Cat no. 1320

Mr Starling's Farm Films

Running time14:18 Colour Silent 1947 Pymoor, Cambridgeshire

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Farming on Mr. Starling's farm at Pymoor.



The film begins with the black and white sequence showing a tractor-drawn harvester worked by two men. Shots of the fen landscape show a steam-powered pump house in the background. A tractor-drawn machine turns straw. There are shots of a tractor-drawn bailer, that includes close-up shots of the bale being tied and shot out of the back. A car is in the background. A young boy sits on a bail. He and his younger brother use the bails as hurdles. They are greeted by their dog. There is a part-built house in the background.

The second sequence shows two occasions of potato harvesting. Black and white film shows a harvester and trailer, both tractor-drawn. These are worked by about six men. There are close-up shots of the machine, a Johnson from March. The second occasion shows a colour sequence. In this the second vehicle is a horse-drawn painted cart. There are about six or seven people working this machine. Some of these are women, wearing either headscarfs or the traditional bonnets. A tractor backs a cart to a potato clamp and tips them in. The clamp is traditional straw covered.

The next sequence is black and white film showing a horse-drawn plough. This is drawing the ridges for planting. Men are planting celery. One wears sacks tied over his knees. A shot shows lorries in the background. There is a close-up shot of a man in a jacket and tie, smoking. There is a long colour sequence showing a helicopter spraying fields of potatoes. The helicopter lands to change the cylinder of chemicals before taking off again.The final sequence shows a fire engine attending a straw fire at Red Cow Drove, Welney. This has become out of control because the peat underneath has caught fire. There is a shot of the fire engine. The film ends with shots of the smouldering fields.

Background Information:

In his commentary over this film on the East Anglian Film Archive video 'Farmers' Films', Claude Starling explains that wheat in the Fens at this time was rarely sufficiently ripe to harvest straight away. In these scenes it has been cut with a binder and allowed to run through instead of tied. It is allowed to ripen on the ground and then harvested. In 1947 Mr. Starling employed eight or nine men and six women on a regular basis. Potatoes were stored in these clamps. Mr. Starling says that some of his were half a mile long. They were covered with straw and later with earth. This kept the potatoes dry and free from frost. Mr. Starling says that the methods of harvesting in 1947 wouldn't suit today's standards; the potatoes fell too far and were too damaged for the market.The best way to tackle a peat fire was to dig a trench down to the clay on either side of the fire and to allow it to burn itself out. This was done here to prevent the fire continuing under the road. On the East Anglian Film Archive video `Farmers' Films', this film is called Primrose Hill, Pymoor, Cambridgeshire.

Claude Starling

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