Page 9 of 19
A Walk Through Hilton in the 1930s, continued
Most of us village boys would work on the farms on Saturday mornings and during our school holidays. You had to be twelve years old before you could be employed, I was employed by Wilf Furniss and was paid one shilling and sixpence (71/2 p) for six hours work on a Saturday morning.
During the winter, I would be leading the horses at plough. If it was rough ground that you were ploughing you would be pushed about by the two large farm horses all the time to lead them straight. The ploughman would be walking behind, steering the plough in a flat furrow. We would start work at 7 am and plough until 2pm, in that time you would have ploughed one acre and have walked eleven miles. The horses would then be taken back to the farm, put into a stable, have their harness removed and fed with chaff, oats and chopped mangolds. You could then go home for your lunch.
After lunch you would check over the horses for rubs sores lose shoes etc. and sometimes you would comb their manes and hair. They would then be let loose into a meadow and fed with some hay. In bad weather they would be let into a yard which had an open hovel and a manger for their food. Most of the farms had a stockman and it was his job to look after the welfare of the horses. He would get up early and when the men arrived for work at seven o’clock, their horses would have been fed and ready for work.
All of the farmers kept milking cows and as half of the village was permanent pasture, there was plenty of grazing land in the summer. Some of the houses in the village have Common Rights; this entitles the owner to graze a cow on The Green during summer. If an owner of one of these Rights had no cattle, he let a farmer use his. There are seventeen Common Rights and there were always seventeen cows grazing the common in the summer. There had to be someone looking after the cows to prevent them from straying. He was paid seventeen pence per week for this job by the owners of the cows. Most of the owners of the cows would sell milk to the public.
One farmer’s daughter delivered milk round the village. She had a pony and trap to convey two churns of milk from which she would fill a smaller container. With this container and a pint measure she would visit her customers and ladle out your milk into your jars. Wives of farmers would usually be in charge of the dairy. They would make and sell butter, also sell skimmed and unskimmed milk. Those who produced large quantities of milk would put the milk in churns which would be placed on a table on the side of the road to be picked up by the Fenstanton dairy lorry.
Some of the fields would remain stubble through the winter and into March before they were ploughed. Most years a few fields would be ploughed by steam plough. A steam engine would be sited each side of a field and a large four furrowed plough would be winched to and fro across the field and a man would steer the plough from a seat on top of the plough. Of course this plough would plough much deeper than a horse drawn one and if the land was very compacted, a cultivator would be used , its long tines would break up the sub soil.
Steam ploughs used a lot of water. They did store quite a lot but this tank had to be continually topped up. When I was not at school I would be given this job. I would take a horse drawn water cart (a tank on wheels) to the village table pump and place a wooden trough from pump to water cart. The water cart would hold about 300 gallons. Sometimes they would be ploughing over a half a mile away from the pump and I would be kept on the go all day long.