Bringing in the Harvest
I received the following email from William Diment and it brought back memories of when we moved to Dunton in the 1950
‘I was watching a BBC TV programme of farming in Suffolk which reminded me of bygone Laindon. It showed wheat farming of today with huge combine harvesters and compared it to the days of harvesting with a horse drawn reaper, which they said lasted up to the 1930s’. Yet I remember this method being used locally even in the late 1930s’.
I can recall in my younger days helping out with the harvest which used horse drawn reaper/binders to cut and bale the wheat into sheaves. We would then make these into “wigwams” of 4 or 5 sheaves called ‘stooks’. These would be left for a few days to completely dry out and then taken to dutch barns in the farmyard to await threshing. Most local threshing was carried out by the Keeling families of Crays Hill and Basildon Rd. The threshing machines were large trailers but without power and were driven by a huge belt drive from steam traction engines and the wheat separated from the chaff and the straw which was baled
The traction engines were then used to plough in the stubble and were fitted with huge drums of steel cable. Two engines were used, on either side of the fields and the cable attached to a plough with a number of shares which was hauled back and forth between the two engines which moved forward after each ploughing.
It was an unforgettable sight, as were the Keeling men who on their nights out to the local hostelries were easily identified as they all dressed in navy blue serge suits with immaculate white mufflers, even in mid summer.
I can remember both Mr Andeson from Dunton Hall and Mr Robertson using reaper binders to bring in the corn (now called wheat), pulled behind a tractor and helping to collect the sheaves and make them into stokes. I can also remember working with the thrashing team in one of Mr Anderson’s fields the only difference from William’s recollection was that the Traction engine had been replaced with a Field Marshall Tractor.
My only recollection of traction engines working commercially was watching them being used to break the pan (compaction of the ground) on Bulphan fen. I am reminded of this every time I travel along a road where a traction engine has passed and I hear the distinctive rumble caused by the indents left by the tread of their wheels.