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  Wartime farming in Tickhill

As part of his survey of Tickhill in 1942-43, the late Dennis Stables investigated local farms. Of the 29 farms in the parish, he surveyed the 14 largest ones (of at least 80 acres). Whereas mixed farming was predominant before the war, about three quarters of the land in the parish was devoted to arable farming during the war. This reflects the national trend which saw a doubling in the production of cereal and potato crops during the war compared to immediate pre-war years. Only Stud Farm, of those farms in the survey, did not grow potatoes but other vegetable crops were left to small-holders apart from peas, grown at Folds Farm. Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture subsidising fertilisers, these were widely used, especially compound artificial manure, phosphate, nitrate and potash on land around Tickhill. The increased output was also made possible by reclaiming ‘bad lands’ and extending cultivation; during 1939-45 some 6.5 million new acres were ploughed nationally. Tickhill’s unproductive land along the River Torne was ploughed during 1941-3 but it was poorly drained, a situation not completely remedied until the 1960s.

Although nationally there was a considerable decrease in the numbers of sheep, pigs and poultry, in an effort to reduce imported animal feedstuffs, several Tickhill farms still had flocks of sheep, and Sandrock Farm was renowned for its Wessex Saddleback pigs, winners of prizes at the Great Yorkshire Show before the war. (The Show was held at Doncaster in 1938.) The number of hens kept on many farms was cut back because eggs were rationed but Folds Farms and Sandrock still had sizeable flocks of poultry. Bagley and Stud Farms with low-lying fields beside the Goole Dike specialised in dairy farming. Every one of the larger farms used horses, mainly for draught purposes, but Stables notes that tractors were being more widely used. Thanks to tractors imported from Australia, Canada and the USA, Britain had 175,000 tractors by 1945 compared to 55,000 in 1939.

The number of regular workers employed on Tickhill’s larger farms ranged between one and eight. All but one of the farms employed extra workers to help at harvest time. Eight farms employed women as regular workers. A further three farms employed women as seasonal workers, for example at potato picking time. Stables does not indicate if they were Land Army women (90,000 were recruited nationally). It is likely that school children were also employed in the summer. In 1942 school children worked an estimated 10 million hours on farms nationally.

Statistics on farming in Tickhill in 1942 based on Dennis Stables’ survey

Some of the farms in Stables’ survey no longer exist. Three of the farms were in the centre of Tickhill: Rawson’s Farm was on the north side of Sunderland Street near the cricket ground, Golden Hill Farm was on the west side of Northgate, now Buttercross Court, and Count’s Farm was further along Northgate, now Gant Court.

Location of some other farms:

Folds: southern edge of Tickhill near Sandbeck Estate
Bagley: due south of Lindrick
Gallow Hill: north west of Dadsley Wells Farm
Spital Croft: south east of Wilsic Hall
South Wongs: southern edge of Tickhill, just west of Worksop Road
Sandrock: eastern side of Stripe Road, near Tickhill Spital
Stud Farm: south of the Castle

Information on farming nationally from Land at war: The official story of British Farming 1939-1944, The Stationery Office, 2001.

Also some details on wartime farming as well as post-war farming are in British agricultural policy since the Second World War by J K Bowers, Agricultural History Review 1985, vol 33, pages 66-76, accessible on website

Use of Dennis Stables’ survey courtesy of the Stables family.

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