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Walters family - market gardeners

The Walters family first appeared in the records for Wickhamford in the 1881 census. Despite his advanced age, Henry Walters, at 84, was described as an agricultural labourer and he was living at Grey Gables, Manor Road. Also in the household were his bachelor son Charles, aged 31, (bapt. Elias Charles) also an agricultural labourer and Elizabeth his granddaughter who is described as a general servant.

Henry Walters’ Bible

Henry Walters’ Bible and (below) an inscription in the front in his hand.
Henry Walters’ Bible inscription

Henry Walters is my name and England is my Nation, Christ is my salvation.
Henry Walters is my name and England is my Nation. Childswickham is my dweling place and Christ is my salvation.

      January 1866

Walters-Family-3.jpgWalters-Family-4.jpg
Horn drinking cup belonging to Henry Walters, with his initials on the base.

By the 1891 census Henry had died and Charles had married Diana (nee White), aged 45, and had two sons, Harry ( bapt. John Henry) aged 3 and Bill ( bapt. Robert William) aged 7 months. Charles now described himself as a market gardener and an employer. In the 1881 census only one person in Wickhamford was described as a market gardener but by the 1891 census four people described themselves as market gardeners and employers; there were also three other market gardeners who were not employing anyone and one person recorded as employed in market gardening.

In the ten years between the 1881 and 1891 censuses, opportunities had arisen for men who had previously been employed as labourers on the local farms, to rent small parcels of land from the farming estates and work for themselves growing fruit and vegetables and Charles Walters took this opportunity. It must have seemed like freedom not to have to answer to your employer and it also gave them the chance to increase their income well beyond the wages of an agricultural labourer.

Elias Charles Walters

Elias Charles Walters

By 1901 the Walters family had moved to 8 Manor Road and were probably the first tenants of the property that had been built in the late 1890’s. Charles was still market gardening on his own account but by this time his son Harry was described as a market gardener’s labourer and would have been working for his father. By 1911 the younger son, Bill, had joined his father and brother in the family business.

Diana Walters (nee White) outside of 8 Manor Road

Diana Walters (nee White) outside of 8 Manor Road

The property and land Valuation Survey that took place around 1912 to 1915 showed that the family were renting four pieces of land from the trustees of J. P. Lord, a large land owner in the area. Two pieces were in Wickhamford Lane and the other two in what is described as the Coombefield Allotments and Plantations, but in local lingo one piece was in the ‘sid’ ground and the other piece was adjacent to the coppice and in the ‘furrows’. The Survey does not specify the acreages used by the growers sharing some of these fields or the crops grown. However, Charles Walters’ sales books give details of every transaction.

There is nothing unusual about the Walters family as many men in and around the Vale of Evesham started their own market gardening businesses but what makes the market gardening business of the Walters family interesting is that the produce sales books from September 1904 to May 1915 and from May 1917 to April 1923 survive together with the sales book for Bill Walters from 1931 to 1934 that includes details of wages paid.

The ledgers from 1904 to 1923 are a very detailed account of crops marketed, the merchants supplied and prices realised. In one particular season six different varieties of peas, Telegraph, William Hurst, Dwarf Defiance, Prince of Wales, Sharpes Queen and Chas 1st, were marketed. The variety of crops grown in any one year was amazing and was probably a safeguard against failure of a particular crop. Crops were grown so that there was something to market every month of the year thus providing an income all year round. A planting list for 1905/06 is given in the Appendix.

A summary of Charles Walters’ produce sales for 1909 is given in the Appendix. In that year he sold produce mainly to wholesaler H. Masters and at the Central Market in Evesham, his crops falling into 6 categories – [i] sprouts, [ii] herbs (sage and thyme), [iii] peas and beans, [iv] root vegetables (potatoes, parsnips and carrots) and onions, [v] a small quantity of bush fruit (gooseberry, blackcurrant and red currant) and [vi] asparagus (always known as ‘grass’). In that year he sold crops to the value of a little over £175; his monthly income ranged from £5 in the September to over £30 in June when the bulk of the asparagus harvest took place. The sprouts and herbs each accounted for roughly a third of his income, the remaining third coming from the assorted other crops.

Probably after the retirement of Charles, Harry and Bill decided to split the business and work for themselves. Legend has it that Harry, who never married, didn’t like spending his money on fertiliser, an essential part of growing successful crops and after a few years gave up working on his own account and worked for his brother and nephew for the rest of his working life. Harry served in France in WW1. He was an eccentric character with a wonderful memory. The land was his life and he spent many a happy hour on his own sitting in the hovel at Whitfurrows or the ‘Sid’ ground.

In 1930, E. G. Righton & Son auctioned 631 acres of land belonging to the estate of the late J. P. Lord. At that time Charles Walters was renting 11 acres of pasture land known as ‘Sally Close’, (where that road and housing now exists). John Henry had a little over 4 acres of market garden land at ‘Coombe Map’, to the East of Coombefield Plantation. Robert William shared nearly 10 acres market garden land known as ‘The Furrows’ with four other gardeners. This was an area to the South-West of Whifurrows Farm.

It was probably at this auction that Bill snr purchased 3 acres of land in Wickhamford Lane and also 3.5 acres of How Acre (also known as ‘Sid Ground’ locally).

In the sales ledgers for Bill Walters snr for 1931 and 1932 he was employing P Hartwell and his wages for 1931 were £74.4s and for 1932 £71.16s.9d. These sums seem almost unbelievable compared to present day wages but appear to have been the standard wage for a market gardeners labourer in those days.

John Henry (Harry) Walters and Prince.

John Henry (Harry) Walters and Prince

Bill Walters married Elsie Such on 5th April 1915 at Bengeworth Church and they had one son, Charles William, also known as Bill, born in 1923. After leaving Badsey School he joined his father on the land. Bill snr suffered a stroke whilst in his 50’s which ended his working life but his wife Elsie continued to help her son on the land and was picking peas and tying onions when she was 80.

The crops grown by Bill jnr had changed to the ones grown by his grandfather. Less varieties but larger areas were grown. Peas were still a popular crop together sprouts, cauliflowers and asparagus but sage and parsley grown on contract for the LBG were a steady source of income. For a few years Bill jnr together with his cousin purchased standing crops of sprouts on the Cotswolds and then picked and marketed them.

Sadly Bill jnr suffered a heart attack in his late 50’s and was unable to continue working. He sold his land in Wickhamford Lane to local farmer, Derrick Daffurn and gave up the rented land at the furrows. He did keep the 3.5 acres he owned in How Acre and George Foster who lived at Whitfurrows Farm planted it with cereals for him.

Bill married Vera Drinkwater nee Clarke in 1951 and they lived initially in Manor Close before moving to live next door to his widowed mother Elsie in the red brick cottages next to the village hall. When his uncle, Harry Walters, moved into a residential home in Pershore Bill moved into his house at 8 Manor Road, eventually building a bungalow in the garden and ending his days there. Bill died aged 69 and Vera had died several years before. Bill and Vera had no children thus ending over 80 years of market gardening by one family in Wickhamford.

Bill (Robert William) Walters and wife Elsie (nee Such) in the back garden of their house in Manor Road

Bill (Robert William) Walters and wife Elsie (nee Such) in the back garden of their house in Manor Road

Charles William (Bill) Walters, son of Bill and Elsie as a baby Charles William (Bill) Walters, son of Bill and Elsie, in around 1930, in the garden of 8 Manor Road.
Young Charles William (Bill) Walters, son of Bill and Elsie as a baby and, in around 1930, in the garden of 8 Manor Road.

Charles William (Bill) and his wife Vera nee Clarke

Charles William (Bill) and his wife Vera nee Clarke

Appendix

(1) Summary of the Sales made by Charles Walters in 1909

Charles Walters sold produce in 1909 to the Central Market in Evesham, to H. Masters, to William Frost and to George Jones. These wholesalers sold on the produce and then paid either in cash or by cheque.

As monthly summary of the produce sold that year is given in the table below.

Month

Crop

Amount

Buyer

Receipts

January

 

 

 

 

Total

Sprouts

Sage

Thyme

Parsnips

Sprout

 

28½ pots

150 dozen

320 dozen

6 cwt

3 pots

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

£3/2/9

£1/8/4

£2/6/8

12/10

12/2½

£8/2/9½

February

 

 

 

 

Total

Sprouts

Sage

Thyme

Sprouts

Sage

5 pots

58 dozen

80 dozen

19½ pots

140 dozen

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

£1/2/6

19/5

17/6

£4/4/10

£3/4/10

£10/9/1

March

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Sage

Thyme

Sprouts

Sprouts

Sage

Thyme

10 dozen

40 dozen

3 pots

32 lb

370 dozen

70 dozen

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

“ “

“ “

5/-

13/4

17/8

10/6½

£9/7/9½

£1/2/9½

£12/18/1½

April

 

 

 

 

Total

Thyme

Asparagus

Narcissi

Sage

Asparagus

198 dozen

1100 spears

13 dozen

65 dozen

700 spears

H. Masters

Central Market

Wm Frost

£4/1/2

£1/8/6

3/6

£1/11/8½

15/-

£7/19/10½

May

 

Total

Asparagus

Asparagus

34,300 spears

10,800 spears

H. Masters

Wm Frost

£16/16/10

£6/4/9

£23/1/7

June

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Asparagus

White asparagus

Special asparagus

Gooseberries

‘Sprue’ *

Peas

Asparagus

36,600 spears

300 spears

800 spears

50 lb

100 spears

8½ pots

8,400 spears

H. Masters

Wm Frost

£23/6/5

2/3

£1/15/6

3/9

2d

£1/8/7

£4/2/10

£30/19/6

July

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Peas

Asparagus

Blackcurrants

Red currants

Peas

Dwarf beans

Blackcurrants

143 pots

600 spears

41 lb

22 lb

66 pots

1 pot

14 lb

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

“ “

£13/6/2

14/3

10/3

1/10

£6/10/1

3/7

4/6½

£21/10/8½

August

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Dwarf beans

Peas

Runner beans

Broad beans

Carrots

Runner beans

Dwarf beans

46 pots

31 pots

33 pots

3 pots

6 cwt

2 pots

4 pots

 

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

 

£4/8/-

£2/5/3

£2/14/7

2/3

7/6

6/3

10/5

£10/10/5

September

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Peas

Dwarf beans

Runner beans

Carrots

Parsnips

Potatoes

Sage

 

16 pots

6½ pots

26 pots

6 cwt

5 cwt

4 pots

40 dozen

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

“ “

£1/2/-

9/9

£2/6/-

7/6

12/5

5/5

9/2

£5/12/3

October

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Sage

Thyme

Sprouts

Potatoes

Parsnips

Sage

Sprouts

Onions

Carrots

 

270 dozen

235 dozen

10 pots

36 pots

9 cwt

136 dozen

9 pots

4 cwt

3 cwt

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

“ “

“ “

“ “

“ “

£2/18/9

£1/3/8

15/-

£2/10/6

£1/3/-

£1/13/2½

18/9

5/10

4/-

£11/12/8½

November

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Sage

Thyme

Sprouts

Sage

Carrots

Onions

Thyme

Sage

Sprouts

Carrots

 

400 dozen

300 dozen

58 pots

120 dozen

5 cwt

1 cwt

180 dozen

220 dozen

4 pots

5 pots

H. Masters

Central Market

“ “

“ “

Geo. Jones

“ “

“ “

“ “

£4/16/3

£1/11/2

£3/0/6

£1/14/2

9/9

3/5

£1/6/3

£2/10/5

8/-

8/4

£16/18/3

December

 

 

 

 

 

Total

Sage

Thyme

Sprouts

Sage

Sprouts

Pickling onions

800 dozen

260 dozen

25 pots

100 pots

6 pots

½ cwt

H. Masters

Geo. Jones

“ “

“ “

£9/3/9

£1/12/6

£2/6/-

£1/7/11

10/-

3/0

£15/9/2

GRAND TOTAL

 

 

 

£175/4/5½

* ‘Sprue’ is thin asparagus spears, of little value. White asparagus is cut when the spears are only just visible above the soil (a Continental style of cutting). Special asparagus is extra large spears. The price for 100 spears of the various grades paid by H. Masters in June was – asparagus, 1/- to 1/7; white asparagus, 6d – 1/-; sprue, 2d; special asparagus, 4/1 – 4/6.

 

Asparagus was bundled in ‘hundreds’ of 120 spears. A ‘pot’ was a hamper of 20” length, 14” width and 12” depth. The weight of the produce in a pot varied according to the crop, e.g. peas, beans and sprouts were 40lb per pot, turnips were 60lb, leafy crops such as parsley were 20lb

Comparing the value of money over the decades two measures are usually used – the Retail Price Index or cost of living, and a figure based on average earnings, or income.

£175 in 1909 would be equivalent to £14,000 today measured by the Retail Price Index, but based on average earnings the equivalent is £58,000.

A detail from Charles Walters' sales book in 1910

A detail from Charles Walters sales book in 1910

(2) The following list of dates for the planting of crops in 1905 and 1906 comes from the front of the Walters account book

Date

Details of planting and picking

9 Feb. 1905

Early Eclipse planted (peas)

17 Feb.

Broad beans planted

17 Feb.

Telegraphs planted (peas)

2 Mar.

Thomas Laxtons planted (peas)

10 Mar.

Radishes planted

18 Mar.

Dwarf Defiance planted (peas)

25 Mar.

William Hurst planted (peas)

7 Apr.

Spring onions planted

15 Apr.

First asparagus cut

14 Apr.

Prince of Wales planted (peas)

14 Apr.

Part of Sharpes Queen planted (peas)

22 Apr.

Sharpes Queen planted

3 May

Dwarf beans planted

8 May

Kidney beans planted

12 May

Kidney beans planted

13 May

Kidney beans planted

4 Aug.

First runners picked

17 Jul.

First Dwarf beans picked

24 Aug.

First tomatoes sent

31 Jan. 1906

Early peas planted

1 Feb.

Telegraphs planted

2 Feb.

Broad beans planted

2 Feb.

Started sage planting

3 Mar.

Tomato seed planted

5 Mar.

Gladiator planted (peas)

12 Mar.

Radishes planted

17 Mar.

Sprout seed planted

17 Mar.

Wallflower seed planted

19 Mar.

Asparagus seed planted

21 Mar.

Dwarf Defiance planted (peas)

21 Mar.

Spring onions planted


Valerie Harman & Tom Locke November 2012