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Case Study – The Mason and Harman Families of Wickhamford

Badsey Society member, Val Harman (née Mason), was part of the team which visited the National Archives to transcribe the National Farm Survey documents.  She was delighted to find paperwork relating to the land worked by her own father and grandfather and by that of her in-laws.


Both Val’s grandfather, Charles Robert Mason (1876-1955), and her father, Frederick Charles Mason (1910-2006), received forms.  Charles and Fred were at least the fifth and sixth generation of Masons to have been born in the Vale, Masons having lived in either Wickhamford or Badsey since the beginning of the 18th century.  The Masons lived at 19 Pitchers Hill (present-day No 32), which Charles had moved into with his new bride in 1906 and when he began renting 1½ acres of land on the north side of Pitchers Hill from the trustees of J P Lord.  By the time of the agricultural census, Charles had 3½ acres and Fred had 4½ acres, all rented except for the 1½ acres that had by this time been purchased.  Apart from the land on Pitchers Hill the rest was in Whitfurrows.  The census reveals that they were growing cabbages, carrots, parsnips, onions, sprouts, runner beans, peas and asparagus. They had a quarter acre of orchard, in which were planted yellow egg, purple egg and Victoria plums trees.  They employed no extra labour and the only form of mechanisation was a 2½ hp Auto Culto that would have been used for tilling the land.

Val, born a few years after the survey took place, recalls that crops, with the exception of asparagus, were gathered and packed on the land and wheeled on a barrow from Whifurrows through the land on Pitchers Hill to the roadside where it was picked up by the Central Market lorry to be taken for auction at their premises in Avon Street, Evesham.  The asparagus was put into pot hampers and taken either on a wheelbarrow or on a rack on the front of Fred’s bike back to a shed at the side of their house.  There it was tied into rounds with raffia, packed and again put on the side of the road to be collected for market.  The purple and yellow egg plums were mainly sold on contract to Frank K Sharp for canning and jam but the Victorias were mainly sent to market.  Val is amazed that there is no mention of keeping a pig on the census form as she knew that one was always kept in a sty at the top of the garden together with a few chickens. Both were essential to help bolster the meagre meat ration allocated by the government.


By contrast, Val’s in-laws, the Harmans, had a larger amount of land.  Val’s father-in-law, Albert Enos Harman (1907-1984), who lived at 1 Longdon Hill, had 2 acres, and the family business had 13.2 acres.  The forms were originally addressed to Mrs Kate J R & A E Harman of 55 Kings Road, but this was crossed out and Albert’s name and address substituted.  Kate’s husband, Bernard, had died in 1937.  After the war the business was known as J & A Harman.

The business was situated at the bottom of Longdon Hill and amounted to 14.5 acres of land with a small stream running along the western edge that was used for irrigation in times of drought.  The land was initially owned by the Trustees of J P Lord but was purchased by Christchurch College, Oxford  from whom the Harman family rented the land at an annual rent of £45-10s-10d but was later purchased from the College.  Albert lived at I Longdon Hill, a house that adjoined the land and Kate and Jim lived in Evesham. Kate was probably a sleeping partner as it is not known that she ever worked on the land.

The census forms reveal that they had a fordson tractor and kept a horse (by the name of Bob, but of course that information wasn’t on the form!). At the time of the census they were employing two permanent workers and at busy times four casual workers.  A variety of crops were grown including soft fruit, parsnips, beetroot, onions, broad beans, peas, asparagus and 3.25 acres of orchards that consisted mainly of plums. They also had six pigs and 30 chickens.  The Harman business, by virtue of its size, merited a visit from the inspector and was given a grade A.