The National Farm Survey records for Wickhamford, Badsey Aldington and Blackminster have been transcribed and these give details of cropping, livestock and occupancy for these parishes in the middle of the Second World War.
Where areas of 5 acres or more were involved, more detailed forms had to be completed and a Ministry of Agriculture officer visited the premises, to assess how efficiently it was being run. Locally, Ron Sidwell was the ‘War Ag’ District Horticultural Officer for the Vale of Evesham and it is his comments concerning Wickhamford growers that are the subject of this article. In one case below, F.W. Morris did the assessment of an agricultural enterprise. Five of the growers discussed lived in the village and three lived in Evesham, but grew crops in Wickhamford. The management of 45 owners and tenants was assessed on an A, B, C scale in the village and those not making grade A, for an interesting variety of reasons, were as follows: -
Mr W.L. Badger of Oxstalls Cottages, Common Road, Evesham
He grew 4 acres of vegetables and had a one-acre orchard and also 14 poultry. He had been the tenant for 14 years when the holding was assessed on 18th October 1944. The reason for a grade ‘B’ classification in Mr Badger’s case was 'Personal failings - laziness and lack of interest'.
Mr Frank Morrall of 20 Port Street, Evesham
He had 13 acres of land, of which three were orchards. He grew 9 acres of potatoes and one of vegetables. He also had sheep, pigs and poultry on his holding. Mr Morrall was the owner of the land but, on 20th January 1942, he was given a ‘B’ classification due to 'Personal failings - inexperienced'.
Mr A. Henry Eaton of Crab Farm, Bengeworth, Evesham
He was the tenant of 23½ acres in Wickhamford, which was all permanent grass for grazing, but he only had ten cows in calf when assessed by F.W. Morris on 1st November 1943. He gave Mr Eaton a ‘C’ classification due to 'Personal failings - lack of interest'.
Messrs A. W. Figgitt & Son of 6 Council Houses, Wickhamford
Stanley Figgitt lived at this address in 1939. The family grew 5½ acres of vegetables and ½ acre of raspberries, as well as keeping one pig. They had held the tenancy of the land for seven years when they were assessed on 20th December 1942. Ron Sidwell considered their management as only warranting a ‘C’ classification due to ‘'Personal failings - slackness and laziness'. The land was in poor condition and heavily infested with couch grass and thistle.
Mr Allen E. Halford of 9 Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford
He owned 7¼ acres of land, with orchard and other fruit crops and including 2 acres of potatoes. He also had three pigs and 210 poultry. On 20th January 1942, he was given a ‘B’ classification for his management due to 'Personal failings - short of labour, not too fond of work, lack of initiative'.
Messrs J. & V. Pethard of Wickhamford
Brothers Vernon and Jarrett Pethard owned or were tenants with a total of 6½ acres of land. About a half of the area was orchards or strawberries and the rest was fallow or for growing vegetables. On 18th October 1944, the Pethard’s were given a ‘B’ classification for their management of their business due to 'Personal failings - somewhat lazy'.
Mr C. S. Phipps of 8 Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford
Claude Phipps was owner or tenant of a total of 10½ acres of land. His holding was a mixture of 3¼ acres of orchard, a small area of soft fruit and the rest for vegetables. He also had 88 poultry when assessed on 18th October 1944. His ‘B’ classification was given due to 'Lack of capital'.
Mr George Edward Robbins of 16 Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford
He was a tenant with 11¾ acres of land, all of which was used for growing a wide range of vegetables (potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, onions, beans, peas and asparagus). To cope with this, there were three full-time workers on his holding and he worked there part-time, as he also had a fruit and vegetable haulage business. The reason for his business being classified as ‘B’ on 29th December 1942 was due to 'Personal failings - drink'.
Under the stressful condition of War, it is not surprising that some 20% of the Wickhamford growers with 5 or more acres of land to cultivate were falling short of what the Government expected in their management of food production. The range of reasons for the ‘War Ag’ assessor to downgrade these businesses from category ‘A’ is quite varied, from lack of experience, to lack of interest and laziness, to problems with alcohol.
Tom Locke – January 2021