|Trumpington Local History Group
Glebe Farm, Trumpington, in the
|Copyright © Trumpington Local History Group, 2014. Updated 9 July 2014.
|Glebe Farm in the early to mid 1950s was still a typical Cambridgeshire mixed farm of pasture
and arable land. It carried a milking herd, and grew wheat, barley, oats and sugar beet, with
winter kale and mangolds for the cows, and was labour intensive. It had been occupied by Mr F.
O. Tebbit since before the war, and he was an excellent farmer of the old school (but to us,
somewhat elderly), with high standards and was a firm disciplinarian. He had, however,
invested in new tractors.
Mr Tebbit lived at 116 Shelford Road, where he had a small pasteurising and bottling plant. He
retailed milk in the district.
The farm buildings, accessed by an unmade "drift" from Shelford Road, near to where the local
bus waited (and about where is now Exeter Close), consisted of a large timber-framed and clad
barn forming the southwest side of a cattle court with a range of loose boxes and a long
cowshed and dairy to the northwest and northeast respectively. The cows were milked in the
cowshed via a long vacuum pipe and mobile milking units, with each cow having its own
standing place. The herd was of a mixed variety of breeds to maintain quantity and a good
creamline. A fence and 5-barred gate completed the court which was partly roofed, as the cows
lived there in the winter. They were bedded with fresh straw daily, whilst housed. There was a
pair of staff cottages to the east of the main buildings, and there were tractor and implement
sheds together with more looseboxes, including ones for the 2 cart horses (Boxer and Gypsy)
elsewhere on the premises. There was also a living-van of the type once hauled by traction
engines which was used to house 3 Italian men, originally prisoners of war (POWs).
The staff consisted of Mr Bob Sadler, foreman, and the only long term farm employee, 2
cowmen, 2 or 3 itinerant general farm-workers, the 3 hardworking Italians, who had stayed on
after the war, and 2 or 3 part-time schoolboys, of which I was one! We boys worked Saturday
and sometimes Sunday mornings, and the school holidays, and were essential for some tasks!
There was other staff associated with non-farming duties.
Three large pastures were accessible directly from the farm buildings and these were hedged.
The one nearest Bishops Road grew wonderful mushrooms! The arable land was mainly in a
large block to the southwest, extending along most of the southern side of the old A10 from the
allotments, where there are now flats (Bishop's Court) almost to Hauxton Mill. (The land is
now divided by the M11). Most hedges had been removed including those along the main road,
but that of the boundary hedge to the southeast which extended in a SSW direction towards
Hauxton, remained (Parish boundary in part?). Nevertheless the fields were generally cropped
as though the hedges were present.
The field on which Lantree Crescent now sits was also part of the farm for a time. Two fields
on the west of the A10 near Hauxton Mill together with the water meadows on either side of
the river were also under Mr Tebbit's aegis.
The day for most workers started at 7am although the cowmen had been milking for some time
before that. On the odd occasion Mr Tebbit would be standing at the end of the drift with his
watch in hand! Usually, however, he was in bed from where he gave the foreman the dayâ€™s
orders. Meanwhile we greased the tractors and did odd jobs until the orders came. At 10 am we
stopped for "doggie" which we carried in our doggie bags and was generally sandwiches, and
tea from a flask, although the men often drank theirs cold from a bottle. Wherever we were, we
were taken back to the farm buildings at 1 o'clock and went home for dinner, returning at 2 pm.
The day finished at 5 pm; if we worked after that we were paid overtime. During the harvest
we regularly worked until almost dark or until the dew fell.
The seasons naturally dictated the work. During the year the fulltime staff carried out the
routine ploughing, sowing, etc., and in the autumn the sugar beet and mangold harvests. We
were employed when cheap extra hands were needed.
At Easter, the main job was to muck out the court and loose boxes completely by hand using
long handled 4-tined muck forks. The accumulated manure could be four feet deep. It was
hard, smelly and dirty work, but we soon got used to the stink. The loaded trailers were taken
out to strategic points to be unloaded, piled up and left to rot before being spread on the land.
Other tasks included the last of the threshing, and harrowing the arable fields and pastures or
rolling the former. On one occasion I had to lead a horse to roll a field, walking all day long.
The horse was changed at mid-day but not the boy! Another job was to re-pollard willows
along the river banks to use the removed straight limbs for fence posts - yet more sustainable
Summer was harvest time. On this farm all the corn crops were cut by binder, pulled by tractor.
The resultant sheaves were stooked in 8s or10s and left to dry. When ready the sheaves were
loaded onto 4-wheeled farm trailers. These vehicles were rubber tyred and had tall wooden
openwork supports called ladders at either end. A horse was harnessed into a shafted 2-wheeled
trolley device (I forget its name) which then was attached to the trailer, and led between rows
of stooks. Loading the trailers, from both sides, was hard but skilfull work (to avoid shedding
the load on the way back to the farm). When the trailer was full, the horse was detached from
it and a tractor attached which took it back to the farm for unloading. Meanwhile the horse was
attached to the empty trailer brought by the tractor. My job initially was to lead the horse along
between rows of stooks, stopping at every 2 pairs to load the cart, I later graduated to packing
the trailer, and eventually when I was taller to pitch-forking sheaves on to the trailer; when it
was nearly full this was 12 feet or more above the ground.
In the stack-yard, the sheaves were built into a corn-stack, of roughly rectangular shape, with
curved corners, and the whole slightly bowed outwards to help shed rain. The top was finished
off in a rhomboid shape. A tarpaulin was put over an incomplete stack each night, and all of the
stacks were sheeted when finished, until time could be found to thatch them. The head
cowman was the thatcher, would you believe!
When harvesting was not possible, we were set to other jobs such as hoeing the root crops (for
weeding not singling). On the neighbouring farm, which we called Church Farm as it was next
to the church, properly called Anstey Hall Farm, I believe, Messrs Parsons were using the
tractor-towed newfangled combines by this time, although they, too, still used horses for some
Often we had returned to school for the Michaelmas term before the harvest was quite
In the Christmas holidays, threshing the corn was often the order of the day. The huge
threshing machine was parked as close to the stack as possible. It was powered by a long
continuous belt from a fly wheel on a tractor. The sheaves were thrown to the man/boy feeding
the machine who cut the sheaf's string as it was fed in. Grain came out one end into 18 stone
sacks (very heavy to manhandle) whilst the straw dropped out the other end directly into the
baler, which spewed out large wire-bound bales that had to be stacked. Chaff came out a side
exit. It was very dusty and noisy work. Sometimes when the price of grain was right, threshing
took place at weekends, when we extra hands were available. A minimum of 8 persons were
needed. The bottoms of the stacks were swarming with mice and rats, and on one occasion,
much to our delight, a young rat ran up inside a trouser leg of the foreman. Thereafter we tied
string round our trousers at ankle level, when ground level was nearly reached!
On Saturday mornings the boys were sent to the Hauxton farm to grind up grain and mix the
concentrate food for the cows and bring back a week's supply for Glebe Farm. We went home
at 1 o'clock usually.
I was dismissed finally for refusing to work a Saturday afternoon as I had rugby practice at
school, I found out later that he had a younger and hence cheaper boy ready to employ!
I have missed out a lot of detail, would you believe, on which I could expound, if asked.
Trumpington then was still a proper village - just - rural and agricultural, even though it had
already been incorporated into Cambridge Borough (the City came later). Tebbit's cows had
"brewer's grains" as part of their diet in winter. This was collected weekly by tractor and trailer
from the brewery in Cambridge. Imagine a tractor regularly trundling along this route now,
much less a smelly brewery in Cambridge!
Drift: local vernacular for a farm track-way.
Singling: hoeing along a row of young roots to space them out evenly to give each
root just enough room to grow well, a skilled job done as piecework.
Stook = shock, an assemblage of sheaves stood on end to dry and ripen.
18 stone: about 115 kilos at a guess.
Brewer's grains: the spent remains of malted barley.
Church Farm: that was the name we knew it by at the time, also possibly Anstey Hall Farm.
The Anstey Hall land, now occupied by a supermarket, I understand, was then the Plant
Breeding Institute where new wheat and barley varieties were developed, as well as potatoes
such as Maris Piper and Maris Bard.
Doggie: vernacular for a meal break in Cambridgeshire, particularly the Fens, sometimes
Creamline: the much-prized layer of cream at the top of a bottle of milk, now unknown in these
days of homogenisation.
Sheeting: putting a large tarpaulin sheet over stacks or implements, etc, to keep them dry.