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Shugborough Hall Park Farm
||The farm is still a
functional farm with sheep and Longhorn cattle.
The park farm was built
by Thomas Anson as a model farm for other farmers and landowners to visit and
| The house, therefore,
had to be of some status and quality. Its architect, Samuel Wyatt, was also
employed on many other projects at Shugborough, and had already built perhaps
the most famous farm building in the world, the Great Barn at Holkham, the
Norfolk estate of Anson's father-in-law.
not start from scratch, he had an existing building to adapt. He took
| some care over this -
giving the front elevation symmetry, and inserting an elegant if modest central
staircase. Just how elegant you can see by standing in the well of the
staircase and looking upwards. He also provided an expensive floor to the
entrance hall - not of local stone, but of limestone known as Hopton Wood
Stone, from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, which he also used in the main house at
Almost certainly the hall would also have housed a good
quality longcase clock. Our example is from the collections of Welsh Folk
Museum, St Fagan's and was made by Thomas Evans of Denbigh.
This was the heart of the house, where food was cooked and eaten, and
gossip exchanged. Elizabeth Wheelock and her maid worked long and hard, in
front of the massive open range. Many houses at this time had a simple barred
gate which could only be used to boil and roast. Old fashioned isolated
households might still have a 'downhearth', an open fire designed for burning
wood rather than coal. But in the 1800s Shugborough Park Farm was held up as a
model enterprise, so we have fitted it with a fireplace
|which represented the
very latest in cooking technology.
In 1789 Thomas Robinson took out
one of the earliest patents for a fireplace which offered a 'range' of
facilities - a hob for a kettle or pan, an open fire for boiling cauldron, a
spit for roasting and the real innovation, a small side oven for baking. It is
this fireplace which our museum technicians have rebuilt.
We could not
find a surviving example of Robinson's range to copy, so as a basic pattern we
used a simpler grate lent to us by the Judge's Lodging in Nottingham. This
earlier grate consisted of no less than 53
| pieces. From these our
technicians made wooden patterns, incorporating Robinson's innovations as
described in the original patent paper.
Craftsmen at Ironbridge Gorge
Museum then cast all the pieces in iron, and eventually we were able to install
it. We also dug down in the front of the fire to make an ash pit, a hole into
which the finer ashes were saved for use in the earth closets of in spreading
on the country tracks. When we began to dig, we were exited to find the
original pit! Finally we copied the mechanism of a clockwork spit lent by the
|Museum, York. The range
may have been of the latest design 200 years ago, but it is far from perfect.
The box like side oven has no internal flues and so heats from only one side.
The chimney has always been a smoker and was probably much cursed by
Elizabeth, who would have used both wood and coal as fuel. We have tried to
improve the performance of the flue in order to constrict the throat. It would
have helped considerably to have the fire lit all the time, as this would have
increased the draw of the chimney.
|Meat store and stillage.
Originally there was a meat safe here, where meat and other consumables could
be kept cool, free from flies and other pests. The salting sink is in the back
room or 'stillage'. Preserved fruit and jams were an important part of the
household economy, but were kept in stoneware jars rather than glass bottles.
Glass bottles were known much earlier for beer, spirits and wines, but they
were too expensive for preserves. Stoneware jars were sealed with solidified
fat (for jam) and dried cow or pig bladders (for pickles).
|The staple drink for the
household was beer, brewed in the brewhouse near the mill. Mst was fairly weak,
but strong ale was drunk on special occasions. We do not know whether the farm
also made cider, but small quantities were made in the area. The cider press
shown here was used just a couple of miles down the road at Bishton Hall.
The Back Kitchen
The back kitchen or Scullery saw much of the
hardest work for Elizabeth's servant. A number of features were built in here:
A stoneware sink, probably fitted with a hand pump. A small hob grate for
| quantities of water and
providing general warmth. In between these a small independent furnace and
copper boiler, for heating water and washing. These were fairly new labour
saving devices in the days of Elizabeth Wheelock. It would be heated with a
stick fire and used for boiling whites after they had been soaked and scrubbed.
In Elizabeth's day, a weekly clothes wash was still uncommon, thought
the idea was shortly to catch on as the Victorian housewife came to grips with
ever increasing availability of cheaper cottons and linen. In
|1800, however, the
servant would probably wash once or at most twice a month. She would have used
some soft soap and hot water, but would still have relied heavily on cold
soaking the wash in lye. Lye was an alkaline liquid made from steeping wood or
bracken ash in rain water. It was a very strong cleansing liquid which damages
unprotected hands very quickly.
A brick built bread oven, or wall oven.
These were standard fixtures in houses or cottages of any size and were a very
economical way of providing a damp heat needed in bread baking.
The fire of
sticks or heather was lit inside the domed chamber, and the door left open to
provide a draught. The smoke either came out into the room or in some cases
slipped up a flue built into the front of the oven. Like this one many ovens
have a 'tell-tale', a special brick set into the back which turns a different
colour when the right heat has been reached. Our 'tell-tale goes black because
it was made with no lime. Then the fire and ashes are raked forward and fall
down the front slot. The door is shut firmly. The oven takes nearly two hours
to heat and the bread takes from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of
Water for washing up had to be heated in a huge cauldron set over
the fire; when ready this was lifted down, the black sooty bottom would mark
only the floor, and the pots were washed in it. Soap was expensive, so hot
water, fine sand, twigs and finger nails were used.
The Parlour The farm had plenty of visitors and the
moor important would be welcomed down from their horses and carriages, through
the front door and into this room - perhaps for a drink of sherry, madeira or
The room would have been Elizabeth's pride and joy, for
there she kept her best possessions. Though not
| rich the Wheelocks
would have been able to afford a few luxuries - decent furniture and an
occasional item of decoration such as an oil painting. Silhouettes or
watercolour sketches of the family were cheaper, and easier to make at home.
Tableware would have been ceramic, but their older pewter ware would be kept
for decoration and occasional use.
Most work was done during daylight
hours. The only artificial light was from candles. In this room these might be
carefully hoarded beeswax candles bought in Stafford. In the kitchen and other
work areas they would be home-made wax or tallow dips.
if sensible clothes were also within their budget. This was made possible at
least for Elizabeth because of the fashion for light-weight cotton dresses at
the end of the 18th century. Not only was fabric cheaper to buy than rich
silks, but the styles were simple to cut out and sew at home.
||Upstairs is the
The DairyThe dairy was used to produce the estate's
butter and cheese (cheese press left). This was not only used on the estate but
also sold at local markets. The Shugborough butter was marked with a diagonal
pattern on top to denote it was produced on the estate. To make the cheese, the
milk would be heatedand rennet added to separate it into curds and whey. The
whey would be drained off and the curds cut into small pieces before being
placed in a mould. The mould would then go into the cheese presses to squeeze
|the remaining whey for
three days. They would mature in six weeks.
The original estate dairy was
sited on the ground floor of the Tower of Winds.
History of the mill Before 1800 Records show that
there has been a mill on this site for at least four hundred years. In the late
1500s the mill appears to have been used for fulling - a process by which newly
woven cloth is pounded by hammers in a solution of urine and mud known as
fuller's earth. The cloth then shrinks and thickens and becomes more restistant
|Between 1659 and 1670
the mill, which was owned by Lord Paget, was converted from fulling to
paper-making and appears to have continued producing paper until the end of the
18th century. In 1799, however, Thomas Viscount Anson bought the mill and
surrounding land with a view to building a new home farm for the Shugborogh
Milling at the Park Farm
From estate records it is not
clear whether Thomas Anson demolished the paper mill to make way for the
|Park farm or whether it
was incorporated within the new buildings. What is certain is that, by 1809, a
corn mill was in operation at the farm producing 'stone flour' for the Anson
household. Several years later in 1827, an account of Viscount Anson's
establishment at Shugborough shows that a Thomas Pickering was employed as a
miller at the farm, for which he was paid £39 per year.
else is known about the mill during the 19th century, although it is thought
that the old wooden water wheel was replaced by an iron wheel between 1850 and
1860. The mill was last used in the 1940s when
|tenant farmers on the
Shugborough Estate were allowed access for grinding, pulping and chaff-cutting
between September and March each year. During the 1960s the water wheel was
removed and the mill became derelict.
Restoration of the mill
During the 1980s a decision was taken to restore the mill to working order.
All that existed of the old mill fittings were the original shafts, the crown
wheel, the stone nuts, two pairs of mill stones, a sack hoist and a
|flour dresser. The water
wheel, spur-wheel and pit gear were missing, the overflow and culvert were
blocked, the millpond was filled with debris and the wheel pit had been filled
The task of restoring the mill was both lengthy and
expensive and involved diverting the supply to the mill pond, draining and
dredging the pond, repairing the mill-race, installing a new overflow and
clearing the culvert. To get the mill-gear into working order a new wooden
water wheel was built and installed in-situ. New cast-iron pit and spur wheels
were made, a new wooden axle was cut and the two sets of millstones
| were dressed.
Today the mill is fully restored and working much as it would have done
in the late 1820s when Thomas Pickering was miller.
Water Wheel Facts. The mill pond has enough water to
drive the mill for 2 hours. The miller then has to wait until the pond refills
via the Sherbrook stream off Cannock Chase.
The wheel is 18 feet in
diameter and 5 feet wide. Working off an 11 foot head of water, it develops 8
are two pairs of stones: French burr stones on the up stream side for flour
production, and millstone grit peaks or greys for grinding barley for animal
The water mill at Shugborogh is used today as an integral part of
the farm producing flour and animal feed.
Corn Dolly's Origins. The corn dolly's origins are
ancient. Variations of it can be found all over the world.
Farmers used to
believe that the spirit of th Corn remained in the last sheaf to be harvested.
This had to be preserved to ensure a successful crop next year. Often the last
sheaf was made into a Corn Dolly, Harvest maid or Mother of Earth to hold the
spirit of the corn over the winter.
It is thought that the earliest
type of corn dolly is the cornucopia or Horn
|of Plenty. The Neck or
traditional dolly found in Britain is a variation of this form. Over the
centuries more elaborate types developed, particularly in the East of
During the last century farming methods and machines were
developed. Superstition became less important when these new agricultural
techniques helped to ensure more reliable harvests. The corn dolly and other
harvest rituals died out.
In the last 40 years corn dolly making has
been revived. Now they are made as ornaments and have lost their original
Harvest Traditions. "Harvest home, harvest home,
We have ploughed, we have sowed,
We have reaped, we have mowed,
have brought home every load,
Hip, hip, hip, harvest home."
(traditional harvesting song).
Harvest celebrations and rituals
varied in different parts of the country, and even between farms in the same
village. But some of these traditions existed throughout the
The workers would elect a Lord of the Harvest to organise the
bringing in of the corn.
The last sheaf or 'neck' would be tied and all
the workers would stand in a circle and throw their scythes at it. This meant
that no one person was responsible for cutting the last sheaf, which was
considered unlucky. This act was accompanied by a shout to let the neighbours
know the harvesting was successful. This was known as 'crying the neck'. The
neck was often made into a corn dolly.
The harvest procession with the
last load back to the farm was loud and colourful. In the evening the harvest
supper took place, a great celebration of a successful harvest. A corn dolly
would be present throughout.
The corn dolly was kept in the farmhouse
until next year's crop had been sown. It was then broken on the field to make
sure the spirit of the corn made the next crop grow.
Although the corn
dolly and harvest traditions are pagan in origin, these rituals were gradually
absorbed into the Christian calendar. These celebrations are now preserved in
church harvest festivals.
Making a Corn Dolly. The Straw
varieties have short, solid brittle stems to enable combine harvesters to work
effectively. It is not possible to make corn dollies out of this straw.
The straw needs to be pliable and tough. It needs to be hollow so that
a new straw can be inserted to extend the length. It also has to be specially
grown and scythed by hand, as combine harvesters damage the straw.
Wheat is most often used, but corn dollies are also made from rye and
Plaiting and braiding Most dollies are made by
plaiting the straw.
Only the top of the straw is used, between the ear and
the top joint. Before use it is dampened ('tempered') in hot water for about an
hour. This makes the straw more pliable.
|To make a traditional
dolly or neck about 150 straws are needed. About 80 of these are used to make a
cigar-shaped core (A). A 5 straw plait is then woven around the solid core (B).
This gives the dolly its familiar spiral pattern. At the end of the core the
plait forms a length of briad which is bent round to form a loop (C). A number
of corn heads are inserted at the opposite end to finish the dolly (D).
Ribbons Most types of corn dolly are decorated with a
The colours are traditional and have their own meanings.
White is for purity
Blue is the colour of the corn flower, and also stands for truth.
is the colour of the poppy and the blood of sacrifice.
the sun and ripe corn.
Green stands for fertility and new growth in spring.
|1 - Dock Lifter. This
tool was used to lift out weeds with large tap roots, such as docks and
thistles. Tools such as this were often carried by the farmer while walking the
land. Using the foot rests, the prongs are thrust down either side of the
weed's stem. The whole plant, including the root, is then levered out of the
||Other farming machinery.
||Hay Kicker. About 1900
The hay kicker was used during the haymaking process. As it was pulled along it
would flick the cut grass ensuring it would dry evenly to make good quality
hay. The manufacturer is unknown and it could be a British made model, or
possibly an 'osborne' kicker made by the International harvester Company. The
donor remembered it being used by his father at Roewen, Conway, north Wales
around 1905, and it was later used in the Stafford area. Originally horse
drawn, it has since had a tractor drawbar added.