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of Brierley



Memories of Elms Farm and the Ashley family



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I was born in 1945 at 7 Park Ave courtesy of Dr Gardner and left in 1968 but my parents Alec and Mabel remained until their deaths in 1983 and 1992 respectively


     My early visits to Elms farm were simply to buy extra pints of milk fresh from the dairy door at the farmhouse .The farm seemed such an interesting place, full of various animals and strange machinery; that I gradually spent more and more time there and became an official very junior helper.

     The farm was owned and run by Mr  & Mrs Andrew Ashley. Andrew Ashley was a distinctive figure that was always dressed in hairy tweed suits, a seasonal hat and with his lassie dog at his heel. Mr Ashley’s sister Grace, a tiny lady with red hair and very pale complexion, lived in the cottage at the rear of the farm. Mrs Ashley’s brother Norman managed the daily routines on the farm assisted by Charlie Day who lived across the road in the house next to the old quarry. Norman and Charlie were helped at busy times by a variety of casual workers who included me, my dad Alec, Tony Evans and several Wroes and Vamplew’s.

     The layout of all the farm buildings was very good with the ability to move easily from one area to another but each section could be shut off to allow animals to be brought together for feeding, milking or treatment by the vet. The farmhouse itself was split into working and living parts; having two distinct entrances which were separated by a high wall and internally with two staircases. Elms farm also hosted summer garden parties for the people of Brierley on its large lawn next to the orchard. A lovely summerhouse mounted on a turntable base was sited just by



Left shows Elms Farm


     The farm was a mixed farm, which combined the usual arable crops with a dairy herd, some beef cattle and poultry flock for eggs and meat. There were two large working horses; a Clydesdale called Major and a Suffolk Punch called Prince along with a feisty grey pony whose name I forget but who belonged to Grace Ashley. A fearsome Lincoln Red bull lived in very secure accommodation in the yard to be released as necessary to do his duties and re-secured to the relief of all involved. Visiting vets were all very cautious in his treatment but he still managed to inflict a few bruises. The dairy herd were milked and housed in the winter in a long low building at the bottom of the crew yard. This was a good place to be on a cold winters morning as it was always warm. The downside was the smell and the need to avoid the source of the smell, which arrived without warning. The huts where the poultry were accommodated had been used previously for housing pigs and suffered from an excess of rats. Norman solved the problem one night by temporarily moving the chickens, then proceeding to connect all the metal feed containers to the mains electricity, to return in the morning after turning of the power to remove the numerous bodies, problem solved. Tractor power had arrived at the farm in the shape of a Fordson Major, which was started by a handle and ran on something called TVO after warming up on petrol. The tractor pulled various ploughs and cultivators that would have given modern day health and safety people a heart attack. They would not have liked the range of grinding and cutting machinery that was housed in the stone barn and driven by a series of flapping and unguarded belts.

     The big event in the farming year was when the corn stacks were threshed as this was before the days of combine harvesters. The threshing and baling machines that I think were based at Cudworth toured the surrounding farms in a long convoy pulled by a very large green Field Marshal tractor. Several days of intense activity followed with the grain being bagged off for feed or sale and the remaining straw baled for feed or bedding.

     The Ashley family retired from farming in the late fifties and Elms farm was sold to Frank Lord and his family. I can remember the day clearly when all the farm machinery and animals were auctioned off as I had been given permission for a day off school to attend.


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