Changes in Rolleston Farming

The story of Rolleston Farming is the story of the Rolleston Estate, landlord to most of Rolleston Farms and beyond, until the Estate was broken up and sold in the 1920ís.

The years between the two World Wars saw dairy farming develop as a main source of income, with a ready market on the doorstep in nearby Burton.. This was to form a buffer against the agricultural depression which ran from the late 20ís until just before the start of the Second World War. Farms were essentially pastoral with a little arable for fodder, root crops and oats grown both for grain and feeding straw.

There was much manual labour with only simple farm machinery and that was horse-drawn. The more affluent invested in milking machines where previously it needed one man to milk 12-15 cows for the twice a day hand milking. The pace of change was slow.

The 1939-1945 war saw an urgent need for food from British farms and the "War Ag" committees cajoled and coerced farmers to increase production, largely by ploughing up old pasture to grow grain and potatoes to back up wartime food rationing. This need for extra food extended for many years after the war.

By 1945 Rolleston farmers had enjoyed 5-6 years of prosperity but milk was still the main livelihood and I can trace 18 farms in Rolleston of whom 14 were milk producers. Today, arguably, I can identify 5 farms domiciled within the Rolleston Parish with only two producing milk. So where are the missing farms?

Westfield Farm on Brookside had pedigree Guernseys producing farm bottled milk for the Burton Co-op and in about 1951 was offered for sale, less its farmhouse, at £9,500 for 45 acres plus 28 milk cows and 800 poultry in modern battery cages. It was in fact compulsorily purchased by Tutbury R.D.C. at agricultural land value to provide land for Rollestonís post-war council housing estate. Today the original farmhouse is a nursing home.

Newlands Farm, belonging to the Archer family also kept pedigree Guernseys with farm bottled milk retailed around the village. The land has been willed to the Blue Cross animal charity and the village now awaits the construction of their horse rescue and shelter.

The Thompson family at Home Farm also retailed Farm bottled Guernsey milk until the marriage of their only daughter. Milk production continued at Home Farm until a few years ago and the land is now arable farmed, the farm buildings and paddock being Rollestonís latest housing project.

Hall Farm dropped out following the death of the tenant when the landlord sold much of the land for the development of "The Lawns", and Hall Road was built on from Jack Van Der Gutenís dahlia nursery based on the old walled gardens of Rolleston Hall.

Brookhouse Farm, long farmed by the Robinson family, followed with housing developments at Meadow View, Twentylands and Alderbrook Close, and the farmhouse has become an exclusive hotel and restaurant.

Netherfield Grange became the "Jinnie Inn". The buildings and yards of the Mosley Farm became housing whilst at Craythorne, the golf course development swallowed much of Craythorne Farm, once the home of a fine Friesian herd, the pride and joy of Cyril Johnson. Other farm units have become domestic dwellings. Residual land becoming consolidated into larger units of farms without the Parish.

The establishment of the Staffordshire County Council "Rolleston Estate" of smallholdings stretching along the A50 into Rolleston and to the borders of Tutbury must not be forgotten Originally intended to settle 1918 war veterans on the land, the smaller units of a few acres have been sold off as housing, whilst the remaining holdings now form the bottom rungs of the farming ladder for farm workers and farmers sons,

The dramatic change in Rolleston has been post 1945 when a small mainly estate village has grown dramatically. We can only hope that those left farming village land will be able to survive the current agricultural crisis now in its third year.

Ken Bradley

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© This site was created by Richard Bush

Last updated: 5 April 2000