Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Field Water Trough.

The Field Water Trough.

Before I carry on with the milking parlour, which was purpose built in 1937. I would like to touch on the extensive work that was carried out on the various permanent pastures of the farm. For instance, one of the rules to become a tuburculin attested farm, is that an insulation perimeter fence be built. 6 feet away from any boundary fence, where there is a risk of contamination from non-tested neighbouring cattle, such as those on Widbrook Common.

Another requirement that was required, was that all pastures had to have a supply of clean fresh water. No longer would the cattle be allowed to drink water from the local Widbrook stream. This entailed a tremendous amount of re-fencing, and a all new fresh water network of pipes be laid to each of the pastures and the installation of new water troughs, as shown in the drawing above.
As you can imagine, this provided a lot of work for both a skilled and unskilled labour force to complete the job, as all the pipe work had to be laid underground by hand. You only have to look at the map of White Place Farm, to see the extent of the work that was involved. As every pasture from the river to Sutton Road, was included in the scheme, except the fields of Upper and Lower Gardners, which were next to the Islet Park, and those of Moor Hall and Sutton North and South, which took their water from the Rural water supply.
In the early days, Upper and Lower Gardners, and the Moor Hall fields, were used exclusively by the Cliveden Stud farm for their broodmares. More about these fields will be discussed, when I touch on the Cliveden Stud Farm in a future blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Milk Churn Truck.

The Milk Churn Truck.

I am not sure if this device was factory made or something that was made by the village blacksmith Tom Emmett. The reason I say this is due to the fact in all my research on dairy farm equipment. I could not find any reference to such a tool. Mind, I hasten to point out that this was a very modern farm, and at all space between dairy buildings were either finished in concrete or tarmacadam surface, even the holding yard and entry into the milking parlour was finished off with concrete, all of which were washed down with a hose every day.

This of course made it very easy for the cowman to trundle the milk churns when full to the dairy for processing, and return with with clean empty ones to the cowshed.

My drawing uses a full-size ten-gallon churn and the sketch is from memory. It was similar to the farms sack truck or barrow, except that the weight was supported on a hook which fitted into the handle on the churn, and two bars kept the churn from rolling sideways. The original had cast-iron wheels, then if my memory serves me correctly, Ernie Holland, who was the farm engineer at the time, came up with two solid rubber wheels which he fitted. It certainly cured a lot of squeaks and rattles when it was trundled across the pavement to the dairy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Early Cowsheds # 19 and 20 on the map.

Two Early Cowsheds.
I think it is necessary to keep the milking scene in sequence, as things happened at White Place Farm to show how the second Lord Astor progressed with building his model and most modern farm, especially in the 1920's and 30's.
Building is 19 and 20 on the farm map, were the first cowsheds to be converted to milking machine use in the early 1920's. Building 21 was a purpose-built building shortly afterwards, but it was taller and more airer, with plenty of light, plus it had a foot bath for the cattle to walk through both entering and leaving the cowshed. The older buildings 19 and 20 did not have this facility at all. Lighting for these buildings could have been one of the DeLaval vacuum pumps, but instead it was powered from a generator located in the pumphouse, (building 26 on your farm map.) This remained in use until mains power arrived in 1943.

This early vacuum unit is a compact view of the system and shows the option of having an electric generator run off the vacuum pump petrol or diesel motor.

This diagram is to show the plan layout of both buildings 19 and 20, building 21 was much larger with a similar layout. As for the stalls and milking machine. The blue line is the vacuum piping which was installed in about 6 feet and the crossover the doorway was about 8 feet.

This is an example of an early bucket unit in the 1920's. Note the four teat cups affixed to what was known as the claw, and the heart of the system or pulsator mounted on top of the lid of the bucket. After every milking, the units were taken apart and cleaned and reassembled in the dairy.

As the cattle spent quite a time in the cowshed. It was necessary that each cow should have their own drinking fountain or bowl. Figure "A" was the nose operated tap, that when depressed, water would flow into the bowl from the water pipe "B."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dr. Gustav DeLaval (Inventor).

Dr. Gustav DeLaval.
Before we go too deep into the dairy and milking parlour description of the model farm, I think you should know a little of the Swedish Inventor, Dr Gustav DeLaval, whose pioneering in the dairy industry is still very much in use in the modern-day dairy farm.

Born in Orsa in Dalarma on the 9th of May 1845. He was enrolled in the Institute of Technology in Stockholm in 1863 and graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1866, after which he matriculated at Upsala University in 1867, completing his doctorate in Chemistry in 1872.

He went on to invent several things including a nozzle to increase a steam jet to supersonic speed, which today has been incorporated into the modern rocket engine.

He then turned his attention to a centrifugal oil and water separator, which proved to be highly successful. This is then led to the thought of separating cream from milk, a system that he patented in 1894. He was now faced with the problem of developing a machine to mechanically milk cow's and speed up production. He worked on several prototypes, none of which were successful. Others tried and offered their ideas to him, but they too failed the test. It was not until five years after his death in February 1913, that his research and development group came up with a model on which todays milking machines are based. The earlier versions of which were incorporated into the White Place Farm cowsheds before the arrival of the new milking parlour in 1937.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Footbaths.

The Cattle Footbath.

I am am now going to describe the 1937 purpose built Milking Parlour by Gascoigne's of Reading, who were at that time leaders in the business. My coverage of this building will be in several stages, as it was quite complex.

One thing that was first and foremost with this model farm was the health of the cattle and their mobility and foot health. In the beginning, this unit was used to milk the herd three times a day. Each time after milking the cows had to exit via a back corridor and walk-through of foot bath like the one in the picture above.

This foot bath was about 6 inches deep, and was filled with a solution of copper sulphate; this was to keep foot problems and lameness to minimum. The condition of the liquid was maintained daily, with a complete change and scrub out weekly.
The footbaths are located as number 13 on the farm map.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dairy and Steam Boiler. 10 & 11 on the map.

From the time that the the Astor family took over and started to dairy farm White Place, the cleanliness in the production of milk has been foremost. Before going into TT production the milk hygene was top of the list.
The dairy building in particular was lined with slate, floor, walls and benches. There was a brine cooled room where the milk was stored either in churns and bottles, again lined with slate.
The steam boiler was the essential part of the operation and was kept going 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It was fired with steam coal that was delivered by the ton. This was looked after by the farm engineer Ernie Holland, who also doubled as the estate engineer at Cliveden. When he took time off, his place was taken by Jack Exler, who had a garage business in Furze Platt on the Switchback Road.

The steam chest above was just one of the uses of the boiler, as every piece of milking equipment used during milking either in the cowsheds and later the milking parlour was brought into the dairy to be washed in the large wash trough and then placed in the steam chest to be steamed for at least 15 minutes, usually it was more like a half hour. You could liken this piece of equipent to a very large hospital autoclave.

The wash trough was divided into two parts or sections. The hot part was kept hot by injecting live steam into the water and together with a caustic soap called "Lavaloid" to kill any microbes. The cold side was for rinsing before the article was put into the steam chest. The trough itself was about ten feet in length and four feet in width. The steam chest was about six by six by six feet. There was removable racks that could be adjusted to what ever was being loaded in at that time.

This steam system for dairies was not unique to White Place, as my uncle at Sheephouse Farm had a similar set up. Also he also used the live steam to cook pig swill via a flexible hose to an old iron bath tub, which he collected from restraunts and hotel kitchens. It was also collected from the army camp at Battlemead. That is when needs must during wartime.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Buildings # 9. Mature heifer calf pens.

Young weaned Heifers.

Buildings numbered #9. indicated on the farm map,were originally built to house young heifer calves after being weaned. A sort of intermediate stage before being turned out to grass in the spring. If the pens got too full, the older ones were taken to the stockyard at Sutton Farm.

Some people would wonder why they were not turned out earlier? The reason is that the majority of White Place Farm is either a natural water meadow, and the remainder is subject to flooding during the winter months. Plus damp and cold are suitable for young livestock.

In the later years these buildings were converted to farrowing pens for the farm stock of breeding sows, as the farm gradually switched from milk to pork production. A skilled pig man was engaged to look after the breeding programme, weighing and shipping to market.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Milk Delivery Van in Building #8.

The Milk Delivery Van.
The photo above is a likeness of the vehicle, except the rear door was a roll up.
From the time when the White Place cattle became fully tested and free from tuberculosis. The 30 cwt chocolate brown Bedford van became part of the daily delivery of milk to the schools. Not only in Cookham, but also of those, in the western part of the London County Council as well.
The farm van and lorry driver was Cecil Platt, who lived up in Cookham Rise. he would start to make his deliveries very early in the morning, so that he had completed his round before the schools opened at 9 o'clock in the morning.
This service continued up until the beginning of the Second World War, when most of the LCC children were evacuated to the country. Milk was delivered to the local schools until about 1943, at which time the milk was delivered to Brittens Dairies in Maidenhead and later to Jersey Farm Dairies when the two dairies amalgamated.
Another job this van use to do was to deliver garden produce, and fruit to Cliveden House along with a supply of fresah milk and cream. Around the time that the farm and the estate split to having two managers, that Cecil left and the van was sold, because the daily milk churn deliveries were made by Ferguson tractor and trailer.
Building #8. then became a mechanics workshop.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Carpenters Shop. #7. on the map.

The Carpenter's Brace.

My story now moves onto two very skilled craftsmen, whose work to a very young boy who was very fascinating. They were, Sid Burrfoot and Lawrence Smith, who were also known to one and all as "Lal." their work covered making or repairing anything that was wooden. Even, when it came to putting up the isolation fencing, for they TT herd regulations.

As a little boy, I used to watch these two men at work. Using only hand tools to perform the task in hand, whether it was a tailgate for a wagon or making a gate for a new section of the field, their skills were never wanting.
From the hand tools, such as the large saw or small tenon saw, down to box planes and brace and bit drills. Most of these tools had been with them since their apprenticeship into the trade. Each man had his own toolkit. In those days there was no power machinery in the Carpenter's Shop, everything was done by hand.

Sadly, I have no photographs of these two men working away in their shop, wearing the traditional white bib and brace apron to protect their clothes.

Luckily I have found some pen and ink drawings to demonstrate some of the mortise and tenon joints that they used in constructing whatever job they had in hand. In most of them work. The joints were so tight that they only needed a tusk or dowel pin to complete the joint. The use of nails were frowned upon by these two men, and if needed were used very sparingly. It is very sad to say that the skills of these fine craftsman are dying out with the advent of power tools.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Farm Cattle Lorry Garage, #6. on the map.

The Cattle Lorry.

In the early days of the farm operation, cattle were moved in a horse-drawn float, which at best could onlt take two animals at any one time. So in the 1930's, and both herds becoming Tuberculin Attested it was necessary for the farm to purchase a cattle lorry in similar size to the one in the photographabove, although if my memory serves me correctly it was a Bedford lorry chassis with natural wood finish bodywork.

Besides it being used for moving cattle, wooden benches could be fitted in the box, so that farm and estate staff could be moved as beaters during the game-shooting season from drive to drive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The White Place Farm Herdsman.

The White Place Herdsman.
The photograph above is what I will call a photo fit from memory of George Ernest Hughes. Herdsman at White Place Farm for about twenty years.
My Story.

It was Michaelmas 1928, when George Ernest Hughes arrived from Mere in Wiltshire, to take up the position of herdsman of both the White Place Herd of Ayrshire and the Cliveden Herd of Shorthorn cattle. He arrived with his family of wife and two daughters, Helen Louise, aged ten and Betty Ernestine aged eight, both were entered into Holy Trinity School on the 15th of October of that year. I believe his wife was also named Betty, but to us boys, she was also known as Mrs. Hughes. She was a very tiny lady of about five for two or three inches and a very quiet nature. When I knew the family both girls were finishing up their education at Maidenhead County Girls, before going off to university in Cambridge. The last time I saw them was in 1940, when their mother died, and they were at her funeral.

Now to the man himself, the stories I heard from my parents who were very friendly with most of the farm staff that he had been wounded in the war and invalided out of the Army. The limp he had was with him for the rest of his life, also a shock of white hair that stood straight up was due to his wartime experience.

To us boys who lived on or near the farm at first, he seemed to be a fearsome character, mainly due to the fact that he had a bark that made him sound like a Regimental Sergeant Major. From that, as most schoolboys did in those days, he earned the nickname of "YAYA." To the staff that were under his control, they found him to be a hard task master, some of who, did not stay around long. On the other hand he was like an old mother hen where the cattle were concerned. His medicinal skill was second to none, very seldom was a vet ever called in to administer, except when the herds went over to to Tuberculin Tested in 1936-37.

He had a small office, which was built in to part of his house, as there was no farm office on the farm, the estate office at Cliveden carried out all the administration. In his office he kept the herd records and the genealogy of every animal that passed through his hands. Even his choice of bloodlines and the purchase of new herd bulls were left to him by the second Viscount Astor, who placed great faith in his judgement and breeding skills.

After his wife's death, he engaged a Mrs, Bates to be in his housekeeper. She had moved out of London with her two sons Michael and David because of the Blitz. I think he never got used to having two boys under his roof, and after the war with the change of farm management and the moving of the farm administration from Cliveden to the farm, he went into retirement.

Monday, October 19, 2009

White Place Farm - Buildings 3-4 & 5.

Buildings 3 - 4 & 5.
Implement, Dry Stock
& Calving Boxes.
The top diagram shows two of what was an eight bay implement shed, which was used for the storage of seasonal equipment such as: Ploughs, Cultivators, Harrows of various types, Haymaking and Harvest equipment. The Threshing Machine and Hay Elevator was stored off to one side in a building that does not show on the map. The building was open on three sides and the roof was made of CGI. The supports were old telephone poles cut in half, with wood joists and rafters.

The Dry Stock Pens in the diagram above are a mirror immage of the Implemnt Shed except there were ten pens instead of eight bays and they were there for use mainly during the Winter season, when no cattle were turned out as the majority of pastures were water meadows and subject to flooding. It was in these pens that the Dry Stockman put the in calf cows or heifers through what is known as "Steaming." No, that does not mean that they give them a steam bath every day! No it means that they are fed extra concentrates of food so that when they calve, they will yield the maximum ammount of milk.

In building five there were six loose boxes that were used for calving and when required for the treament of sick cattle, such as lameness due to a cloven hoof infection, most common where you have soft muddy ground and loose gravel mixed in. More about this treatment will come later.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dutch Barn Roofing History.

Corrugated Galvanized
Iron History.
The photograph above is to illustrate the modern day use still of CGI roofing, in this case, the photo was taken in Australia, where this type of roofing is still very popular.
Corrugated galvanised iron, or CGI for short was invented by Henry Palmer, architect and engineer to the London Dock Company. Originally made from wrought iron, it proved to be both light and strong, corrosion resistant, and easily transported in flat sheets. It lent itself to prefabricated structures and could be assembled using semiskilled labour. As you can see it soon became a very affordable covering for hay, grain crops and other farm buildings.

In the early days, as shown in the diagram above, how the corrugated iron was nailed to the wooden rafters of a conventional roof structure. Note the way it was nailed at the top of the curve, so that the water would not seep through the nail holes. Eventually, when metal rafters were used nailing was changed to the use of quarter inch bolts with fitted washers.

As time went on and architecture changed, the curved roof for the Dutch Barn became more popular due to the introduction of the iron I-Beam uprights and the all metal truss and rafters which came to the site in kit form. The cold roll forming press was used on the construction site so that a perfect curve could be made.

This old ruin of a Dutch Barn in the photograph above is to give you an idea of how the skeleton framework went together during construction, also you can see how the ends used the corrugated material as well. Also with this type of barn guttering was added with downspouts at either end.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The White Place Farm Dutch Barns.

A Typical Dutch Barn.
The Dutch barn in the picture above is typical of the Dutch barns of which there were two at White Place Farm, which have long since been dismantled from the farmyard. I will be going into the construction and history of Dutch barns in the next blog, but for now I will stick to the construction of the two which stood in the farmyard for the best part of 60 to 70 years.
Various types Dutch barns have been in existence on farms in England since the early 1800's. when corrugated galvanised iron was invented as a cheap form of roofing material. In some parts of the country the Dutch barn is also known as the French barn, mainly because of the ease of construction. In the early years, wooden telegraph poles were used as barn uprights with traditional truss and rafter construction being used to the roof. The sides of the barn were left open so that hay or straw was able to breathe and maintain good condition. Towards the end of the 1800's, steel I-beam uprights and girders became more practical to use, together with the introduction of the curved roof line that we know.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Wooden Granary on Staddle Stones

A Wooden Granary.
White Place Farm itself did not have a wooden Granary, but it has a stone Granary, which is also a listed building on the farm today. Sutton Farm which was part of the White Place Farm, did have a building such as the one in the picture above and set on Staddle Stones. This building is sadly as with the 60 foot high dovecoté, which was also a listed building, has disappeared. I will be returning to discuss Sutton Farm, as it was in the 1930s with a map drawing for your reference. A very different scene today, compared with that era, when all the Astor farms were pristine model units.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The building of Corn Ricks

Staddle Stones and
Corn Ricks.
Since my last posting, you will have had quite a good chance to look over the map White Place Farm. It is my intention to go into the various buildings and items so marked by numbers in a logical sequence.

I suppose I grew up during the time when the stable stones were used as a foundation for corn ricks for the last time. They had been used by the farming community for the past few centuries as a preventative measure to stop rats and other vermin from eating a grain of four was trashed. and then stored in a granary. Of course, there are wooden granaries that can still be found today in various parts of the country, mounted on staddle stones. You of course can find these stones used for decorative purposes lining driveways, and as ornaments in the gardens today.
The following diagrams are to demonstrate the way these stones were used in supporting and the building of a corn rick.

The first diagram indicates the way the 12 staddle stones would have been laid out by the rick builder. The experience in this skill alone was enough for him to be hired by any farmer, of course, he would bring with him many other skills as well.

The red square denotes the use of an old half stable door or some other similar object that can be found lying around the farm.

The joining lines , seen in the diagram above are made up of a series of poles that have been used for that particular purpose over quite a number of years and were well seasoned for the job.

In this the last diagram above, you will see that it is all filled in. The material would have been made up from shorter planks and other suitable material stretched across the wooden beams. On top of which would be a lay of straw from the previous. To make a bed for the new sheaves of wheat. The builder would start his rick from the centre, and gradually work to the outside. He would keep repeating the process, thereby making sure that the straw in the sheaves was always sloping to the outside of the rick and to drain away any moisture at penetrated the rick itself.
I will go into topping out and thatching at a later point in this blog, again skill that the rick builder would have gained through experience in his working life on various farms. Atesting to this would be the many certificates and trophies that he held from competition and various Agricultural Shows.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

White Place Farm 1930 -- 48.

White Place Farm 1930-1948.

The photograph above has been modified to identify and show the buildings as they were in the 1930 and 40's. With the arrival of Edward Chaplin as farm manager in 1947-48, and with new ideas and equipment things began to change. Below is a list of numbers and descriptions of the buildings identified.

List of farm buildings identified.

1. Thatched corn ricks.
2. The Dutch barns.
3. Open implement and cart shed.
4. Holding pens for Cows about to calve.
5. Calving boxes.
6. Cattle lorry garage.
7. Carpenters shop.
8. Milk delivery lorry garage.
9. Pens for young heifer calves before being turned out to grass.
10. Dairy and bottling room.
11. Boilerhouse for sterilising equipment and bottles.
12. In the 1937 Gascoign milking parlour for three times a day milking.
13. Copper sulphate footbaths.
14. Collecting yard with circular drinking trough.
15. The calfhouse for newly born calves for weaning process.
16. Stock bullpens.
17. A unique design covered stockyard and listed building.
18. Weaned calves in the second stage and still on milk and supplements.
19. Shorthorn herd milking parlour and also winter quarters.
20. Shorthorn herd milking parlour and also winter quarters.
21. Ayrshire secondary milking parlour and winter quarters.
22. Open effluent pit for treatment of a cowshed sewage.
23. Covered effluent pit for second stage of sewage treatment.
24. Large clinkerbed for treatment of fluids, before going into farm drainage.
25. Dairyman's house and garden.
26. Pumphouse.
27. Hedge and Fenceman's house and garden.
28. Stables for shire horses.
29. Covered barn.
30. Cherry Orchard.
31. Arable Forman's house and garden.
32. Old Granary, a grade one listed building.
33. A carter's cottage and garden.
34. The home of the farm herdsmen with garden and grass tennis court.
35. The active granary.
36. The farm bothé for single staff.
37. The site of two 80 foot wooden silos.
38. Farm petrol pump.
39. Farm tractor shed and TVO tank.
40. Dairy equipment store for spares and chemicals.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From 1909 onward.

Cliveden House
Viewed from the South.

With the engagement of Captain Pepper as an estate manager to look after the day-to-day running of the estate, stud farm and White Place Farm, the Astors were free to be either in London for parliamentary sessions and social events, or to be in their constituency of Plymouth Sutton with their home on Plymouth Hoe.

With the event of the First World War, and so much of Cliveden House being empty, a part of it was given over to the Canadian Red Cross as a military hospital an association of which Nancy Astor maintained a very close contact throughout her lifetime. A small part of the house was kept for when they were just visiting. As you can imagine, they were leading a very busy lifestyle.

As you may gather, a certain number of the solder patients died while they were in hospital as a result of their wounds at the front in France. So a small oval glade of ground, just north of the family chapel, became the final resting place for some of the soldiers. In a couple of instances, the final resting place for two that I can recall were nursing sisters who, from the date of their death, appears to be the result of the Spanish flu epidemic. It is very hard these days to read the inscriptions on the gravestones due to do the fact that they are laid flat and the weather has eroded them. It is a great shame that the soldiers buried here are all but forgotten, where their brothers in arms buried in mainland Europe are still well remembered.

The photo above is an aerial view of the Canadian War Graves Cemetery at Cliveden. The headstones can be detected as little yellow dots on a green background.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Astor's from 1906.

A birds eye view of Cliveden.
I have now given the followers of this blog, a thumbnail sketch of the background of both, Waldorf William Astor and Nancy Witcher Langhorne, and now take up the story from their marriage in 1906, and their life at Cliveden, Plymouth, and their development of both the Cliveden Stud and White Place Farm.
The young married couple on taking over Cliveden, really threw themselves into running and organising the place with things that they wanted to do. To help Waldorf with the estate and the newly acquired White Place Farm they engaged as their agent and manager a Captain Pepper, not much is known of this gentleman, except he oversaw the building of the Stud farm, and several new barns and cow sheds at White Place Farm. During the remodelling of the farm, two North American silos made of Western Red Cedar were erected. With this shipment came in tremendous amount of cedar railing and fenceposts, to fence off the fields and paddocks for use by future racehorses. I will go into this in greater depth further on in the saga.
On top of all this Waldorf got interested in politics, and it seemed that Nancy was always there at his side to help.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Astor Saga, the Lady Nancy Astor

Nancy Vicountess Astor.

The photo of the painting above, by the artist John Singer Sargent was painted in or around 1909. She was born in Danville, Virginia, USA on the 19th May 1879. She was one of eight surviving children, sharing a home with four sisters and three brothers. A great deal has already been written about the Langhorn sisters, so I don't intend to go into the subject in great depth.

The photo above is the Langhorne house in Danville where Nancy was born. Her father, Chiswell Dabney Langhorn was a Confederate Officer during the American civil war of 1861 to 1865. The result being, it left him in a very poor financial position, he found work as a Tobacco Auctioneer, at which he became very proficient, also developing his own auctioneers patter, which caught on and was used by other auctioneers. He later went on, with Yankee partners into the railroad business, in which he made a fortune.

Mirador, the house in the photo above was bought from the wealth that "Chillie" as he was known made from his venture in the the railroad business. Nancy wanted to go on to college and her father refused to send her. To me, he was that sort of person in his manner, that girls were to learn how to run a house, get married and raise large families. Nancy never forgave her father this, and I truly believe this was to influence her later in life.

Her first marriage was to a wealthy Bostonian Robert Gould Shaw in October 1897, they had one child a boy, in 1902 they separated and were divorced the following year.

Shortly after her divorce she sailed to England, and it was on that voyage she met Waldorf William Astor, and in 1906 they were married.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Astor Saga, the 2nd Viscount.

Waldorf William 2nd Viscount
and Lady Nancy Astor.
Born in New York City on 19th May 1879. He was educated at Eton College near Windsor in Berkshire, and furthered his education at New College, Oxford, graduating with a Master of Arts degree. Around, 1910 he became acting chairman of the Observer newspaper in London. In that same year he became Conservative member of Parliament for Plymouth in Devon, he held the seat from 1910 to 1980.

Stepping back to 1906, when he met and married Nancy Witcher Langhorn. More about this famous lady in a later section of this saga.

In 1914, he gained the rank of temporary Major, and was Inspector of the Quartermaster General Services in the Home District, a position that he held until 1917 for which he was mentioned in dispatches. Between 1917 and 1918, he held the office of Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. From 1918 to 1919 he held the office of Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Food. From 1919 to 1921 he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health.

On his father's death in 1919 he automatically had to relinquish his Parliamentary seat to take his seat in the House of Lords. His Parliamentary seat becoming vacant, his wife Nancy decided she would run and won the seat in a by-election in 1919.

He held the office of Lord Mayor of Plymouth from 1939 until 1944, when he quietly retired from public life to enjoy his Racehorses and the Cliveden Stud farm, which had long been a great passion of his. He died at his Cliveden home on 30th September 1952 at the age of 73.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Astor Saga

William Waldorf Astor.

William Waldorf Astor was born in New York City and the only child of John Jacob Astor in 1822. He was educated in Germany and Italy and finally studied law at Columbia Law School. He worked for a short time in a law firm before becoming his fathers business manager. In 1878 he was married to Mary Dahlgren Paul and went into politics and served as a New York State Assemblyman and a Senator. He was twice defeated in a bid for the United States Congress and President Chester A. Arthur appointed him minister to Italy, a post he held for three years.

Upon the death of his father in 1890 he inherited a personal fortune that made him the richest man in America. On the 7th of November plans were filed with the New York City Building Department for a new hotel to be built on the site of the old family home, after a family feud with an Aunt. He moved his family to England. In 1897 his cousin John Jacob Astor IV built the Astoria Hotel next door and eventually the two were joined together to become The Waldorf Astoria that we know today.

After leaving America for England with his family, he only returned to America once and gave up his American citizenship to apply for and obtain a British one. The Astor's first home was rented Landsdown House in London until 1893 when he purchased the Cliveden Estate from the 1st Duke of Westminister. In 1899 Astor became a British Citizen and in 1903 bought Hever Castle in Kent. The huge estate was built in 1270 and it is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn, who lived there as a child.

In 1906 he gave Cliveden to his son Waldorf William Astor as a wedding present when he married Nancy Langhorne. In 1916 King George V created him Baron Astor of Hever and a year later he was elevated to that of a Viscount. This was for his philanthropic works for the nation during the first world war.

He died in Brighton, Sussex in 1919 and his ashes are buried beneath the marble floor of the family chapel floor at Cliveden.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Traffic Surveys of the 1930's & 40's

Rural Traffic Survey Hut.

Today's traffic surveys are in the main made with the use of electromechanical devices. In the 1930's and early 40's none of this equipment was available, so the job was conducted by manual labour. The picture of the shed above is typical of the type of building that would house the enumerator's, I say enumerator's, as the task required two people to conduct a survey.

One person would survey and record on a ledger sheet, specially laid out on all traffic travelling from left to right. The second person would record all traffic travelling from right to left. This would include identifying the type of vehicle or person that passed, from heavy goods vehicles and buses to light vans and passenger cars, people on bicycles, and even people walking. On the odd occasion, they would have to record a herd of cattle or sheep being driven past them, which was the normal thing on rural roads in those days.

The shed or building was transported from site to site on a council lorry in an unassembled form, and could be erected or taken down in a matter of a few minutes. The traffic surveyors were usually retired parishioners, who at some time or other had worked for the council. The survey would be conducted usually, Monday to Friday from 8 AM in the morning until 4 PM in the afternoon.

The survey was conducted approximately once every two years, one of the sites being the small layby at Widbrook Common just by the gate leading to my home. As a rule this survey was carried out alternate years to the resurfacing being performed, and quite often during the summer school holiday period.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bi-annual Road Maintenance

The Wallis & Stevens Steam Roller.
The Wallis & Stevens Steam Roller was a very familiar sight around the English roads in the early part of the 20th century. Some were fitted with two saddle tanks, which were filled with tar and fed to a spray boom at the rear. Also hitched to steamroller was a gravel spreader, whose wheels were outside the area being sprayed. A complete pass would cover about 100 yards at a time. At the end of the pass, the spreader would be unhitched from the steamroller, and it would return to roll in the gravel that had just been laid.

The tar boiler in the picture above was located in a small layby, where the steamroller could come by and fill up his saddle tanks for the next section of road, to be paved. This layby, as I remember was where the steamroller would be parked overnight, and together with the crew caravan in which the steam roller driver and the tar boilerman would live during the working week.

The caravan above is typical of all crew caravans that were used by the road maintenance steamroller driver and his tar boiler mate. As they were up very early in the morning to stoke the fires in both the steamroller and tar boiler.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Early Road building.

A typical road building gang.
The picture above is typical of many such roadbuilding gangs that moved around the countryside from job to job with the contractor. Most of these men came from Ireland, for them in those days it was a good paying job.

You must remember that in the early days there was little or no heavy equipment to help build the roads, it was all manual labour, the pickaxe being the most handy piece of equipment. For larger excavations of course there was the steam driven shovel or excavator, nothing like a tractor backhoe that you see today.

The men in the photograph above you can quite easily spot their ranking on the job. The workmen all wore cloth caps, while all the foreman or foremen wore the badge of a bowler hat. The gentleman in a homburg was most likely a manager from either the local council or from the contractor.

Of course, today, that form of recognition has long since gone, the workmen either ware, yellow or blue hard hats, and the foreman and supervisors wear white safety hats.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gates & Fence Posts.

Gates and Fence Posts.

We now come to the original gates and fence posts, used in the fencing of Widbrook Common. Except for the number eight gauge steel wire, and the small Pawl and Ratchet wire tightener's used in the building of the fences, everything was produced locally in Harding's builders yard. You will notice that smooth steel wire was used and not barbed wire. Barbed wire was not introduced until it was decided to use railway ties as fence posts.

The four five barred gates we're chained and padlocked and keys were held by George Allen the Hayward, except for two duplicate keys. One key, was held by my father, so that we could have vehicle access to Widbrook Cottage. The second key was in the possession of Sheephouse Farm, so they could move cattle on and off the common for milking.

The two kissing gates of which there is a photo example was to allow free pedestrian access to the footpath and to Widbrook Cottage. Quite a few summer visitors often thought that the kissing gate to the cottage was the footpath access to the river, which it was not, as there were no footpath right of way across White Place Farm. Quite often, we had to redirect walkers to the Islet Road in Maidenhead Court, as the closest route to the Thames.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Various features of Widbrook Common.

Features of Widbrook Common.
The picture is of the road as it passes through Widbrook Common. The following numbering is to denote certain items of interest to the reader.

#1. Is the position of a kissing gate with a footpath that leads across the Common to the south west corner and onto Maidenhead.

#2. Is the site of a five bar gate and holding pen, which was used for the reception of cattle and horses for marking purposes on 14 th of May or " Widbrook Fair Day."

#3. & #4. Both of these are five bar gates, to give access to cattle, and the Hayward's pony and trap.

#5. It was a combination of a five bar gate and kissing gate, both to give access to Widbrook Cottage, for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

#6. This small layby was used by the road serfacing workmen to park their travelling van, tarpot and steamroller.

#7. This whole area was used for stockpiling road gravel and sand, for use in the resurfacing of the road.

#8. & 9. This water meadow pasture area was rented out to Sheephouse Farm in Maidenhead Court for night grazing of their dairy herd during the Common rental season of May to October.

#10. This marks the site of a Winter Pond, which when frozen solid, was used by many local residents for skating at the weekends.