Securing our history for the future

Memories of Bill Burston

Mr Bill Burston whose family used to own Court Farm in East Side Lane Bawdrip was an 92 year old, very spry gentleman with a fund of anecdotes.

As a boy he and his brother attended Bawdrip School (then kept by two ladies) until his father decided that his brother required a more masculine influence and sent them to the Professional School in Bridgwater. Bill still remembers being given rides to school on the handlebars of his brother’s bike and the Sunday School outings to Burnham, at first by horse and cart and later on a special carriage attached to the train.

He has vivid memories of his accidents on the farm. One of his first jobs was feeding cows mangels on a field at Knowle Farm from a cart. He fell out and was found by his brother with a dislocated shoulder on a heap of manure. His mother wouldn’t let him be taken to hospital until he had been cleaned up and a long journey by horse and trap followed. His shoulder had by then swollen so much that they had difficulty manipulating it. Knowle Hall has more pleasant memories as Lord and Lady Fitzpatrick used to open the hall to the villagers once a year and the young children were invited to come up to the balcony to ‘fish’ for a present.

The railway was a part of his life. He told how one day two horses were bringing a load of corn down from the top field and were turning in towards the yard. The wheel of the cart lodged against a great stone pillar as it crossed the railway line. It became immovable. The horses had to be unhitched and led back up to the top road and down through the fields to drag the cart back. All the time there was a train due and the cart was stranded across the line.

As regards the historic Court Farm wall paintings for which it is now listed, he had never seen them. They were covered up by wallpaper. When the family moved into the farm they found that many of the rooms had been wall papered with Irish newspapers so he wondered whether there had been Irish owners at some time.

He had a great fund of stories about farming and told of ‘Lucky’ Daly a carter who had just upped and left his job as a carter with no employment to go to, took one day’s holiday visiting friends in Dorset, bought and sold one horse and, with the magnificent capital, bought a hen and a chicken and set up a life of wheeling and dealing and ended up a rich man. He talked of milking in the bails in the fields and that hand milking was an art and that you either had it or didn’t. Eight cows were enough for one man but ten were too many. He himself did not drive a tractor until he was thirty. He did not think much of the power of these early tractors in greasy ground. He said, “They didn’t have enough power to pull your hat off”.

His father would not have electricity installed in his house when the opportunity arose as he said that he was frightened that he’d be burned in his bed. He recalled the first cars belonging to the doctor and the vet, and the village football and cricket teams for which he played on the sports field behind the school and the tennis court which was marked out behind the village hall.

From an article in Polden Post May 2005 by Pam and Jim Earnshaw