The Men & The Fields

Here’s an extract from “Men and the Fields”, a description of farming in the East of England county of Suffolk, written by Adrian Bell in 1939 (Little Toller Books – ISBN 978-0-9562545-2-8):

“Then there was the baking in this cottage with its brick oven. The father at this time of year used to be given a hedge to cut by his master, and he used to make it up into little faggots especially for the brick oven, called batlins. They used to bake once in three weeks, and the woman, who had then been a child, told me that the bread ate as sweet at the end of that time as at the beginning. They had two kneading troughs, one to bake the bread in, the other to store it. They made big loaves, bigger than that the baker now bakes for the harvest festival.”

Now look at this photograph taken the best part of twenty years later at a North Wales farm:

Never mind the fact that it’s an Environmental Health Officer’s nightmare, especially the little lamb at the front and the Live Chicks boxes at the back, look at the size and quantity of the breads. Was that three weeks supplies? What on earth did they use for bread tins?

The photo was given to me by Carys, one of our customers. It shows her aunt and grandmother at the family farm in Llanuwchllyn, near Bala in the 50s.

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6 Responses to The Men & The Fields

  1. Big-G says:

    I spent years 2-5 (I think) which would be 1957/8 to 1961 in Llanuwchllyn. I dont recall too much, other than living in one of the Watkins’ Estate houses, which I still look at it each time I pass. It had no electric, and was adjacent to a farm, where I would disappear to, much vexing my mother. My father, who was a teacher recounts tales of considerable poverty even then, with some pupils bringing in hard bread or biscuits, as their only meal during the day, though I must admit, I thought free school milk and even dinners were provided from 1946 or ’47. I’ll pass the photo on to my father though ans see if he can identify the woman?

  2. Big-G says:

    As for tins, it looks like they used anything available, a bit like me with my boxes in a way.

  3. bethesdabakers says:

    Hey, Gareth, I hope you haven’t sneaked down the A5 without popping in for a drink.

  4. Big-G says:

    Sorry. but we came on Xmas eve, took the old folks out for a family meal near Harlech on Xmas Day, then spent Boxing day sliding around denbigh, before hightailing it in the opposite direction, and doing the outlaw part!
    Very sorry. but the next time the opportunity presents….I’ll be letting you know! Hope you had a good break.

  5. Glenn says:

    Fantastic picture, great to see the kitchen shared by animals. I find on baking day during the winter that everyone congregates in the kitchen. The kids are under your feet everytime I turn around with something hot. The dog lies sprawled in front of the oven vents. Even the chickens often scurry in when your back is turned. I work on the basis that oven temperature kills most of the bugs. Kid’s fingers, a few dog hairs and the odd downy feather just add to the complexity of a farmhouse loaf.

  6. bethesdabakers says:

    You won’t find any kid’s fingers in my bread. The odd dead mouse maybe …

    You’re just an old sentimentalist at heart, Glenn

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