at school age when they arrived, would continue to farm the land until the 1970s when his mobility deteriorated.
His father was a good market gardener and had a stall in Plymouth market selling direct to the public, whilst his mother enjoyed keeping chickens and a proficiency in producing all types of dairy products.
The neighbours included the Winsor family living in one of the cottages, Mr Tooley and his two sisters at Middle Filham and Mr and Mrs Algar at Filham House, who employed a staff of nine. Mr Tooley kept a large flock of sheep, but as the price of wool fluctuated heavily during this time, he found it impossible to sell for fear of a price rise. He therefore stockpiled the wool in every conceivable location on his farm. When he retired, days were spent sorting through the remaining wool, much of which had become rot infested. The new occupant of Middle Filham was Mrs Mary Douglas-Pennant, Master of the Dartmoor Foxhounds, bringing a herd of pedigree Guernsey cattle.
Life was initially very hard and the great depression of the 1930s only served to reinforce this. The family kept a small herd of cows and the milk was initially sold to a Plymouth based dairy. The lorry however refused to come down the narrow lane to the farm so churns had to be transported by cart to Cross-in-Hand on the main road. However, when the dairy closed and the Milk Marketing Board was established, life began to improve with regular collections from the farm.
Working the land at the time was back breaking work, hoeing mangolds and turnips was very physical. When out working, there was no need to carry a watch as every ten minutes the loud whistle of the Cornish Riviera Express off the Goods Yard at Ivybridge could be heard and Alec would be thrilled to catch a glimpse of some of the great engines slowing crossing the viaduct before opening up with a roar to pass under Rutt, Filham and Davey’s Moor bridges.

 

Very little corn was grown at the time due to very cheap foreign imports. As a result, straw was scarce, so bracken from the slopes of Western Beacon acted a good substitute.
Winter evenings were spent around the log fire with a paraffin fuelled ‘Aladdin’ lamp. There was of course no television and so the wireless provided the only entertainment.

 

Ivybridge Cattle Market

 

Ivybridge Cattle Market, held on the third Monday of each month, along with other markets at Plympton, Modbury and Yealmpton were regular meeting places for the farming community. The auctioneer firm of John Maye & Co of South Brent purchased a walled garden in Station Road, Ivybridge, sometime after 1900 and established Ivybridge Cattle Market on the site, which today is the Health Centre. Alec and the family would regularly both buy and sell livestock at Ivybridge.

June 6 1944

As Dad and I were driving the cows up to the meadow this morning Mrs Brown told us that the Invasion had begun. The 8 a.m. news reported large airborne landings by the Allies. Things were very quiet as we drove to Plymouth, without any signs of the great events taking place across the channel. At nine this evening we heard the King give a more or less religious address to his people. Then the news, the landings on the beaches have been surprisingly easy. During the day only 56 enemy planes were seen. After the news came recordings of General Eisenhower, Gen Montgomery and inspiring Gen de Gaulle. How different the day has been from what I imagined.

VE DAY - 1945

On the evening of Victory in Europe Day, Alec attended an Ivybridge Young Farmers Club meeting at the King’s Arms. Afterwards everyone joined him back on Filham Farm where he took some flares from the Auxiliary Unit’s stores and went to the hill above Penquit. Alec had originally joined the Home Guard but later was selected for special duty within an Auxiliary Territorial Patrol at Ugborough (Churchill’s army). These volunteers had access to a range of explosives and other devices. The more agile members of the group on this night then climbed ash trees and lit the flares. A great blaze of light was briefly followed by the total darkness everyone had been accustomed to for the past 5 years. Then everyone’s eyes became aware of the lights of Ermington and Ivybridge and all around. Little lights were twinkling where cottages and farmhouses were celebrating this great victory. A night never to be forgotten for Alec and his young farmer colleagues.
Young Farmers Club
 Ivybridge Young Farmers Club was founded in 1938 at a meeting in what is now Erme Primary School. In 1939, with the outbreak of war, it’s future was in jeopardy and but for the enthusiasm of Mr Gillard of Cadleigh and his daughter Peggy, would have faded away. The Kings Arms was the regular venue for YFC meetings and also the occasional dance. Land Army girls joined along with other young women working on farms but not in the W.L.A. One evening Ken Watkins, of Watkins and Roseveare Tractors Ltd, who took over the old china clay drying sheds at Cantrell, gave an interesting talk on the subject of ‘tractor maintenance’. Alec Rogers was the first secretary of the Ivybridge Young Farmers Club.

The Blizzard of 1962 – 1963

 

This blizzard was one of the worst in living memory for Ivybridge. Alec described conditions at Filham.
On Dec 22nd I worked in shirt sleeves drawing out kale for the Christmas period. As a precaution I left the kale in 3 big heaps in Pail-gate, Linhay field and top orchard. On the morning of 23rd these heaps of kale were frozen through and the ground on which they stood was frozen also. The temperature stood at 20°F in the yard at 6.30 a.m. on Christmas morning and the day passed with our thoughts mostly on the awful cold. On Saturday the 29th the wind howled from the east all day and as night fell the powder snow began to penetrate in every crack and cranny. With the cows all snug in their stalls and loose houses, and the young stock in the shelter of the lower orchard I felt quite satisfied with them well under control.
The next morning when I went outside I sank into the snow almost up to the top of my Wellingtons. Down in the shippens there was almost as much indoors as out and similar conditions prevailed in all the pig’s houses. I opened the door and found snow 3’ high inside. This was far worse than 1947 and after milking and feeding up, I went down to see Mrs. D. Pennant to discuss getting the milk up to Cross-in-Hand. After I had visited Filham House to see Jim Morgan. I returned and planned the following route for the tractor and churns. From Mrs P’s dairy, young Roger Greensland drove into Buddy Park and emerged in the lane above Miss Pennant’s back door, thence by clear road to pick up my churns, then through top orchard, digging a huge drift in Ley Park gateway. Then at once, another drift at Cross-in-Hand gate, into Cross-in-Hand field. At the corner we lifted the churns from the link box, over the hedge and placed them where we thought the pavement ought to be. The scene was fantastic, a motor bike abandoned at X in Hand and fifty yards down the road a lovely Triumph was almost buried in a great drift, side windows and aerial only visible.
After the blizzard Mrs Douglas Pennant decided to move to another farm at Cadleigh and this marked the beginning of the end of farming in Filham hamlet. Middle Filham became a private dwelling rather than a working farm with the land being sold to the owner of Filham House.
By 1970, the volume of traffic on the A38 passing the cottages at North Filham and into Ivybridge was becoming a real issue. A by-pass was proposed to re-route traffic away from the centre of Ivybridge and by 1973 the new road had been constructed.
Also at this time Alec decided to sell Ley Park and Bull’s field, whilst Cross-in-Hand, Linhay field and Pail gate became the site for Ivybridge Rugby F.C.
In the 1990s Ivybridge Town Council purchased Filham House Park for sports fields and this area is now the home for Manstow Football Club and Ivybridge Cricket Club as well as junior rugby teams. It is also a popular recreational area for ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists and keen anglers of the Plymouth & District Angling Club, taking advantage of the 3-acre lake, home to roach, carp, chub, crucian, bream and tench.
In 1992 Alec records in his diary
“ Down in the orchard, where the great pear tree still dominates the scene, the noise of the by-pass cannot dispel the peace of this place, which has been my home for 64 years”.

 

Reference:
Characters and Events of a Bygone Age by Alec Rogers
Alec’s books “Characters and Events of a Bygone Ivybridge” and “River Erme – A journey through time” provide a good source of historical information on Ivybridge and the surrounding area.
Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group are indebted to the Rogers family who permitted the hand written diaries to be used for the creation of this fascinating web page which offers an insight and flavour of rural life in Ivybridge.