Agriculture: Cereals

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


stone stile and maize, Ashley

Maize at Little Ashley

In 1801 in the fields of the parish of Bradford (then including Atworth, Holt, Limpley Stoke, South Wraxall and Winsley) 1,237 acres were under wheat, 491 acres under barley and 438 under oats. Wheat was for making bread, barley for making beer and oats mainly for feeding horses. Today maize, little known in 1801, covers a large acreage and is mainly used as animal feed, often cut green for silage.

Wheat was cut by scythe or sickle, tied in bundles (sheaves) which were propped against each other in small groups (called stooks) to dry and ripen before being collected by cart to go for storage at the farmyard.

The grain was removed from the straw by threshing, usually beating, then winnowed to separate the grain from the chaff. From the end of the 18th century machinery began to be used- mowers or reapers pulled by horses, threshing and winnowing machines driven by horses and later by steam engines. These developments were bitterly resented by farm labourers who saw their work disappearing. Ultimately there came the modern combine harvester which is diesel motor driven, cuts the corn, threshes and winnows as it moves (it should be ‘combined’, of course, combining harvesting and threshing machines). Large combines are these days usually hired in from contractors, such as G.W.E. Candy & Sons at Woolley Park Farm in Bradford.

combine harvester, Winsley

Farmer Bert Bowles of Winsley on a combine harvester. The arm on the right allows grain to be loaded into a truck while both are moving.