by Barbara Storrie (née Blackburn) 2020
I have known the farmhouse from the 1950s up to 2009. Parts of Hall Farm house, I believe, dates back to c1600. Research suggests that Tollerton Hall, albeit two buildings at the start, originated in the 15th century; one to the south of the estate and one to the north near to Hall Farm. The farm would have been rented to the occupants by the owners of Tollerton Hall.
In the 1841 census it shows William Forse (b.1811 d.1846) was occupying Hall Farm with his wife Sarah (nee Cash) and their children Catherine, Emma, Arthur, and Louisa. (See this link for more info on the Forse family: https://tollertonvillagehistory.co.uk/2015/11/22/the-hickling-forse-connections-and-beyond/)
By 1871 there is no sign of any of the Forse family in Tollerton and Hall Farm is not specified so we cannot be certain who the occupants were. Sarah Forse died in 1868 and William had long left her and their family and returned to live in the London area.
Emma Force (William & Sarah’s daughter) married William Hickling in 1868 and in the 1871 Census they are listed at Lodge Gates, Tollerton (pic 2).
In the 1911 Census the Chamberlain family were at Hall Farm. Albert Edward Chamberlain born 1881 & Mabel nee Plowright born 1881 plus their 5 children and 2 servants. (Pic 3)
In 1921 Arthur & Mary Beardsley are on the electoral register and in 1927 Alfred Brown and his wife Elizabeth (my father’s aunt and uncle (Pic 4)) moved into Hall Farm and rented it from the owner of the Hall, Alice Burnside, until he purchased it in 1945. I have letters addressed to Alfred Brown from the Midland Bank sanctioning an overdraft of £1800 at an interest rate of 4% to cover the purchase.
My mother and father, Jim and Joyce Blackburn, Paul and myself moved from 3 Medina Drive in 1971 and lived in the renovated cottage at Hall Farm, 122 Tollerton Lane. Mum, Dad and Paul moved from the cottage into the farm house in 1977 after installing central heating, I married in 1972 and moved to Lincolnshire. Dad and Paul worked the farm together until 1997 when Dad retired.
Joyce died in 2002 and Jim in 2007. Paul and Jill married in 1982 and lived in the cottage and had 4 sons, Richard, Robert, Andrew & Sam. The cottage and buildings around the crew yard were sold off in 2005 and duly converted into two new homes. The cottage was demolished and a new house built. Paul and family then lived in a converted part of the Farm House for a period of time before moving to Canada for 2 years from 2007, returning in 2009/10. The Hall Farm farmhouse was sold in 2010 to the present owners who have renovated.
The land known as the park and the far park are still farmed by Paul, rented from the owners of the Hall, now Ian Kershaw. The land known as the Dickholme on Tollerton Lane by the style is owned and farmed by Paul. After a time living in Canada, Paul and Jill and 3 of their children moved back to Hose.
In 1994 Paul and Jill farmed 6000 free range chickens as layers and in 1996 took on an extra 4000 layers. This was extra to the arable farming. They now live and farm in Hose and up to 2020 had 16,000 free range layers. They also have sheep and cattle and continue to farm the land in Tollerton and various other villages around.
My dad, Jim, was a gentleman farmer who always wore a shirt, tie and jacket no matter what he was doing; ploughing the fields, hoeing the sugarbeet, harvesting the corn or delivering the milk. I’ve even got a photo of him paddling in the sea still with a jacket, shirt and tie and trousers rolled up!!
Looking at the styles of brickwork, one part of the property looks as if it could have been a single storey building, the oldest part of the house (pic 6). The brickwork above this part was built on upwards at a later date and then extended and a round cellar added (pic 7), with arched windows at ground level, and other bits built on in various styles thereafter. Quite a few windows were bricked in over time due to the fire tax. There used to be a plaque on the side wall which was for fire insurance. The house always appeared to be bigger upstairs than downstairs due to the large pantry and cellar taking up a lot of the ground floor. Above one window there was an archway of bricks with a wooden lintel, presumably this was an open area at one time perhaps for horses and/or carts. (pic 8).
Looking at the front of the farm house there was a door (white in pic 8) to the far right with a stone staircase leading up to what was a workroom in my time, possibly a living space originally. It was always full of old farm tools, like rakes, hoes and scythes and many, many cobwebs. It always had a distinct smell of old dust, oil and dirt. There was also a hand grenade on the stone steps, which I assumed was immobilised!!
The house as I remember in the fifties had a kitchen with a very small window facing the crew yard. There was a chimney breast at the side of the window which was later removed and this window and the living room changed. Note the bricked up windows here too. (Pic 9)
Within the farmhouse there was a front kitchen and a back kitchen. The front held a sink and cooking range and the back was where hams were hung from large hooks on the beams. (Pic 10)
I personally don’t remember the hams but the hooks were there and in my time this room was a breakfast room. Off here was a well-trodden stone staircase leading to the first floor which I assume was once where a maid perhaps lived in a room above the cellar. Later it became the main bathroom with a feature of a diamond shaped window. (Pic 11)
In the living room was a large round dining table and two or three armchairs. Leading off this room was a pantry with stone floors, lots of shelves and a meat safe made of wood with metal mesh sides; the windows had metal vertical bars. The cellar was off this room down some stone steps. The high windows in here (Pic 12) were covered in metal mesh, like the meat safe. The cellar would be used for storing meats and cheeses and fruits from the garden. It was a wonderful place to hide as a child!
Leading off the living room through a door that had green baize on the back, was a corridor, with two rooms off to the right. These were made into one long room by Alf Brown and called the garden room, as it over-looked the garden. The corridor also led to the front door of the house. This door was solid wood with studs on the outside. Off the corridor was the main staircase winding round to the first floor. (Pic 13). Three rooms led off the landing, one room having a door at each end, but further round a corner another room led off this with another room leading off that, which we called the tank room as it housed the hot water tank in a corner cupboard. I remember this room being used to dry clothes on lines strung across on wet days. There used to be an old mangle for the laundry, also a large dolly tub. The floors upstairs were all solid, I presume a kind of concrete, and a bit uneven!
Back downstairs and out of the back kitchen door, was a courtyard with whitewashed walls, this led to the dairy and cow sheds through a covered archway. Also off the courtyard was a brick built building which was the outside toilet. This had wooden seats, a bit like a shelf with a hole in it and a bucket. The bucket would be emptied by the night soil people once a week (this happened before my time but I do remember the cottage had an outside toilet with the same set-up and a really horrible smell. Childhood memories!).
A well in the back yard provided water via a pump for drinking and a tank under the front kitchen provided rainwater for washing.
The farm also had a tithe cottage (Pic 14) where the farm labourer and family lived. This picture was taken in about 1970 just before it was renovated. During the 50s & 60s the farm labourer was Mr Hanstock, Mrs Hanstock and sons Owen and Harold.
LIFE ON THE FARM
Off the crew yard, which is an area to keep cattle and pigs during the winter, was a cowshed, stables and a pig sty, a large barn for grain and a bull shed. The bull used to be brought out of the shed across the yard to drink out of the water trough, led by a long pole hooked onto the ring in the bull’s nose. (Pic 15).
The man in this picture I believe was called Ghandi. His name was Arthur Anderson, and he lived in the farm cottage with his wife Mary. Arthur died in 1954 aged 79. Mr & Mrs Hanstock lived there after Ghandi and Robert (Bob) Chambers, a local farmer, spent a few years there also. It was a two up two down brick built house with an outside toilet and wash house with a brick built coal heated boiler for washing clothes. The cottage had an extension added around 1971 and my parents, Jim and Joyce Blackburn lived there, along with Paul (and me for six months) until 1978 when they moved into the farm house.
Alf Brown died in 1949 leaving Elizabeth nee Bowman (d.1972) (Lizzie) to run the farm with my father. My mother and father lived on Medina Drive at no.3 with me (Barbara) and John my older brother. (John died in June 1957 aged 10 years. In the August that year my younger brother Paul was born.) Lizzie’s spinster sister Mary Bowman had been living at the farm since before 1929, but after Alf’s death other sisters from Mansfield came to live with her, so there was Barbara Bowman (d.1974) and Mary Bowman (d.1975). Margaret Bowman also lived there for a time but died in 1953. Mary Bowman was head mistress of The Church School in Beeston from 1944-54. Another sister, Helen Watt Bowman (Nellie) married a Tom Beeston and they farmed at Hall Farm, Plumtree (the Bowmans are from a family of 13 children).
In 1940 Alf took on the task of allocating evacuees from Norfolk and gave a home to two sisters, Margaret Love aged 6 and Thelma Love aged 12. Thelma later married a local man, John Hall of The Elms, Tollerton Lane and they went to live in Kenya in the 1950s and still live there to date (2020). Margaret now lives in Australia.
The farm land known as the park and owned by Tollerton Hall was taken over by the war office during the Second world war and became a camp for American troops and later a PoW camp for Italians and Germans.
The main crops grown on the farm were mangels to feed the cattle and also wheat. The cows were milked in the cowsheds and the milk distributed around Tollerton using ladles and milk churns. I still have two of the milk churns with the name ‘Brown’ stamped on them. This changed in the 1950s, possibly due to the introduction of stricter laws on pasteurisation, and my father changed to beef cattle for a while but the farm was mainly arable; growing sugarbeet, barley and wheat. There were chickens too. So my father continued to deliver milk, getting this from Bradshaw’s dairy at Stanton-on-the Wolds and then later from Northern Dairies based in West Bridgford. He sold eggs and the occasional chicken for Sunday lunch, which he dressed himself. He trained as a poultryman and farmer at Sutton Bonington School of Agriculture, now part of Nottingham University, during the late thirties before joining up in the armed forces during the war years. The chickens were free range in the crew yard and stack yard and later in a field around the two chestnut trees in the first field at the entrance to Hall Farm. Prior to the chickens being in the field I believe guides and scouts sometimes used this field for sports and camping.
Many wild cats lived on the farm, keeping the mouse population down! Mary fed them with boiled potatoes and ‘lights’ (animal lungs) once a week. The rest of the time they had to eat mice!
This picture was drawn and painted by a Mrs Hopewell but not sure as to the authenticity of the date as I remember a lady sitting in the crew yard painting in the 1950/60s and I’ve always assumed it was this picture.
This picture was taken probably in the 90s and shows what was the bull shed/barn and behind this in the stack yard is the Dutch barn. The bull shed/barn is now a house and the cowshed, stables and pig sty, a bungalow.
This picture always hung in the farm house. I don’t know who the characters are but shows farming as it was before mechanism took over. It could have been taken at Williamwood Farm in Mansfield where the Bowman’s farmed prior to Hall Farm.
There was a cart horse at the farm in the 50s named Dolly. I don’t remember her being used but I sometimes sat on her for a ride. Don’t know whether one of these horses is Dolly; who knows?
The following pictures were taken on the farm fields on Tollerton as you can see Hoe Hill in the background. The third picture was taken a lot later and was Bob Chambers ploughing the Dickholme with his dog keeping watch.
This picture is of an old man called Old Joe who lived in the village. He used to stand by his gate with his walking stick and talk to everyone who passed by. I believe he lived at 206 or 208 Tollerton Lane.
This is a piece written by Jim Blackburn about his uncle, Alfred Hodgkinson Brown.
The War Years at Hall Farm, Tollerton—Jim Blackburn
Any memories of wartime Tollerton to me must centre around an uncle of mine, a Mr A.H. Brown, the occupant of Hall Farm. Village life appeared to centre around him. He has in the past organised the Monday night Men’s club in the Rectory Room, also a Saturday night dance and get-together with gramophone and microphone. He was also instrumental in forming the Tennis Club in Tollerton Hall grounds. He also resurrected the mediaeval Mummers play, whereby local people acted out a very droll play on country life on people’s doorsteps, on Plough Monday (2nd Monday in January each year). With the threat of ploughing up your doorstep if you did not contribute to the particular charity of their choice! (This sounds like todays trick or treat!)
He was also a Parish Councillor, Air Raid Warden and a pillar of the local Church, St. Peter’s. A countryman through and through he nevertheless welcomed new comers to the village, not rejecting them as aliens, which in his warm hearted way accepting them as his friends. There are still a few people left in Tollerton who will, I am sure, bear this out. (This was written pre 2007)
Life in the farmhouse was somewhat Spartan. Water for drinking came from a deep well in the backyard. Water for washing came from rainwater collected in a tank under the kitchen floor from the roof. Cooking was done on a three-jet paraffin stove. No such thing as central heating of course and the fire in the living room was often not lit until 4 in the afternoon. Should you need a bath, water had to be pumped by hand in the cellar to a tank in the roof and the back boiler brought into operation. There was also that delight of the Victorians—the double-seated earth closet. The fable was that anyone with an indecisive nature often found it to be too late when he finally sat on the side of his choice!!
1940 dawned and Mr Brown now had the task of allocating evacuees from Norfolk. Only a man of such sterling character could have contemplated such a task. He had to persuade people who perhaps had had very little to do with children to take these mites from 6 years old upwards into their homes for who knows how long. It says much for his powers of persuasion that he only had one failure. One woman refused point blank and never did have any, of course he and my aunt took two in themselves, two little sisters Margaret and Thelma Love, aged 6 and 12 and brought them up throughout the war. One married a local man and now lives in Kenya and the other now resides in Australia.
Having completed that job a letter then arrived from the War Office saying that Tollerton Hall was to be requisitioned for the Army and the fields which he farmed would be turned into a camp for soldiers.
The first to arrive in June or July were, I think, the Lincolns. These were absolute raw recruits. Not many were bearded like the bard but the air was certainly full of strange oaths. Having been dragged out of the towns they certainly didn’t fancy living in a field. However they had to manage. A line of taps was set up alongside the wood for ablutions and some primitive latrines were installed by the river. (Quite recently the combine knife was snagged on a piece of metal which on inspection proved to be a remnant of that line of taps of 50 years ago.)
The soldiers had no parade ground of course, so Tollerton Lane was used. Squads of men were formed up from Medina Drive downwards and the morning air rang to the commands ‘Saluting to the front one-two-three, saluting to the right one-two-three’ and ‘about turn one-two-three’ and all the other essential drills which enabled the British army to win the war so decisively. Traffic was no problem. Nowadays of course it is a passable imitation of Silverstone on race day but then there was only the occasional Austin 7 or bull-nosed Morris to worry about. Very few people could get petrol anyway.
The English soldiery continued to use the place for a couple of years but then the Americans arrived in 1943; Paratroopers. Immediately the picture changed. Hundreds of tons of Charnwood stone was ferried in to make roads, concrete was laid down and large huts constructed to accommodate the GIs. Bear in mind that through all this the farming had to be carried on, cows brought in to be milked and the other fields cultivated.
On the eve of D-Day, the Americans flew off and the place was turned into a P.o.W. camp. First Italians and then Germans. 14 foot fences were erected with guard towers. Since the war the occasional American has called in to see his old stomping ground. One did say that only 200 had survived and of those only 50 were not wounded. The roads and the concrete are still there and the odd parachute and love heart carved on the trees to remind one of those days.
A couple of pictures of the carvings found on two trees in the woods near to where the camps were.
The odd German has also appeared on the same errand. They of course come in £30,000 Mercedes with wives dripping in jewellery. Life certainly is strange.
Eventually, by about 1948, the War Office through the War Agricultural Committees had restored the fields to as near normal as was possible. Mr Brown must have breathed a huge sigh of relief to call the place his own again. But there is no doubt the war years had put a tremendous strain on his health and late in 1949 he died on Harvest Festival Sunday morning at the early age of 62 years. He was undoubtedly to quote Gray’s Elegy “Some Village Hampden who with dauntless breast and petty Tyrants of his fields withstood”, loved and respected by all who knew him.
Beech trees in the woods with carvings created by the troops during WWII. These can still be read today although now on private land.
Margaret Owen (nee Love) one of the evacuees at Hall Farm remembers…….
I expect the chestnut trees have long gone, such a shame for such magnificent trees that hid one small girl in the highest branches & also provided conkers. Conkers were invaluable at times to throw at the black Severn a very mean cow who would charge me in the stack yard. The only time I got my own back was at conker time. When we first went to Tollerton there were draught horses Daisy & Blossom; huge gentle giants I adored. I think they lived their life out on the farm. They were absent though when we had double British summer time & rode home on the hay carts in the moonlight. I had a letter from my dad around that time telling me never to pick anything up in the fields & if I did see something to call uncle Alf straight away. The Germans were dropping booby traps.
I remember my first brush with racism when black drivers were not allowed into the main camp but had to sleep in their lorries. One GI we knew refused to speak to us if we talked to them but Aunt Elizabeth was having none of that and advised us to be polite no matter who we were talking to. I got an excellent lesson also from Aunt Mary, I was sent with an important message when she was talking to a British Major. He turned on me calling me a very rude child to interrupt grown up conversations. Hearing my message Aunt Mary told the man I had done the correct thing & he was very much in the wrong to be rude to me. She pulled no punches as she was very angry. Being a child I thought I had done the wrong thing & had been very embarrassed.
The first Americans we had were engineers, real gentlemen, the second were paratroopers, very different people. I remember them leaving a lasting impression of war on me. They left in so many buses for D Day waving at me where I sat on the wall. Laughing and in great spirits. I remember watching so few buses return searching for friends, but men were slumped in complete exhaustion on one another. Those bus loads of men told there own story! We had Italian POWs, how they ever got into war I will never know, happy go lucky all of them. Then we had the German ones, some very nice, a cook made me a birthday cake which I made Thelma try first as I was convinced it was poisoned. Then we had the British soldiers, who I am sad to say were by far the worst of the lot.
Looking back I often wonder how Aunt Elizabeth coped with us in such a wise way, Thelma came screaming from the bathroom one day saying some one was spying on her over the garden wall with one of the tubes they used for watching processions. I still remember to this day Aunty’s voice telling Thelma she had nothing different to any other woman so what was the fuss about. I would follow uncle Alf about always with Rags the dog in tow, we were not supposed to spoil him as he was a farm dog. (My husband is an ex-farmer and had the same attitude to dogs until he had me to deal with.) Myxomatosis swept the farm, Uncle Alf was horrified he thought it was cruel, we were going through the gate one day when we found a very sick bunny, he taught me how to put it out of its misery and explained it was much kinder than letting it suffer.
Thelma Love married John Hall who lived at The Elms opposite the airport and here is an item of information her daughter Susan gave me:
For your Tollerton history… it was my Grandfather, Lewis Wigham Hall, who started the Tollerton aerodrome before the war. But during the war the air force took over the entire place and during all that time my grandfather’s aircraft all rotted away and were eaten by rats. They were of course, fabric. So by the time the war was over, my grandparents lost everything but got the aerodrome back. There was a club house. The Hall family lived on the opposite side of the road, in the house I mentioned, called “ The Elms”. I hope this is of interest.
Susan (Thelma’s daughter) has recently written a book called
‘My Vanishing African Dreams’ by Susan M. Hall. Here are extracts from this book about her mother and father and where they met in Tollerton:
“My mother was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. She enjoyed a very pleasant young life with her parents and time spent at the beach in a world of love and happiness until the Second World War broke out, and then disaster struck. Mother and her younger sister had to be evacuated from their home in Norfolk and, fortunately for them, went to a lovely farm in the Tollerton area, outside Nottingham, to live with a Scottish family who had a delightful home and were very good to the two young girls. They were, of course, far away from their parents, which was very upsetting for the family. Mother’s parents very sadly had both passed away at a young age, all due to those harsh and miserable war years. Mother was only fourteen at the time of the great disaster. The two girls went to a day school close by. Later Mother continued to live at the farm and worked hard with the Scottish family.
My father was born in Gunthorpe, Nottinghamshire. Later his family moved to Tollerton where my grandfather owned a small aerodrome and a number of fabric-covered aircraft and he trained people to fly. Father worked on various farms in the area during his teens. The Hall family lived in a bungalow opposite the aerodrome at one end of Tollerton and my Mother from the Love family, now lived on the farm with the Scottish family at the other end of Tollerton.
As a young woman my mother was a little shorter than average height and very slim with long, rich, black hair that hung in ringlets round her shoulders. She was a shy and particularly beautiful young woman.
Father was of average height, slim and strong with fair blonde hair bleached by the summer sun while working in the hay fields. He owned a white horse and would ride along Tollerton Lane to visit my Mother who would lean over the garden wall and wait in anticipation for him to come into view, looking out for the only rider coming along on his white horse.
Sometime later the Halls leased two farms between Calverton and Oxton villages outside Nottingham, which Father went to run. Mother and Father married and moved onto the farms: first into an old three-storey house at Lodge Farm, where I was born, and then to Forest Farm house a mile farther along the lane. Father always wanted to go to the wilds of Africa and when things did not turn out well on the farms due to unforeseen conditions, Father applied for a job in Kenya.
In January 1953 when I was four and a half years old my parents sold all their household goods and said goodbye to family and friends and the three of us left England for good and came to Kenya.”
By kind permission of Susan M Hall. The book can be purchased on Amazon.