MEMORIES OF MILL FARM, HENHAM (further information on the The Mill)

Newland ChildrenThe MillMy family moved to Mill Farm in 1949. My father, Ken Newland, lived there until about 1998, moving across the road in 1964 when he had to sell the house, to run a smaller business which he called Mill Pond Farm. In the early years, I lived with my father and mother, Nell and my sister and brother, Syl and Mike (pictured here in 1950). Things changed in 1954 when my parents separated and my father then ran the poultry farm on his own. At that time, my brother and sister were teenagers and I was six years old. We then lived with our mother in Great Sampford and later on in Newport but we visited our father regularly and I often stayed there to help out.

It was a different kind of childhood but to us it was normal. We were all at boarding school during term time and, during the holidays, my brother and I worked on the farm. My brother remembers plucking and stubbing, bagging and delivering chicken manure and cleaning out and shutting up chicken houses at night. He was paid one penny an hour for a long time but was rewarded with one shilling a day after a few years. My experience was similar but my main job was washing eggs which I did not enjoy at all. I remember spending many hours scrubbing away in the kitchen feeling really fed up. Sometimes, in the evenings, I would see a ghostly figure through the kitchen window hovering around the walnut tree at the back of the garden. What it was, I will never know but I have never forgotten it. Perhaps it was trying to cheer me up!

Ken NewlandOver the years, we had cows, pigs and donkeys, as well as turkeys, geese and ducks. I remember waking up one morning and seeing a cow upside down with its legs in the air. Apparently it had swallowed a hammer and died - very strange! I also remember the awful squealing of the pigs when they were sent to market. However, poultry was my father’s passion and, during his later years, he specialised in ornamental chickens and bantams. He tried to run a shop selling fruit and vegetables but this wasn’t very successful as he had great difficulty throwing anything away! He loved black bananas and expected everyone else to love them as well. We would always groan when he brought bunches of them as a gift when he visited us.

There were a lot of pear trees over the road so we spent long hours in the summer picking and sorting them, ready to sell at the roadside and in the local markets. I don't know what the variety was but they were really delicious. Unfortunately, they have now disappeared.

My father really enjoyed talking to customers who often came back year after year, especially those who bought turkeys for Christmas. He built up quite a relationship with them. Two of his favourites were Chas (from Chas and Dave) and Barbara Cartland.

 

Ken NewlandHe really enjoyed visiting the local markets, selling poultry, eggs and pears. He loved the atmosphere and sometimes got carried away, buying things he didn’t really need but couldn’t resist because they were cheap. He was a well known figure there and I often used to accompany him to help the auctioneers - or I thought I was helping them!
He was known for his dilapidated old vans although in the earlier days he favoured cars and trailers. My brother once picked me up from school in an old car with no door on the passenger side. He had to hold on to me when we went round corners. Those were the days - no worries about health and safety!

 

 

 

 

Mill Road Halt

Mill Road HaltIn 1956 my father bought part of the old railway line from Elsenham to Henham from the British Transport Commission. My brother and sister have clear memories of trains running on the line in the fifties and particularly remember my father regularly sending boxes of live chicks to customers all over the country. My memories are of wandering up and down the overgrown line in the sixties picking wild strawberries and walking up the footpath to Elsenham Railway Station.

I believe the line was opened in 1913 and closed in 1953. It was a single track which ran between Elsenham and Thaxted. The top speed was 25 mph and 10 mph when trains approached the level crossing as there were no gates.

John King, who still lives in Elsenham, remembers the line well as he lived in Hill Top, the bungalow opposite Mill Road Halt and also worked on the railways at that time. John was a great help to my father and it is really interesting to talk to him and remember the old days.

 

 

The Mill

The MillThe Mill was part of our childhood and we took it for granted. We were devastated to learn that it was demolished, not long ago, by one of the owners of Mill House when he did not get permission for a grant to re-thatch the roof. What a waste of such a historic and interesting building.

In the book, Memories of Henham, it states that the mill had large water tanks in the roof, filled by pumps from the well. It housed a generator and accumulators to supply water and electricity to the chicken sheds on the other side of the road. In our time, it was used as a tool shed and general store on the right hand side and as accommodation, for people who worked on the farm, on the left hand side. I remember often climbing up the ladder to visit one of the ladies who lived there. I have been trying to contact her as I’m sure her memories would be much more interesting than mine but, unfortunately, I have not had any success yet.

I spent many happy hours in the tool shed trying to make boats from old bits of wood I found. These I sailed on the pond which is still there on the opposite side of the road. My sister remembers the old mill stone which was set in the path leading to the house. I wonder if it is still there.

The Well

The well was under some large bushes between the mill and the house. It was very deep and I was always scared of falling down it. It only had a flimsy cover and I was warned not to go near but I often did because I found it fascinating. When we moved in, we were unaware of the well but my father could hear a hissing noise so asked John King what it was. John knew all about it as his parents had only been allowed to build Hill Top because the well was there to provide them with water, so he showed my father where it was.

Future

It was wonderful news to hear that Henham Parish Council has bought the land that used to be Mill Road Halt and part of the old railway line. We were reluctant to sell it as it holds memories of our childhood but, unfortunately, it became too difficult for us to visit and maintain. The fact that it may be transformed into a woodland and adventure area is an added bonus. My father, who died at the age of 87 in 2001, would have been really pleased.

Ken Newland in the 1950s

Ken NewlandAfter Ken died in 2001, the Herts and Essex Observer printed an article about him mentioning that he had lived alone in a caravan on his small holding for almost 30 years. It said Mill Pond Farm was a notable landmark in Henham and that Ken was a real character who was well-known and well-liked. It also mentioned that when his health prevented him from working until he was 100 (his long-standing ambition), he turned his energies to other outlets, often entertaining his friends and family with his accordion and mouth organ.

 

Tish Joyce
August 2018