"You ought to be in Badsey now..."
Letters by Badsey Council School children
describing life in a market gardening community in 1933

On a visit to Worcestershire Record Office in 2001 Maureen Spinks stumbled across a remarkable series of letters. Village school children described in their own words what it was like to live in Badsey in the 1930s. What they said comes across with great clarity. It is often surprising, funny, or moving.

In April 1933, Mr Frank Amos, Headmaster of Badsey Council School, asked his students to write to Sir John Russell, of Rothamsted Experimental Station, in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, describing their life in a market gardening district. Whether Russell contacted the school for information, or whether Amos initiated contact is not known. Copies of the letters are deposited in the Worcestershire Record Office, with a title, "Letters written by local rural school children in the Vale of Evesham to Sir John Russell (Rothamsted); the letters relate to the children’s life in agriculture and market gardening." The vast majority of the letters are by Badsey pupils, though a few are from a school in Pershore. They provide a remarkable insight of life in market gardening families of nearly 70 years ago.

We are grateful to Liz Allsopp, Librarian at IACR-Rothamsted for copyright permission to reproduce the letters on the website. A letter from Margaret Harcourt Williams, Archivist at IACR-Rothamsted tells us how the letters came to be written and explains their legal status.

The Badsey School pupils whose letters were sent to Russell are listed below. Click on their names to see what they wrote.

 
Name Age  

Janice ALLARD

11

"…when the fruit does not sell it is sent to Beach's jam factory."

Irene BARNARD, Brewers Lane

10

"I help to tie onions and tag them."

B B BAYLISS, Haven Bungalow, Middle Littleton

13

Plan of Mr Binyon's Garden.

Margaret CHAMBERLAIN

12

"Nearly every man in Badsey is up at four o'clock in the morning working till eight at night."

Hilary CRANE, 9 Council Houses, Badsey

9

"We have fourteen in our family… My sister and I go to help pick plums in the summer."

Sidney CULL, 6 Bowers Hill

13

"We know that all the produce on the roadside is for us to pick up."

Norris DAYS, Gorse Farm, Broadway

8

"Tzar plums are grown in plenty round here."

K ELLISON, 32 Synehurst

12

"Last year my mother made forty jars of jam because there were so many plums."

Harry FIELD, 8 Council Houses, Wickhamford

13

"After the asparagus has been cut bower grows on the beds and when the bower has been cut, hard decayed stubs are left."

Edith FORD, Old Post Office Lane

12

"I go to the ground to tie onions for uncle Bill who pays me one shilling a score."

Joyce FRANKLIN, 3 Council Houses, Wickhamford

13

"… father ties a peck basket round his waist and goes up the ladder to pick the high branches…"

William FRY, 1 Works Cottages, Blackminster

13

"The peas do not choke the sprouts because the peas have short haulm."

James GOSLING, Wickhamford

12

"… they set up stalls by the road and sell to the people who go past."

Charles HAINES, 30 Synehurst

13

"…to pull 120 buds firm and close together with twigs, which is called hundreding…"

Charles W HAINES, Penarth, Blackminster

13

"My father… started gardening in a large nursery in South Wales, and he came up here last September."

John HAINES, 28 Wickhamford

12

"My sister's job is to work at the large syrup machine which fills every tin as it passes underneath."

Dennis HARTWELL, Brewers Lane

13

"If they have to go to Evesham … we take them on the dray, then we lay them on a stone slab for auction."

Stanley HATCH, 18 Synehurst

10

"If father has grown potatoes on one piece of ground one year he grows cabbage on the same … ground the following year."

George JAMES, 1 Sands Lane

9

"You would like to see the old hen and her chicks strutting under the blossom of the plum trees."

Alma JELFS, 4 Bowers Hill

12

"The worst thing about market gardening is that there is too much work to do in summer and not enough in winter."

Dulcie JELFS, Lindwood Villa

9

"My father grows onions, leeks, gillies and vegetables."

Cecil John JONES

11

"My father is a retailer, he buys fruit and vegetables off the market gardeners and then he takes them to other towns."

C KEEN, 7 Silk Mill

13

"I stop hoeing at nine thirty and have lunch on the lee side of the hovel."

Evelyn KEEN, 2 Synehurst

9

"My father sends his produce to Birmingham, Manchester and London."

George KEEN, 25 Synehurst

8

"The flowers are wallflowers, narcissi, asters and statice. The fruit is chiefly Pershore egg plums and damsons and tomatoes."

John KEEN, 13 Synehurst

11

"My father sends his produce to the Littleton and Badsey Growers."

Ronald KEEN, 7 Mill Cottages

9

"We cut some asparagus yesterday. I helped to wash it."

Jean KNIGHT, 4 Cotswold View

12

"My father is dead so I cannot tell much of what the men do but more of what the women do."

John KNIGHT, 3 Church Cottages, Chapel Street

12

"Sometimes I used to drop sprout plants near the holes ready for father to plant."

Richard KNIGHT, Hinton Villa

8

"When March comes it is a bit busier for all the women have to go onion tying and stubbing …"

Audrey MAJOR, 4 Old Post Office Lane

12

"When the asparagus is cut mother ties it, she leaves the sprue (the small buds) out and cooks it for our dinner."

Brenda MAJOR, Old Post Office Lane

10

"I … do bed stubbing and hoove along the asparagus beds."

Charles W MAJOR, Silk Mill Cottages

13

"Back to work I go … picking the pea pods off the haulm. One of my brothers collects the haulm and piles it in a great heap, then burns it."

Leslie MALINS, 22 Synehurst

8

"My father is a foreman for Mr Kerr."

Margaret MILES, 2 Works Cottages, Blackminster

12

My father … works at the canning factory where he is an engineer … they can fruits such as strawberries, loganberries and raspberries.

James A PARKER, 2 Council Houses, Wickhamford

13

"…at Badsey they have a fruit and flower show… My father exhibits and in past years has won many prizes …"

Kathleen PARKER, Wickhamford

11

"Late at night they are busy washing the onions and packing them up in crates for market the next day."

Olive PARKER, 2 Council Houses, Wickhamford

8

"In autumn we pick apples and in winter we only dig."

Fred PERKINS, High Street

9

"You ought to be in Badsey now. Nearly all the blossom is out and it is very pretty."

Hilda PITMAN, 44 Wickhamford

12

"My father is a gardener working on his own land."

Lucy SADLER, 2 Cotswold View

13

"At one o'clock I go on my bicycle and take his dinner and sometimes my uncle's."

Frank SALTER, Montpelier

12

"… about nine o'clock … we stopped to have lunch…then we were at it again …until it was time for dinner - about one o'clock…"

Ronald SEARS, Hollycroft, Bretforton Road

11

"My most important pleasures are going to watch football and cricket matches, going to the pictures and reading good books."

Violet SOUTHERN, 13 Council Houses, Wickhamford

13

"The wage for picking red currants is a penny per pound."

Gilbert SUMMERS, 5 Wickhamford

8

"There are very few people who are not gardeners."

Edward WHEATLEY, The Poplars

10

"The people think it is the salt in the ground that makes good asparagus grow."

James WHEATLEY, The Poplars

13

"My father is a butcher by trade but has a few acres of market gardening ground."

Copyright © IACR-Rothamsted 2001.

See also the History of Badsey School. For more information about what was grown see Market Gardening around 1920. Also see an Interview with Lorna Howarth the daughter of a market gardener - Lorna is sister of Berwick Bayliss, one of the letter writers.

See also Digging for a Living: Market Gardening in Badsey and Aldington.

Maureen Spinks & Richard Phillips


Updated 18 August 2002. Contact email: History@Badsey.net