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Agricultural Heritage on Display at Museum

Neil Haverson Published: 03 July 2023

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Corbould family at the heritage museum

Percy Corbould left school in 1934 aged 14. He started work on a farm at Browick, just outside Wymondham. He went on to spend his working life on the farm and kept diaries recording his years as farmworker. Percy’s family have kindly loaned two of his diaries to Wymondham Heritage Museum. These are on display and, along with extracts from them of Percy’s memories of his farming life in the 1940s, they form a central plank of the museum's redesigned agricultural exhibition, "Our Agricultural Heritage".

The Courbold family visited the museum to formally launch the new display. Welcoming them, museum committee vice chair Simon Long, thanked them for the loan of the diaries and said that Percy Courbold was the first of the museum’s plan to focus on local characters,

The farm where Percy worked covered several miles; from the Hethersett Road in Wymondham to Sillfield and Spooner Row. Much of the land he worked on has since been taken up for the construction of the A11 and more recently for housing development.

The barns where he would have cared for animals have been converted into homes.

In his diaries Percy reveals how tough life was for a farm worker in the 1940s. A six-day week with just two weeks' holiday. The working day was long and consisted of hard manual labour. It was mainly outside, in all weathers all year round.

Percy’s son Stephen Courbold said: “There was no mechanisation then, no tractors, just horse and cart. What takes two hours to do a field these days took three or four days then. He always had something to do, stone picking, ditching.”

Agricultural display at the heritage museum

Sunday was the usual day off. Workers needed this to ease the aches and pains.

“Dad played football, he was an Arsenal supporter,” said Stephen. “He went to Norwich speedway, and they would cycle to Yarmouth for a night out!”

Percy passed away in 2001 but through his diaries, visitors to the museum get a fascinating insight into the life of the farm worker of yesteryear.

Wymondham Heritage Museum and Tearoom is open daily until the end of October. For more information about opening times and admission prices go to thewhm.org.uk.

Percy’s Farming Year

In his diaries, Percy Corbould recorded his farming year month-by-month. It illustrates how labour-intensive farming was. These are just a few of his tasks.

January: Threshing hay and straw; cutting Kale and topping sugar beet for animal feed. Carting muck from the animal houses.

Percy Corbould

February: Clearing wood and straw from fields, trimming hedges and ditches, carting lime.

March: Restocking hay, straw and animal feed. Muck carting from the cow barns.

April: Filling the water tanks in the meadows, digging gardens to plant vegetables.

May: Hoeing sugar beet and peas. Moving calves between cow barns.

June: Hoeing sugar beet and chopping out mangolds. Turning hay.

July: Working on hay and straw stacks, hoeing kale and carting hay and straw.

Percy Corbould's diary

August: Stocking up linseed and wheat. Lumping and carting peas, carting flax and muck.

September: Trimming hedges and ditches, turning and cutting barley and peas.

October: Cutting and carting kale, carting muck, loading hay and straw for cows.

November: Harrowing, driving muck spreader. Topping mangolds and sugar beet,

December: Riddling potatoes and loading onto lorries. Covering sugar beet, loading hay straw pulp, kale and beat.

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