Our Heritage: A recipe for farm life

Jack Hartley forking on a cart load of hay in Well meadow around 1948.
Jack Hartley forking on a cart load of hay in Well meadow around 1948.

This account of life at Tatham Hall Farm 1900-1928, when the Kitchen family were tenants, is taken from a letter discovered a few years ago.

Breakfast at the farm consisted of a bowl of milky porridge, bacon, eggs and home baked bread. As an alternative to bacon and eggs, black puddings were eaten. These were made when pigs were killed; their blood, which was caught in a bucket, had to be well stirred with a large wooden spoon until the blood had cooled, then the blood was put through a sieve into a large dish, to which were added chopped fat and seasonings of herbs and spices.

Next a large quantity of groats and barley was added. These had been kept boiling overnight until each grain was swollen and tender. The pigs’ intestines had to be very thoroughly cleaned, scraped, turned, washed and turned again. Then the ends were tied and filled with the mixture.

The black puddings were tied into clusters during filling. Some were put into a boiler full of boiling water and cooked until they changed colour and the rest were put into large tins similar to roasting tins then cooked in the large fireside oven. When required for meals, slices were cut and fried in large frying pans.

The black puddings in skins were given as gifts to people who were regular customers of their farm produce. Some of the pork would go to neighbours who would repay them by returning some from their own pig at killing time. The scraggy bits left over were cut up and placed into a large cooking pot. This was covered and put into the oven to cook slowly overnight. The meat was then left to seal itself.

This meat was used for the hotpots and potato pies. It would keep for several weeks provided it was resealed each time some meat was removed.

The farmhouse tea at 3pm each day would consist of home baked teacake loaf containing sultanas, currants and spice spread with butter then home made jam pasty. Also, a large apple pie cut into portions was served.

Rich vinegar cake was a real treat and usually reserved for Sundays.

For supper at 6pm porridge, boiled eggs and bread and butter were served and these were considered enough. If anyone wanted a cup of tea later in the evening they were allowed to make one. A large jug of skimmed milk and clean mugs were on the table at the side of the churn.

All the jam used at Tatham Hall was made from fruit grown on the farm. Jelly was made from blackcurrants, redcurrants, blackberries and raspberries.

The vegetables were grown in the fields. After harvesting these were stored in the granary. Apples were stored in the attics. The flitches of bacon and ham when dried were stored in large oak chests surrounded by rough oatmeal to keep them apart. When the large oak lid was tightly closed, it was impossible for rats or mice to get into those chests.

Bacon that was being used was taken out of the chest, brushed clean and put into flour bags then hung by hooks from the pantry ceiling. Even the oats and barley were grown on the farm, and although the threshing machine which went around to different farms came to Tatham Hall, they used to thresh some by hand themselves by using flails which were composed of a large piece of leather made from horse hide fixed to the end of a pole.

At the other end was a thinner bit of leather to enable a man’s hand to go through in order to prevent the pole from dropping to the floor if arms got a bit tired and hands needed a rest.

Barn floors were often called the threshing floor. This part of the floor was left vacant and kept swept clean.

After the grain had been threshed it would require winnowing. This separated the chaff from the grain. This was done by throwing the grain into the wind using a shallow dish. The heavier grain fell to the ground, while the lighter chaff was dispersed.

Often barns would have doors at opposite sides of the threshing floor to create more draught to help with the winnowing of the grain. The oats and barley would be then taken to the corn mill at Wennington for grinding. This mill closed in 1928.

Parts of the stonework can still be seen today including the recesses for the waterwheel axles. The Kitchen family and hired labour fed very well on good home grown food. They were completely self sufficient.

A Wray man named Johnny Pritchard found things very different when he worked for Jack Hartley. Jack had taken over the tenancy of Tatham Hall in 1928. Johnny complained they had mutton stew every day. This was cooked in a large black pot always simmering on the cooking range. Potatoes and vegetables would be mixed in as well.

Johnny was fed up with old sheep meat and had given his notice. On the day of his leaving Jack asked Johnny to bring him the old sheep from the barn to butcher for the pot. Johnny said: “Tha can get the next man to do it, I’m finishing now”.

What he hadn’t told Jack was that he had let the sheep go free. Johnny had had his fill of old sheep meat.

Jack Hartley and his wife Eva had three sons, Tom, Gerald and Ernest, also a daughter Margaret. In 1942 Ernest joined the RAF. He trained as a bomb aimer and later went to Canada to train as a pilot.

After he had completed his training Flying Officer Hartley served in Burma and India. When the war ended Ernest returned to the family farm.

In 1956 Jack Hartley retired to Millhouses. Tom went to Leyland farm and Gerald to Clintsfield.

Ernest and his wife Rosemary took over the running of Tatham Hall Farm until they retired to the tranquillity of Roeburnside Wray in 1980.