Ref NoWIN/008
CollectionWinstanley Oral History Collection
TitleMr. L. Austin interviewed by Michael Winstanley
Name of creatorWinstanley, Michael
Date11/09/1975
Duration4 hr. 38 min. 51 sec.
Extent2 sound tape reels
3 audio file Waveform Audio
DescriptionMr. L. Austin, born 1902, interviewed in Boughton, Faversham by Michael Winstanley. Mr Austin's father was an agricultural labourer, Austin belonged to a family of 7 (of which he was the eldest). Austin worked as a farm boy, and later farm hand on various types of farm - sheep, fruit, etc.
Track 1 [1:34:22] [First interview: 12 June 1975] [0:00:00] Introduction: interview of Mr Leonard Austin [Mr A] of 2 Summerleas, Hernhill, near Faversham by Michael Winstanley of the University of Kent at Canterbury on 12th June 1975. Mr A born in Chartham 1902, christened at Shalmsford Methodist Chapel. [0:00:46] Remarks on father’s work and family; mention of Mr Arnold, Edwin Hardy of Chilham Castle (Conservative MP for Ashford), Sir Walter Berry [WB] of Boughton; family moves to Chilham, South Street in Boughton; sister born in Chilham. [0:01:47] Comments on Mr A’s life; started work for WB 1915, marriage and move to Sittingbourne, son born 1939. [0:02:48] Comments on Mr A’s work as farm labourer, wages, job roles. [0:04:49] Description of post-World War I wages, economic conditions. [0:06:00] Comments on effect of World War I on land; German prisoners of war, new types of farm worker. [0:06:28] Description of conscientious objectors; lodged in village, single men, no families. [0:07:50] Detailed description of tribunals and criteria for exemption from military service in World War I. [0:09:22] Comments on tied labour, running off to army or navy, yearly/weekly/casual contracts, loss of housing with loss of job. [0:12:50] Comments on farm workers’ mobility. [0:15:28] Remarks on bailiffs, mention of bailiff Sheaf at Chilham. [0:16:28] Description of stockmen and waggoner careers, wages, working hours, status. [0:19:55] Description of use of horses on farms, ploughing matches, introduction of tractors World War I. [0:21:44] Mention of WB’s knighthood end of World War I. [0:21:50] Description of hiring fairs, Canterbury Fair. [0:22:28] Detailed description of newspapers; used for hiring, weekend newspapers, political allegiances, readership. Mention of Ashford paper, Kent Messenger, Daily Chronicle/News Chronicle, News of the World, Daily Mail, Times. [0:24:25] Comments on status in villages, education, illiteracy. [0:25:03] Detailed description of role of education and illiteracy in Sir William Courtenay’s revolt in Hernhill [Kent] 1838; failure of Dame schools, building of Hernhill school 1872, compulsory education 1880. [0:26:51] Comments on rural mobility, ties of service, role of female hop pickers, enlisting in army and navy. [0:28:45] Remarks on changes in women’s work; service, factories, farms. [0:32:39] Stories about farmers’ wealth, collapse of stock prices post World War I. [0:34:47] Mention of Lord Beaverbrook and Empire Free Trade. [0:34:55] Remarks on farming phases, corn, stock, fruit, hops. [0:36:19] Anecdote about effect on rural wages of unemployment at Murston brickfield [Sittingbourne] and moonlighting town workers. [0:39:21] Description of farm wages, bonuses. [0:40:15] Detailed description of wages and working conditions in Weald, ‘yellow belly country’, lower wages, swampy ground, damp housing. [0:41:22] Remarks on scarcity of personal transport, few bikes, penny farthings, doctor’s car. [0:42:25] Description of parish relief, Board of Guardians Faversham and Canterbury. [0:44:41] Story about Higgs couple of South Street [Boughton] ‘going into the union’ [Faversham workhouse] in winter. [0:46:38] Anecdote about casual farm workers in hopper huts in summer. [0:48:24] Comments on sports; cricket, football, ‘goal running’ cricket substitute, free time on Saturday afternoons. [0:50:55] Mention of Sir Thomas Neame. [0:54:10] Description of Mr A’s first job in hop gardens, wages, hours. [0:56:00] Description of hop gardens World War I and after; inter-planting with other crops and orchards, decline. [0:58:15] Description of steam traction engines in hop gardens. [1:00:04] Mention of Holman Brothers of Canterbury and ‘Canterbury Bells’ engine. [1:00:55] Remarks on turnip harvest gang work on Sheppey, workers following threshers. [1:02:55] Mention of WB buying bike from Gammidges for Mr A. [1:03:00] Description of ‘rook boy’ job. [1:05:53] Remarks on Christmas and Good Friday holidays only paid if church attended. [1:06:57] Mention that unemployment benefit, paid holidays started 1936. [1:07:24] Mention of 1924 regulation of hours and wages. [1:08:41] Description of role of yard boy. [1:11:35] Description of role of WB’s houseboy, need for bike. [1:12:35] Description of WB’s cars; 1912 Star, Hupmobile, Daimler. [1:14:40] Description of role of back house boy. [1:15:44] Comments on WB’s home, Gushmere Court, Selling. Mention of Lord Harris, Barnes of Chilham Lees, Commander Batts and Miss Coberry of Brinley [Brenley], WB’s wife. WB holding land in Chartham, Chilham, Boughton, Selling, Dunkirk, Crundale, Linstead, Shottenden. [1:17:33] Detailed description of WB’s household, meals for live in staff.
Track 1 [1:34:22] [Second interview: 3 July 1975] [1:26:35] Description of WB’s farm; use of mechanical self-binders but hop work manual. [1:28:30] Detailed description of smallholder difficulties; lack of capital, lack of machinery, competition from large farms, need to restrict family size, need to work for others for extra income.
Track 2 [1:29:48] [Continuation of second interview: 3 July 1975] [0:00:00] Description of characteristics of a smallholding; size, stock, crops, hop growing, plant diseases. Smallholders concentrated near Wingham, Hardres. [0:06:07] Remarks on WB’s history; started with smallholding, added other family holdings, married money, grew big during World War I. [0:06:49] Mention of Earl Sondes and Dawes of Mount Ephraim renting to smallholders. [0:08:49] Description of WB’s farming business; workforce during World War I, bailiffs, farms owned and rented from Earl Sondes and Captain Harris, labour moved between farms, WB daily travel to London. [0:10:44] Remarks on lack of geographical mobility; few bikes, long distances to towns for work. [0:11:05] Comments on WB’s farm machinery; hop washer, self-binders. [0:13:03] Comments on threshing machines; rented out by Bretts, Holmans, WB purchased his own post World War I, unemployed following threshing machines, description of skilled roles of feeder and bond cutter. [0:17:32] Description of corn harvest; stacking, role of head waggoner, timing of harvest and hopping, general labourers v specialist thatchers, hop driers, stackers. [0:22:07] Description of uses of WB’s crops; wheat to miller, barley to malt house, oats and pearl barley for domestic consumption. [0:23:16] Description of corn harvest; chaff binder, putting grains into sheaves and shocks, day rate and piece work wages. [0:26:43] Story about using stilts in hop stringing. [0:29:07] Discussion of the pros and cons of day rates and piece work; day rates used at slack times, piece work dependent on weather. Labour shortages in World War I and 1924 regulation fixed wages and hours. [0:32:05] Comments on unemployment pay in town industries; disincentive to seek farm work, no unemployment pay in farming. Mention of 6 weeks unemployment pay for demobilised armed forces personnel. [0:33:49] Description of working with the self binder; 2-3 horses, driven by waggoner, front horse ridden by ‘boy’, hoses changed frequently. [0:35:49] Mention of concept of quotas, for example a waggoner expected to plough one acre per day. [0:36:59] Comments on corn dollies; Mr A never saw one on a farm, only a straw cross on top of stacks. [0:38:54] Description of hay harvest; small holders using scythes, big farms using reapers drawn by 2 horses with mechanical shafts. Hay formerly tossed by women. [0:40:49] Description of drying and stacking grains; left in fields, only brought in if big barn or Dutch building available. Formerly manual threshing in big barns. [0:43:34] Description of threshing, separation of corn, straw, chaff and caving; uses of barley, oat, wheat chaff and caving, pea bine/haulm for livestock; wheat straw used for thatching. Mention of tick beans as fodder. [0:48:16] Mention that sheaves tied with binder twine. [0:49:06] Description of making straw bond with wimbles, use of oat and wheat, bond used for tying sheaves, trees. [0:51:18] Comments on change of crops from corn to brassicas in Depression. [0:52:38] Description of start of fruit farming; WB a pioneer during World War I; plums, cherries, apples; orchards planted within hop gardens. [0:56:33] Mention of dairy farmers buying brewers grains for their stock. [0:58:44] Comments on farm labourers’ flexibility and ability to do all farm work. [1:01:02] Comments on change from horses to tractors; first tractors from America via war executive during World War I, slow move from horse to tractor, used concurrently, attitude of waggoners, early tractors using paraffin not petrol, tractor drivers low paid and low status. [0:05:28] Mention of Titan tractor from America. [1:05:55] Anecdotes about waggoners’ treatment of their horses; use of potions from chemist; use of buck savin [Savin juniper], charcoal, blue stone [copper sulphate], liquorice; ‘bleeding’ them. [1:08:19] Mention of Mr Gaskin’s waggoner at Dargate killing 4 horses through overdoses. [1:19:19] Story about Mr A using horse and van to take pigs to Faversham during World War I. [1:20:50] Description of waggoner’s work, hours and wages. [1:22:19] Comments about bad weather work fetching poles and faggots from Petham and Godmersham. [1:24:26] Description of Canterbury livestock market. Mention of Butler delivering horses to farms.
Track 3 [1:34:40] [Continuation of second interview: 3 July 1975] [0:00:00] Comments on buying horses; age, colour, breed. WB preferring shires, Neame at Queen Court using Suffolks. [0:03:20] Remarks about horse shortages during World War I; taken from fields, heavy battle casualties, start of tractors as substitute. [0:4:44] Mention of old or sick horses shot and taken to Tickham kennels. [0:06:01] Description of shepherd boy duties, care of sock [orphaned] lambs.
Track 3 [1:34:40] [Third interview: 11 September 1975] [0:10:28] Description of country remedies; blackberry and raspberry leaf for horses, vinegar and brown sugar, Balm of Gilead, brimstone and treacle for humans. [0:17:15] Comments that doctor rarely called due to cost, only used for compulsory child vaccinations. Local women attend for childbirth. [0:20:20] Mention that Mr A eldest of 6 children. [0:21:20] Remarks on moral views; unmarried pregnancies scandalous, parents chaperone daughters, upper class immorality kept secret, news scarce due to illiteracy and lack of newspapers. Comments on gap between town and country, rural isolation, visits to local towns rare. [0:25:12] Story about annual school treat to Whitstable. [0:27:02] Anecdote about annual Faversham Society chrysanthemum show. [0:27:52] Description of non-food purchasing; pedlars from Canterbury and Faversham calling at house, Mr A’s mother disapproval of credit. [0:29:22] Mention of gypsies from Willesborough calling at house selling clothing. [0:30:12] Mention of 6 bakers and a butcher in Boughton. [0:31:07] Comment that Boughton self-sufficient in shops, South Street had grocer, post office, butcher, pub, sweet shop. Larger villages also self-sufficient in tradesmen delivering to house. [0:33:48] Mention of water being delivered in droughts and in Whitstable during 19th century. [0:35:20] Mention of Clarke and Theobald of Canterbury delivering groceries weekly. [0:35:40] Description of regular licensed carrier service Faversham to Canterbury via Boughton and irregular services provided by small holders in villages. [0:39:30] Remarks on annual train journey to Canterbury Fair, fair ceasing around World War I. [0:40:40] Remarks on rural dislike of debt, only debts being to doctor. Mention of doctor’s car at Boughton before World War I. [0:42:55] Mention that paying subscriptions towards medical fees only available in towns, eg for Faversham Cottage hospital. [0:43:15] Comments on clergy; never visiting homes, Mr A’s parents Methodists, Methodists having a health visitor, clergy upper class. [0:44:44] Remarks on class distinctions; two classes, snobs and workers, only grocer, blacksmith, publican and bailiff in between. [0:45:49] Mention of Mr Dawes’ charity events for children; church and chapel Christmas bun fights. [0:47:27] Comments on stealing food; necessitated by hunger, not condemned by chapel preachers. [0:50:02] Comments on household livestock; rabbits not chickens, pigs kept pre-World War 1, keeping chickens banned because it encouraged stealing corn. [0:50:41] Mention of cottages on WB’s Brenley farm having pig pounds. [0:52:15] Description of keeping rabbits; poaching methods; manual, wire, ferrets. Comments on gentry rabbit shooting parties. [0:59:32] Remarks on diet; weekend joint, staples bread, jam, potatoes, cheese, onion. [1:00:49] Remarks on gardens; insufficient for families, waggoners moving too often to cultivate. [1:03:30] Comments on inequality; older generations isolated, illiterate, no opportunities, accepting hardship. From World War I literacy, increasing social contact leading to more socialist/communist views. Comments on lack of help in rural communities. [1:13:58] Description of rat and sparrow club at Selling, squire paying for killed rats and hawks. Anecdote about eating rook pie and making custard from blackbird eggs. [1:14:31] Comments on food and drink; milk scarce, tinned, only fresh when skimmed available in summer; salmon only tinned food; fruit rare, cultivation only started in World War I. Anecdote about scrumping apples. Water staple home drink, some tea. [1:18:50] Comments on pubs; running sick clubs; quoits, darts dominoes as games; no women, except hop picking hangers on. Remarks on smoking; rare until World War II, scandalous for women. Adverse comments on gypsy women. Mention of chewing tobacco. [1:23:25] Comments on facilities for children; importance of meadows for sport, nothing in Boughton, visiting Selling for football, cricket, golf. Mention of Neames running scout group in Selling. Description of game of ‘fudgy’. [1:26:51] Mention of Milles-Lade donating field near Stockers Hill in Boughton for football pitch post World War I. [1:27:58] Remarks on flower shows; Boughton, Selling and Hernhill combined; held at gentry houses of Dawes, Milles-Lade. Remarks on lack of local facilities. [1:29:09] Remarks on lack of toys, lack of Christmas presents and dinner. [1:31:12] Remarks on celebration of coronation of George V 1911 in Boughton. [1:31:50] Comments on schooldays; patriotism, liberal teacher reading to students from Daily Chronicle. Mention that liberal teacher a bell ringer.
NotesTranscript exists for this interview.
Track 3 of Mr Austin’s recording ends at page 137 of the transcript although the transcript itself has 167 pages. We are investigating whether there is a Track 4 recording.
PhysicalDescription2 sound tape reels : analogue, 5 inch reel, 9,5 cm/sec, 2 track, mono
Waveform Audio
Related OrganisationUniversity of Kent
Related PlaceBoughton, Kent
Sittingbourne, Kent
Access filenameWIN-008-001A-A.mp3
WIN-008-002A-A.mp3
WIN-008-002B-A.mp3
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsAvailable for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU. Access is available via digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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