Memories of West Farm

It was so clean that Newcastle University made a study of his methods

A photograph of a farmer with horse (undated)

Farmer with horse (undated)

Some of my happiest and most vivid memories of Wallsend in the thirties were of days spent at Mr Tom McLaughlin’s farm.

West Farm covered the area behind Station Road south of the “Store Gardens”, Wallsend Golf course and part of Westmorland Estate.   A few remaining cottages of Bigges Main village lay on the west boundary.  The farm road swept in a quarter circle from West Street past a small orchard, which I recall never seemed to produce much and a few hen houses and chicken coops on the right.  The road carried on by the side of the south-facing ivy-covered farmhouse, along the back of a cow byre, past a cart shed on the end of the stables, continuing into the stackyard.

The byre, stable and house formed three sides of a square; completing the square was a large barn and granary. In the barn was a bench covered in all sorts of bits of machines and a collection of blacksmith’s tongs and sets of all shapes and sizes.

Attached to the barn was the dairy and bottle-washing room; even in those days Mr McLaughlin sterilised all the bottles and churns. He proudly told me how the milk from West Farm was so clean Newcastle University made a study of his methods and a model of the equipment he used.

The cows were milked, the milk cooled and hand bottled on the farm.  The bottles were sealed with cardboard discs with push-out centres and delivered to the doorstep within 2-3 hours.

We enjoyed our trips out on the milk cart. One of the horses knew all the houses to stop at, especially where he was fed with a crust.

The stackyard, carpeted with chamomile which releases a very pleasant aroma when crushed underfoot, was a children’s paradise.

One of the farm’s interests was an undertakers business; motors were replacing the horse-drawn hearses and coaches and those no longer in service were parked in the stackyard.  We were Wells Fargo or stagecoach drivers, highwaymen, Indians etc.  Strangely, the connection with death was conveniently ignored.

We enjoyed riding bare backed (no saddle) from the farm to the stables behind the Gaumont Bingo Hall, when the farm horses, black of course, were required for a funeral; also taking the horses for new shoes to Rochester’s blacksmith’s forge which was situated roughly where the north-west corner of the Forum is now.

We helped to pull yellow weeds from the turnips, we picked potatoes, fed the horses, cows, pigs and hens, but best of all was helping with the haymaking, riding from the fields to the stackyard, bouncing up and down on the low flat hay bogies, racking up loose hay into heaps, but especially tea.

About 4 or 5 pm we would be sent up to the farmhouse, knock on the kitchen door and be asked in by Mrs Mac, a dear gentle little woman.  A big black kettle on a roaring coal fire would soon be used to fill a quart tin milk can with hot sweet tea.  One or two baskets were filled with cups, and sandwiches of fresh home-made bread smothered in meat paste or home-made jam. These we carried to the workers in the field sitting in heaps of sweet smelling hay.  We were given a share to enjoy, eating a meal never to be forgotten or surpassed.

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