Post War Farm Camp in UK and Europe
September 9, 2019 3:13 AM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of photographs which date from around 1949/50. They are of a post-war farm camp - that is, university students helping to get the harvest in. I'm not 100% sure it's in England as one of the photos has a friendly note from a Dutch student on the back. Looks like the students are international. Can anyone point me to where I can find out more about where it might have been? One of the wagons has the name T HESKETH or THESKETH on it and some numbers (a number plate?) [Image link]

There is an existing Hesketh Farm Park but now I've found that out I don't know how to drill down to get any further information about its history, records etc. Any pointers on how to begin would be appreciated.

I would love to be able to identify the particular farm in my pictures and if possible trace people who might have memories of that time and be willing to share them (unlikely I know because it's so long ago.) Perhaps there's an archive that has like a list of the post-war farm camps? I have never done the type of research that would bring up answers here including the looking for people with memories and I'd be very grateful for some pointers on how to start - and how to continue!

I've found out that students and younger pupils helping out on farms in summer was a well established British practice, and that during the war POWs were made to work on farms. Also that farm camp is still a thing for students.
posted by glasseyes to Society & Culture (18 answers total)
The reason I'm not sure they are in England is because I found them with photos that were clearly of Norway and of Italy from the same time period, which also feature young men and women physically working (and having a good time.)
posted by glasseyes at 3:17 AM on September 9, 2019

The writing on the back mentions Durham, which might be a clue as to location (it's a city, but might be the nearest city to the farm).
posted by penguin pie at 4:02 AM on September 9, 2019

Yes, some of the students were at Durham. It's not impossible the farm was elsewhere though. Also, it was 1948, which I'm pleased to notice, because it would be problematic if it was later.
I fall at the first hurdle though, because I can't figure out where I can ask a question about what was happening at Durham Uni in 1948 without getting all results about studying history at Durham now.
posted by glasseyes at 4:15 AM on September 9, 2019

There are some digitised issues from 1948 of the Palatinate (the Durham students magazine).
posted by scorbet at 4:20 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I can't open the photos at the moment to check, but could it have been related to the Houghall Campus? It would have been the Durham County School of Agriculture at the time.
posted by scorbet at 4:37 AM on September 9, 2019

There's a Durham County Local History Society and the County Durham Forum for History and Heritage, you could email them and see if they have any suggestions (The latter also has a facebook page and twitter account but they look pretty disused).

FWIW, the last picture seems to have an L plate on the back of the car, which suggests UK to me rather than elsewhere - since it stands for Learner, I assume other countries don't use the same plate.
posted by penguin pie at 4:48 AM on September 9, 2019

[Added image link to the post]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:52 AM on September 9, 2019

I had a look at Hesketh Farm on an earlier OS Map and it is called Heskitt House. There are farm names mentioned on the maps, but I don't know if there is an index somewhere. It may be handy though if you have a possible name and location for the farm.

since it stands for Learner, I assume other countries don't use the same plate.
Ireland also does, and I'm not sure about other countries, particularly in the late 1940s - the German for Learner is Lerner, for example.
posted by scorbet at 5:22 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

The "THESKETH" on the back of the trailer in the might indicate a connection with a place named Hesketh - it's a name found in Lancashire/Yorkshire.

EDIT - scorbet beat me to it!
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 5:24 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wonder if the van says T HESKETH & SONS? Don’t know if that’s helpful.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:36 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

The numberplate typeface, colour and three digit number in the last picture all look British to me.

From what I can see from some online searching (and it's not my area of expertise), Norwegian numberplates at that time were black on white, Italian used a narrower typeface and the '8' on a contemporaneous Dutch numberplate isn't the same as the one in the picture.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:39 AM on September 9, 2019

There are currently farms called J Hesketh and Sons, William Hesketh and Sons and Henry Hesketh and Sons, all in Preston, Lancashire.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:47 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

The trailer says T HESKETH & SONS. The number plate typeface looks British, and an additional clue is the "L" plate below, signifying a learner driver.

There's a J Hesketh and Sons farm located near Preston in Lancashire. There was a cotton mill called T M Hesketh and Sons near Bolton, also in Lancashire. Both of these are some distance from Durham, though.

I'd associate the Hesketh name more with West Lancashire than County Durham, for what it's worth, and the architecture of the house in the second picture looks like it's more in the rural North West of England. I'd probably recalibrate your search to the Preston and Fylde area.
posted by winterhill at 5:49 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Zooming right in, I think it could actually be T. Hesketh & Sons (the & Sons on the right-hand panel of the back of the cart).

There's a company of decorators by that name listed here as being at 70 Golborne Street, Warrington, albeit it right back in 1895 (and they repainted this church in Warrington in 1894). But it looks like they still existed in 1957, based in Wigan - this is the page of a Rugby League programme for Wigan v Halifax March 1948 with one of their adverts in. They maybe rented their flatbed to the farm camp to drive the students about?

Which doesn't necessarily get you any closer to knowing where the photos were taken - T. Hesketh might have covered a wide area. But might save you going down a blind alley looking for farm camps near the town of Hesketh.
posted by penguin pie at 5:53 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’m not 100% convinced the first letter is a T. I can see the upright and what might be part of the right-hand crossbar. But given its left-hand part isn’t visible, I wonder if it’s a J or H or similar, and the right-hand part of the crossbar is a mark/blur/compression artefact/etc?

It might be T, I just don’t see it as definite... I don’t suppose there’s a higher-resolution and less-compressed version?
posted by fabius at 6:29 AM on September 9, 2019

Durham University holds archives relating to student societies, the Student Union etc - there's an email link at the top of that page for enquiries, so you could drop them a line and see if they can help, either by doing some searches in the archive on your behalf, or with general background knowledge or suggestion of other organisations/archives that might be able to help.
posted by penguin pie at 6:52 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe check with volunteer groups like International Voluntary Service (IVS) or Service Civil International (SCI). Although IVS seems to be about sending UK volunteers abroad, it certainly used to have international volunteers come to the UK.

Some of the POW/DP camps were used for volunteer accommodation after the war. Perhaps the giant camp at Fir Tree has records?
posted by scruss at 7:08 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've skimmed the student paper - disappointingly snobbish and sexist and arch but that goes with the times* - no mention of farm camp though. I've sent an email to the Durham archives and a mefite has wonderfully taken on some direct enquiries! so I guess I'll wait to see what comes in and report back!? Thanks so far everybody.

* according to my parents it was the beginning of everything modern and progressive and wonderful - it's awfully dislocating to get evidence of the ways it wasn't that.
posted by glasseyes at 8:32 AM on September 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

« Older Remind me how to start a new job   |   it's getting autumnal up in here Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments