Friday, 18 May 2012

Old Park Farm

I note the present planning controversy with regard to Old Park Farm which has appeared in other areas in the Blog and since Old Park played such a significant part in my life at Kingsley I thought I would devote an article to the place. Readers might enjoy knowing of its former glory when it was a fully working mixed farm.

Those who have read my early articles will be aware that my father worked at Old Park Farm after the war when I was a baby. In fact, it was to one of the farm cottages that I returned after leaving the nursing home in which I was born at Rowledge. Whilst I describe the buildings as farm cottages they were rather less substantial than cottages are usually imagined to be. The Old Park buildings were of a bungalow type and were wooden clad and painted black. More substantial brick structures were added much later. I imagine these are still there.

I don’t actually recall how long father worked at Old Park but it must have been for quite some time and I am sure he was there for the whole of the time that we lived in The Straights.Having moved to Woodfield he remained on the farm until, at some stage, leaving to go and work at the camp in Bordon.

During my early years the farm was owned by Mr. Nicholson. Bernard John Nicholson who was first and foremost a business man. Mr. Nicholson owned Robialac and Berger paints and, indeed, he created a paint in a shade of pink which was known as Kingsley Pink. The main farm buildings were all painted in this rather unusual shade. However, it was quite subtle and didn’t really seem out of place. All of the dairy buildings, which were on the right side of the farm drive, and the brick walls of the buildings on the left were in this colour as were the buildings in the square on the left a short way up the drive. Mr. Nicholson drove a bronze coloured Rolls Royce which bore the number plate BJN ….. I forget what the numerals were. He was a short dapper little man whom I remember as being grey haired for all of the time I knew him. He sported a short well clipped moustache. He used glasses to read and these were of the half moon type which he perched upon the end of his nose and would peer over them at one. I knew him throughout my childhood and as my boss when I went to work at Old Park farm much later in my life.

In the early days the farm was managed by Geoffrey Leat (?) who lived with his wife and two children, Jennifer and Richard, in Foundry House. Mr. Leat was Mrs. Nicholson’s son by a former marriage. Geoffrey was ex military and was dark haired also with a dark moustache and a very upright bearing. He was also quite tall. Mrs. Leat was a dark haired beauty of the Country Life style, she came from Chile and had a lovely dark olive skin and her two children were both blessed with her dark good looks.

From my early memories of Old Park there was a flourishing dairy herd of Guernsey cattle, a couple of battery houses for chicken, a walled in garden, ( in production ), and a pig unit opposite the then village shop. Apart from lots of grass land for the cattle there was also a lot of corn grown and some potatoes. The land with the farm extended from to the right as you face the farm from the B3004 road down almost as far as Coldharbour where it met Mr. Marshals land at Malthouse Farm. To the side and back of the farm the land extended down Sickles Road all the way down to the railway line and along well down the side of Alice Holt Forest probably more than half way towards the Farnham road. There was also a block of land on the other side of Sickles Road which included the Sports Hut and the small copse beside the railway back up to and behind the school and as far west as the public footpath which begins opposite the Cricketers. At a later date Mr. Nicholson bought further land along Green Street on the left hand side as you go towards Alton and Mowlands Farm at Frithend. Quite a large amount of land in those days.

The concrete road that ran through the farm and behind the walled garden and farmhouse was, in those days, called Picadilli. Why, I have no idea. In front of the farm and either side of the farm drive beside the road, were areas of grass and it was quite usual to see two great Guernsey bulls tethered, one on each side. They were attached to a long bar which was in turn attached to a sort of wheel which allowed the animals to walk around in a circle. As far as I remember the wheel structure was on a spike which was hammered into the ground and could be moved as required. The bulls wore head harnesses similar to those worn by horses but made up of chains. A long central chain ran from the animals forehead down through the ring in its nose and continued on until it was attached to the wheel structure having passed through the long revolving hollow bar. The fact that the chain went through the bulls nose ring ensured that the animal did not attempt to break free as any thrust of the head would have resulted in the ring pulling on the nose thus causing discomfort if not pain. The bulls were led to and from there grazing station by a bull pole. This was a steel bar of about five feet in length with a pair of strong pinchers at one end and a controlling handle at the other. The pinchers went through the nose ring and secured the bull rigidly between the person handling it and the other end of the pole. The handled locked the pinchers once they had located the nose ring. In this way bulls could be steered around without much risk as again any attempt to play up would have resulted in the nose ring doing its work. In order to get the bulls attached to the bull bars the tethering chains could be reeled in to the end of the tethering bars by a sort of crank on the central wheel. This meant the bulls head was held securely at the end of the revolving bar until the bull bar had been secured through its nose ring. I somehow doubt that bulls would be permitted to be tethered beside a public road without fencing in today’s Kingsley. At night the bulls were returned to their separate bull pens
beside the dairy.

The farm employed many men and there were general farm workers, tractor drivers, cowmen, pig and poultry men not to mention the people that were employed in the gardens both of the house and the market gardens. Seasonal jobs provided even more work and at times of harvest and hay making villagers undertook part time tasks in order to get the various crops in.

Over the years there was a great turn over of workmen on the farm and as machinery developed the numbers required reduced. The village men seemed to moved away from the farm and many of them found employment at the army camp at Bordon which was a large local employer. Men taking up employment at Old Park Farm began to be recruited from much farther away and I remember people coming to the farm from Norfolk, Hereford and Morton in the Marsh. I suppose one of the longest serving employees must have been Roy Taylor who looked after the gardening side of the farm. He ran the market gardens which produced much in the way of fruit and vegetables but also lots of pot plants for sale. Chrysanthamums, Cyclamen and many more varieties. It was a very busy and, I have no doubt, profitable enterprise. Roy remained on the farm until he retired. He and his family resided at 5, Goldhill. The farm remain in the ownership of Mr. Nicholson until his death after which it was bought by, I think, an insurance company. I was working on the farm at the time of Mr. Nicholsons death and he very generously left me £50 in his will, a lot of money at that time. More in a future edition.

3 comments:

  1. What an interesting story. I grew up in Binsted & my parents were friends of the Nicholsons & often talked about the wonderful parties they held in the beautiful gardens at Old Park Farm. Wouldn't they be sad to see the dilapidated state its in now.

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    1. I recall, as a grandson of Bernard, that he had a driver for his Rolls who I am sure was called Rex

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  2. Hello, I am a great grand daughter of Bernard John Nicholson and I really enjoyed reading this story about him, his home and his Rolls Royce. Of course I never met him but my parents have a big painting of him hanging in the dining room. Will have a close look at your blog, maybe I will find out some more about him and his life in Kingsley! Regards from the Baltic Sea.

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