Just Miles
The Memoirs of Percy Harwood

Page 3

Longer lengths of timber would be more valuable. In the absence of chain saws and hydraulic lifting gear all the timber was man-handled. The felled tree was dragged by the horse to the timber carriage, rolled and manoeuvred to a parallel position. A chain at each end was passed under the tree and then over to the other side of the carriage, then attached to the two horses who pulled the tree up the planks onto the timber carriage. Some four or five trunks could be carried. A steel bar was now placed into a vertical position to stop the trunks from rolling off. Again trace horses were used to pull the carriages home.

Although there was no work on Sundays the horses had to be cleaned and fed and watered. So most of Sunday mornings was spent this way. Brass badges bells and ribbons obtained from Southampton Saturday afternoon were fixed to the harness and when Monday morning came horses and carts went off to work at 6.00am with bells ringing and ribbons flying. Another pastime on Sunday mornings was to break in a young horse that had never been sat on or put between a pair of shafts. When eventually they got the horse between the shafts of a cart, usually a gravel cart, the farm hands would clamber aboard and hare off to the New Inn, some seven miles away, get merry and then return home. By this time the horse was well and truly broken in.

Every year there was a round up of horses that were in the forest All the horses belonged to someone. If there was no use for the horse it was the commoner's right to turn the horse loose in the forest after being branded. The horses become wild and breed, so yearly those horses not branded are done, mother and foal together. Lyndhurst Fair was held once a year when all the surplus horses were sold. All the horses were branded and their tails cut. I went to the fair on one occasion and apparently it was quite common for a fight to develop between the gypsies and on this occasion between George Beckett, brother of Joe Beckett, the boxer.

My sister and I spent our August summer holidays at Aunt Florrie's and Uncle Frank's, and this was for the next eight years. Uncle Frank was a thatcher employed by the manor. All farmers grew their own grass for their cattle and when dried it was turned into hay for the winter. The hay was built into a hay rick and for protection against the weather the roof of the rick was thatched, so there was always plenty of work for the thatcher. They lived in an old worldy house with a thatched roof. Water was from a well situated some twenty feet from the back door. The water was very cold, soft and refreshing. Cooking was done outside on the open fireplace a few yards from the well. The fact that it sometimes rained made no difference. They were self-supporting having three cows, two heifers and one calf, some six pigs, chickens and a dog called Fido. The cows were milked early morning before Uncle Frank went to work and again on his return in late afternoon. The milk was placed in large pans kept in the dairy and some eight hours later the cream was skimmed off and saved, it went into milk chums for making butter. My Aunt would cycle once a week to Totton, four miles away, on her Rudge Whitworth cycle (she was over eighty when the cycling stopped). The butter was exchanged for groceries and other items, no money seemed to pass hands. A question of barter.

An interesting event always took place. After the cows had been milked in the morning they were let loose and they would make their way to the forest for grazing. In the late afternoon they would make their way back to the farm. The cows would teach the heifers their ways and habit. All farmers did the same so that the roads were studded with many herds of cattle making their way to and from the forest. All this was called Commoner's right- cattle to feed free of charge. The only time things went a little wrong was if there was a drought. The cattle would wander further into the forest to get a drink from the tributary of the River Beaulieu. The farmers, wives and children usually on horseback, rode into the forest, found the cattle and brought them home.

In the farmhouse Aunt Florrie kept the sides of bacon, home-cured and smoked. When the eggs, potatoes and a slice of bacon was fried up for breakfast, some breakfast. Staying at my Aunt Florrie's was George. He was the keeper employed by the manor house. It was his job to breed partridge and pheasant for the shooting season, which came in September. During the early evening he took us to the copse to feed the chicks. Then he lit a lantern, which had a section of glass blanked off. It was then suspended from a tree branch some ten feet high by a length of several strands of wool. This was twisted several dozen times and would very slowly unwind. With the blanked off section it would have the effect of switching off the light. The weight of the lamp would rewind the wool, again winding it up - almost perpetual motion. This would scare off the foxes and other foes of the chicks.

Cotton lengths of about six feet and with one end tied to a branch or bush about three feet from the ground were placed across the path. Any poacher walking through the wood, passing along the path ttook the cotton in the direction he was going. The keeper would be aware of the poacher's movements.

When the shoot took place in September it was quite an event. The lunch prepared by my Aunt would be taken in the old worldy front room. A roaring log fire and home made wine completed the day.

The Bold Forester Inn was the meeting place for all farmers, farm workers and the local gipsies. There was a colony of gipsies who lived at the edge of the forest some two miles away. A lot of them were employed by the farmers. Others would deal in horses, make clothes pegs etc. Their homes were long lengths of branches tied together at the top then covered with anything available- sacks, canvas etc- none of the exotic caravans that we see today.

The Inn had a passage running right through the house, front to back door. The gipsies held the room first on the left of the front door, called the tap room. The floor was square stones and a main game of skittles was played. The place for the skittles was inlaid in the floor. Clog dancing took place to the sound of mouth organs and tambourine. The farmer's room was on the right. in it was a piano. Everybody seemed to smoke and the room was filled to capacity -singing, tap dancing. A good time was had by all. This of course went on every night.

Picture of Harwoods fruit shop  c1900
Percy Harwood's grandfather outside his shop probably 1897 (Diamond Jubilee year) as the shop appears to be decorated.