Interview by Margaret Cooper in 2000 for the “Oxton Now & Then” publication.
Pat Whitelocks, lives at Walnut Tree House, Main Street, Oxton. Works for the Estate.
” I’m the youngest of six, two girls and four boys. We lived out of the village, it seemed going somewhere to come down to the village, living two miles out with no transport. Coming to school, we all biked or walked”..
“I remember the bakers where we used to go down and get cobs at dinnertime from school, and the cobbler who was my uncle Tom and the smell of the leather when he was doing shoes is something that you don’t forget. Same as going with my father, to do the horses at night and the smell of hay: somehow, it stays with you. We have still got the old stables now [at the Grange]”.
“One of my brothers worked at Shipsides as a mechanic, and he got this old Morris Minor car. I think I was about 8 then, so really we had a car pretty early on in life. I can remember when he bought it, there was only the front two seats you could sit on. The back was all bits and bobs he had bought to make it. I was in the bath at the time when the car came and he gave [us] all a ride up the lane at the Grange. My mother had never driven or seen a car drove. In those days you didn’t have to have a test and about the third time she turned into the bottom of the drive one of the back wheels came off, but apart from that, rides you had in a car then was something special. I mean that was the other thing, when we went to the sea side on Sunday school outings and then the youth club used to have trips out to Nottingham that was interesting to us, and now you see it all without having to go and see it in a way.
“Through the village all the cattle used to come in to be milked. Most of the farms milked two or three cattle. If people saw the streets now I think, especially the new comers, they wouldn’t think much to it. When we were small we used to sometimes have cattle come to Lowdham Station, and we walked them from Lowdham Station on a Sunday morning because it used to be less busy. It was a matter of trying to run in front and stop in front of everybody’s gate, bringing about 30 cattle up the road from the station, an absolute nightmare. That was how you could be involved in the farming. I used to walk behind the binder all day and because then they were still leading with horses when I can remember”.
“I left [school] at 15 in the November and started work on the farm in December, and that was 1952. I mean school really was not a lot to remember, well you do remember but nothing particular.
“I played for the youth [cricket] club a bit and obviously we used to go up there every night playing cricket but I never played for the cricket team, no. I think a lot of that was the fact that it always used to be a time when [we were] striking sugar beet out and hay making. Work was very much involved at that time with sugar beet. You lived in it since the day it was planted to the day it was got up virtually. [Uncle Tom Whitelocks] lost his legs in the war and had wooden legs. That never stopped him playing cricket and he was quite good at it really, I think there was some dispute over whether he had hit it with his wooden leg or with the bat but he was quite a few years in the cricket team and did very well. Some kind of explosion he was involved in [in the First World War], I don’t know whether it was a mine or the exact details but he used to take them off when you went down there. [He had] a cobblers shop on the corner of Water Lane [and New Road], and he used to sell socks and all that sort of thing, and braces. He was doing his cobbling and we used to sit and watch him work the thing with his feet because the lathes and things was done by belts then, they weren’t electric driven. We always tended to get a pair of socks or braces for Christmas from my uncle. We were always brought up to appreciate what we’d got and not to be envious of what we hadn’t got”.
“You imagine my mum and dad with six children just working on farm workers wages. We used to grow vegetables in the garden. When we used to come home from school and wanting something to eat my mum would be sat under the black berry bush just picking blackberries and she’d got to get this other bowl full before we’d get anything or we’d got to help her to do it.. She always used to be making jams and things. The other thing, we actually got a mangle where you had to turn the handle and we had to do so many turns before we could go to school. We’d only got the ordinary fire and cooking range and our house was very small, we used to sleep in every room in the house but the kitchen, but it was all great fun”.
“I met Rosemary originally when I was 14 at a fair in Calverton. Then I used to be in Oxton church choir and she used to come over with some other girls and so I met up with her when I used to come out of church. We started courting just before I was 17 and we were courting six and a half years before we got married in 1960. [We married in] the local church and we went to live in the house I was born in when we got married at Grange Farm. It’s a lovely spot, the house at Grange Farm.
“[I started work] with Mr Singleton as a general farm worker. Then most of the jobs were manual work anyway, mucking all the yards out from the cattle because we had quite a lot of cattle in those days and quite a lot of sheep. Another thing we used to enjoy as children was taking it in turn to look at the lambs at night and to sit up with my father at weekends because we weren’t allowed to when it was school days. We’d still got two horses when we started working on the farm in 1952, one we used round the farm in a pony cart and one that was used to do a bit of work with the sugar beet but it was only a couple of years before the horses went altogether. [I remember] the road from Fallows Farm and the horses. Percy [Cooper] was on the horse and my brother Tom, who worked on the farm as a shepherd to start with , and every time they’d got to a gate [Tom] tried to get on and in the end he got that fed up he hit it on the back and it bolted all the way to the grange with Percy on it. We had some good tales with the horses”.
“My father started at Grange Farm in 1927, he went to look after the farm for Captain Sherbrooke until they got a tenant farmer to take the farm. My father was working for Sherbrookes at the time and he did work at Moorfield Farm. That’s where he met my mother. My mother used to bike to Nottingham to work at Stead and Simpson’s everyday from Oxton. My mother came into Oxton to live at the start of the war and she actually lived in Whitelock’s Cottage [Sandy Lane] to start with. There’s two cottages there: my father was born in one and retired into [one]”
“Water used to run down the road [Water Lane] at that time. That road used to be a lot wider and that’s why people got flooded there. My uncle Tom used to have the garden the other side [at Cromer Cottage]. I used to cut his hedge and dig his garden for him, and the dike used to be much wider there. There are still builders now, that’s a good thing really that they haven’t completely gone. The farms have dwindled, there’s not the people involved. When I started there was 13 or 14 regular workers plus casual labour for all the crops like sugar beet and things like that and now you’re down to about five on twice the acres of land, it’s just how machinery has taken over. But it was a way of life and a way of making a living, the contented way of life. You’ve nearly got to go out of the village to see a cow; John Cressey, [who farms] at Thurgaton Quarter rents that field every year, the one on the [Oxton] hill side, he brings his young cattle onto there”.
“[There was a] marvellous range of buildings [at Fallows Farm], a lot aren’t there now. On a Sunday morning my father used to go up in the pony cart to take the wages to the chap who lived in that farm cottage. That farm house that’s in the buildings, my brother Matt was the last person to live in there, [he] used to work on Fallow’s Farm. His wife was having a baby and she didn’t want to have it up there so she moved to Grange Farm and my father moved into the white bungalow, built in about 1953 [close to] the round house bungalow what we all lived in which was just like a threepenny bit. [When] I was born they had a little bit added on”
“Margaret Springs Wood goes down towards Edingley, and then there’s one we call Rough Wood which goes down the side of Greaves Lane. The woods are fairly unchanged. They’ve been felled and re-planted in my life time, I’ve worked in them quite a lot these last couple of winters thinning them out. But there doesn’t seem to be the money for woods anymore. We’ve never seem to have grown the right sort.
“We got the little Ferguson [tractors] which we thought were like Rolls Royce. We had five of those at one time, three petrol and two diesel You’d go out with extra can of fuel and stop there until about 7 or 8 o’clock at night and you wouldn’t go home all day. We had a lot of scary experiences on tractors, especially when we were sizing and they would run away with us down hill. Now with four wheel drive its made a lot of difference, and now of course [we have] safety straps and radios and air conditioning. [We’ve gone] from about 20 horse power tractors and now we’ve got 160 and coming up to 300 horse power”.
“[Farming’s] altered a little bit now. I can remember years ago you wouldn’t stop overtime on a Sunday because people went to church. Now with tractors with lights you can work till 11 o’clock at night and in a way it’s got worse not better, except its not manual like it was then. But I still enjoyed the manual work more because when you do manual work you went to bed and you’d sleep because you were tired but now there’s more mental pressure “.
“We still grow the general crops. Potatoes we grow on contract, but another farmer does all the work for them and most of them go to crisps. Then they’ve got the asparagus and oil seed rape. We also grow quite a lot of peas at the moment, probably 150 acres this year, and beans and wheat and barley but nothing too exotic really apart from the asparagus. The asparagus is obviously picked by hand but the peas and the beans are all combined crops now. The peas are now just protein peas to add to a cattle mix to make up the protein value. We used to grow for Bachelor’ Peas at one time”.
“I can remember foot and mouth in Oxton when they got it [in] 1967.No compensation can pay for a lifes work, not when they’ve built up a pedigree herd and then to see them just slaughtered”
“The bombers used to come back to Lincolnshire aerodromes at night and the sky used to be full of them. My brother and myself used to sit in the bedroom window watching them coming home. This one particular night we saw this one was on fire and the fire kept gradually getting worse and worse and the next minute it exploded in mid air. It crashed this side of Farnsfield and all five were killed in it. I can remember the planes and training pilots. Some Polish pilot trying to be a bit too clever caught the wings on the floor and tipped it over but nobody was hurt. That was in the field near the house up at the Grange”.
“My [oldest] brother Matt [was in the Home Guard]. They had to have some special sized boots for him because they couldn’t get these boots big enough for him, my brother was quite a big lad and he weighed about 19 stone. He’s still going strong, he’s retired from farming now but does loads of gardening and delivers Sunday papers. He’s 74”.
“Both my sons worked at Grange Farm originally. One’s on the mechanical side but was still doing landscape gardening and that sort of thing at Blidworth. He’s workshop manager there now on the machinery side of it so he’s not actually working with the soil. My eldest son still works on the farm, the one we can’t get married off. My daughter, she went to work at Calverton at one of the factories there and then worked at the nursery at Oxton and then she went to Halam again working in horticultural plants and now she works at Wheatcrofts at Nottingham. She got this passion for football and played football in the team of Notts. County ladies for 20 years”.
“When I was younger [the Hall gardens] were really brilliant but they gradually started to get neglected. I probably never saw them at their real best but I can remember there were gardens round the Halls with fountains, and tennis courts at the bottom. There was a tennis club, I used to like tennis”
“[The shoot’s] been going for 100 years. The difference between the shoot that I remember was the fact that it was an occasion, it wasn’t how many pheasants you shot, it was the people got together, the land lord and his friends, and had a days recreation shooting. Today the modern shoot, they breed them like chickens. They have to promise they’re going to get 300 birds or whatever. It’s become a business not a sport. The whole estate was shot over, all the tenant farmers would come and join in as well. But it was quite an occasion. We got up to 6 shillings a day [beating]. I bought my first push bike with.[that]”
“People knew one another more didn’t they? I’m afraid I don’t know half the people that live in Oxton now, at one time I would have known everyone. I’m probably as guilty as anybody, living up at [Grange] farm, we didn’t get involved as much. We moved down [into the village] in 1993 and we’ve not really got involved and probably in the next few years I shall be moving out of the village anyway. I’d have no option, this [house] goes with the job. We are buying a house in Calverton which I’m renting out for when I retire but I’d still prefer to stop in Oxton. Not only Oxton village, all villages are the same, they always used to say they’d build some starter homes.”
“I’m getting to my last few years, I’m on my 49th year so I shall actually be 65 in 2002 but I want to carry on to the Christmas to complete my 50 years. I can’t imagine not being at work, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it”.
Pat Whitelocks with Caterpillar tractor 1960